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The Voice of History and the Message of National Curriculum: Recontextualizing History to a Pedagogic Discourse for Upper Secondary VET
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of historical, philosophical and religious studies. (History and Education)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5222-6229
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

In 2009 the Swedish liberal conservative Government proposed a reform of Swedish upper-secondary school. The Government Bill stressed the importance of making history a compulsory subject with reference to a multicultural society and globalisation. History teaching would contribute to the pupils’ enhanced understanding of past and present society and prepare them for active and critical citizenship (Govern. Bill 2008/09:199). As a consequence, history was made compulsory in upper secondary vocational education and training (VET) tracks. A characteristic of the reform was that it increased division between academic and VET tracks, thereby breaking a 40 year trend of integration. VET and academic post-compulsory education had become unified in one upper secondary organisation, ‘gymnasium’ in1971. The integration between academic and VET tracks has since 1991 been constituted by a common core of general subjects: civics, religion and general science – but not history (Govern. Bill 1990/91:85). The gradual increase of general subjects was partly based on the idea of a knowledge economy, with a workforce in lifelong learning to promote long term economic growth. In 2011, the time in the curriculum allocated to general subjects was reduced in favour of more vocational education. Moving in another direction was history that was made compulsory with arguments about citizenship education and expectancies of contribution to social cohesion and critical thinking proficiencies (Author forthcoming). The introduction of history in post-compulsory VET curriculum might come across as an anomaly in a general international trend of instrumentality and vocationalism in curriculum (eg. Wheelahan 2010). By examining the construction of the history syllabus for VET I want to contribute to the understanding of the distribution and recontextualisation of potentially powerful knowledge to students in educational pathways preparing for more of manual work and less powerful social positions. In this study of transition and transformation of knowledge from the field of history to a history course for the VET curriculum the central theoretical concepts originate from Bernstein (2000). With the model of the pedagogic device as a framework, I present an examination of the struggle of power and control over the ‘what’ and ‘how’ in the construction of the history syllabus for VET. The aim is eventually to address the question of the VET students’ potential of access to powerful knowledge through history education. To examine the process of curriculum making, I pose the following questions. What, from the field of knowledge production, is recontextualized in the history course for VET? How can we define the pedagogic code that the history syllabus communicates? What is open for negotiation and changeable in the process of curriculum making? Who can exert influence, i.e. what is the relationship between the official recontextualising field (ORF) and pedagogical recontextualising field (PRF), knowledge production field and reproduction field? Bernstein makes a distinction between esoteric and mundane knowledge discourse, and argues that the distribution of abstract and theoretical knowledge is a precondition for democracy (Bernstein 2000, Wheelahan 2010). With this in mind, a compulsory history course might seem as a promise of more powerful forms of knowledge in upper-secondary VET. However, in order to assess the potential of history education VET we must look at the context of the reform, and not the least, on the pedagogic code of the history syllabus for VET.

Method

The analysis is based on archived material from the working group responsible for the history subject in the 2011 reform, found in the archive of the Swedish National Agency for Education (NAE). The NAE, on behalf of detailed instruction from the Government, constructed the new ‘gymnasium’, defining the content and educational goal of different tracks and the curriculum for different subjects. The reform work process left behind drafts, minutes and response from reference schools, individual teachers, organisations and authorities with critique on the ongoing reform. I accessed the full archive in person and scanned all documents concerning the history curriculum and the different history course syllabi. Through the material I am able to track the different drafts of the history curriculum and the response and critique communicated from external agents in the process. It is also possible to see considerations and discussions going on within the group through minutes and internal PM. The analysis was made in three main stages. First, all material concerning the history syllabus for VET was excerpted. In a second stage, the different drafts produced in the reform process were of the analysed from the question of strength of classification and framing respectively, considering external as well as internal power and control. The relative strength between knowledge production (discourses from the field of history), the ORF (Government officials and ministries, NAE), PDF (e.g. history educators in an outside academia) and reproduction arena (discourse from teachers and pupils) constitutes a third stage of analysis.

Expected Outcomes

From the analysis some preliminary results can be drawn. In the construction process, struggle over the pedagogic history discourse occurs concerning: 1) how contemporary the time period studied can be without ‘history’ becoming weaker as a category, 2) the meaning of generic skills in history education, and 3) to what degree a postmodern approach should have a place in history teaching for VET. Voices in the process, from the different fields, agree that history for VET should not encompass as abstract knowledge discourses as the history course for academic tracks. The suggestion from ORF that content should be bound to the specific history of the profession and labour market is withdrawn after heavy critique from actors from the field of history, as well as from the pedagogic practice. However, the ORF/PRF appears to have the final say in defining the ‘what’ in the pedagogic discourse of history, favouring the generic and postmodern, at times contrary to the discourse voiced by the field of history. The framing of the knowledge is not open for negotiation. The control of the ‘how’ is positioned outside of the process where historians, history educators and history teachers have access and can exert influence. The history curriculum and the syllabi for the courses is regulated by a template for definitions, outline of learning goals, central content and grading criteria relaying the message of the reform. The pedagogic code can be defined as C(+)/F+ and the context as foremost (neo) conservative and instrumental. History education for VET becomes a pedagogic discourse of history that emphasises critical thinking skills and knowledge of a not so distant past that has a more direct explanatory value to contemporary society.

References

Bernstein, Basil (2000). Pedagogy, symbolic control and identity: theory, research, critique (London, Taylor & Francis).Government Bill (2008-09:199) Högre krav och kvalitet i den nya gymnasieskolan (Higher demands and Quality of New Upper Secondary School) (Stockholm, Ministry of Education).Government Bill (1990-91:85) Växa med kunskaper-om gymnasieskolan och vuxenutbildningen (Growing With and By Knowledge - on upper secondary and adult education) (Stockholm, Ministry of Education).Wheelahan, Leesa. (2010). Why knowledge matters in curriculum: a social realist argument. (Abingdon, Oxon, Routledge).Skolverket (Swedish National Agency for Education), Arkiv, Projekt: Gymnasieskola i reformering (Upper secondary school under reform) Project Dnr 2009:520, Dnr 2009:537

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014.
Keyword [en]
education policy, history education, vocational education, upper-secondary education, curriculum
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-135205OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-135205DiVA: diva2:1097257
Conference
ECER 2014, Porto,The Past, Present and Future of Educational Research in Europe
Available from: 2017-05-22 Created: 2017-05-22 Last updated: 2017-06-08Bibliographically approved

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