Reclaiming work: education and work in Scotland

Catherine Fagan


A prominent feature of education policy in the United Kingdom in the
1980s and 1990s has been an emphasis on ‘enterprise education‘ in
response to Jim Callaghan’s challenge to a ‘Great Debate‘. This has taken
many different forms. Most commonly it has involved the promotion of
work-based learning and work-related learning in terms of what have
been called ‘education-industry links‘ (EIL). In England and Wales this
has involved specific curriculum guidelines and directives. In Scotland,
by comparison, the focus has been much softer in that the pragmatic
emphasis on employability, lifelong learning and the promotion of EIL is
located within a wider context. In November 1997, Brian Wilson, the
Minister for Education and Industry at the time, indicated that Scottish
schools had a responsibility to help young people make the transition
from school to work. Her Majesty’s (HM) Inspectors followed up on this
directive with a report titled: Education for work in schools (1999). The
report, while evidence-based in the sense that it is based on inspections of
‘best practice’ in 28 schools, is not research-based or related to relevant
bodies of literature on the changing nature of work in advanced societies.

In this paper, I make the plea for policy makers to begin to
recognise philosophical, historical and sociological perspectives on the
changing nature of work. First, I briefly examine the immediate
background of the Education for work in schools report; second, I provide
a brief synopsis of the policy; and third, I review the policy in terms of
the work of Andre Gorz, Jeremy Rifkin and Anthony Giddens.

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