The vocationalisation of the school curriculum: society, state and economy

Shilling, Chris (1988). The vocationalisation of the school curriculum: society, state and economy. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis is concerned with the vocationalisation of the school curriculum in Britain from the late nineteenth century to the present. It consists of three sections.

The first section constitutes the major theoretical component of the work, and develops a view of society as a dialectically interrelating totality whose parts are invested with differential causal force. The social whole is seen as consisting of micro, meso and macrolevels, which correspond respectively to Inter-individual, interorganizational, and the social relationships which constitute the mode of production. This theory is then used to criticise certain existing approaches towards the sociology of education and develop an alternative which is utilised in the rest of my study.

The second section examines the social and economic forces existing on micro, mesa and macro societal levels which were central to the formation and development of school-based vocational schemes. Here, I examine the relationships which have existed between individual career routes, the education system, state, economy, and class struggle. This facilitates an examination of the shifting determinations which constituted vocational education, as they have been located both diachronically and synchronically. The points of interconnection between the forces which impinged upon the progress of vocational education changed between the 'entrepreneurial' (late C19th to WW1), 'collective' (inter-War), and 'corporate' (post WW2) periods of education-industry relations. During these stages, a combination of factors reduced gradually the autonomy of the school system, served to increase the influence of the state over the curriculum, and enabled the introduction of a number of vocational schemes In the 'corporate' period.

The final section moves between societal levels in a case-study analysis of the operation of two vocational schemes in a local education authority. This examines how the relationship between micro, meso and macro-levels can introduce disjunctions between the official aims and the actual consequences of vocational schemes. The case-study Is also used to refine elements of the earlier theory and identify the areas of autonomy which remain within micro and meso societal levels. The introduction of the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative, and the Schools Vocational Programme is traced, and their operation is examined. Here, I focus on the subject options process, a school-based vocational course, and the attitudes and approaches of Industrialists, teachers and students to work-experience.

Viewing alternatives

Download history


Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions