The political economy of curriculum change in further education : the case of the Business and Technology Education Council

Swatton, Nicholas Paul (1993). The political economy of curriculum change in further education : the case of the Business and Technology Education Council. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000e052

Abstract

This thesis offers an account of the origins and purposes of business studies courses validated by the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC) and their relationship to changes in the nature of clerical work. The thesis examines the ways in which BTEC courses may be said to prepare young people for a place in the workforce and the way in which teachers and students in FE colleges interpret and respond to the courses.

Part one offers an analysis of political interventions intended to reduce the power of educationalists by increasing the influence of 'market forces' in further education. It is argued that BTEC courses can best be understood as part of a state strategy to facilitate change in the labour market.

Evidence relating to the deskilling of clerical work is examined and it is argued that such deskilling gives rise to a demand for transferable clerical 'skills'. Using evidence from archive material, it is argued that the underlying purpose of BTEC business studies courses is the creation of a clerical labour market where such 'skills' can be traded.

The second part of the thesis, based on fieldwork undertaken in two colleges, analyses the impact of BTEC courses within FE and assesses the degree of central control over the practice of teachers. The nature of the practice which BTEC sought to encourage and the mechanisms through which change was to be achieved are examined and related to the analysis in part one of the thesis.

The response of students to the demands of the courses within one college is analysed and evidence offered which suggests that many characterisations of the role of FE in preparing young people for a place in the labour force understate the role of young people as active participants in this process.

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