FORUM: Participation in education and work; identity and social exclusion.(BLOCK 2)




1. summarize the analysis of, and the main factors behind, social exclusion from and discrimination in education and employment, and how that might affect who has access to education and work and the transitions or pathways from school to work;

Assignment 2.1 concerns itself with factors of social exclusion and discrimination.

To start farming our posts and thoughts in view of writing our group paper, the following are some initial considerations on this part of the assignment.

I have identified at least three levels of exclusion and discrimination.

FIRST, we observe these phenomena at the access level, that is when people are looking for educational and job opportunities.

SECOND, after people gain access to education and jobs, we observe them inside the education institutions and places of employment. I see labor market segmentation and the Dual Labor Market Theory as means to establish a system-based rationale for this level of exclusion and discrimination.

THIRD, at the interface between formal education and workplace. At this point, people with certain education backgrounds may face exclusion and/or limited choice of employment. At this level, many factors concur to issues of “silent” discrimination that is embedded in our current societal model. It is my understanding that the0ries like Human Capital Theory are also meant to overcome this level of exclusion by improving individuals’ skills and ensuing choices.

One influential contributing factor in these schemes is power. Please refer to my comments on power posted in a separate thread in this forum.

As Garnet and Dana suggested, I think it’d be better to keep the discussions within a selected number of threads. I suggest we use this thread for the discussion on Assignment 2.1


Reply to Garnet: George Langelett, Human Capital: A Summary of the 20th Century Research

GARNET WROTE: Aside from the terminology, what do you think of Human Capital theory as away to measure economic returns to education and training? Is there another way to measure these economic returns? What would that look like?


FORUM: Current development and discourses on work and learning


Reply to Garnet: George Langelett, Human Capital: A Summary of the 20th Century Research (link to Itslearning)

Hi Garnet,

Thank you for your post. I find it very thought-provoking. I still believe though that HC theory offers a linear approach that does not have the necessary scope for dealing with much broader issues than just economic ones. Nevertheless, I understand that HC theory is based on economics, and I will consider its implications from that perspective. The questions you are asking are important, and I will consider them closely, as I also believe that, from a strictly economic perspective, Langelett’s article offers a way to address the questions you raised with regard to the financial/economic returns to education and training. To me it is a typical quantitative approach to measuring the several parameters that define a person’s and a country’s economic standards. As such, it does not necessarily measure issues of “quality,” which are difficult to quantify. Therefore if we assume that the laws of economics are accurate, then we can use them to try and measure returns to education by employing appropriate mathematic models. From what I read, it seems that such models have made it possible to calculate such returns with a certain degree of accuracy, due in part to the exclusion of qualitative variables.

How could such calculations be made more accurate? If we assume that the monetary evaluation of returns to education resulting from HC models were indicative of a successful investment, then it would be interesting to measure that index against qualitative parameters that were not initially included. Let me try with an example. If someone has a decent income, owns a house and a car (items that are quantitatively measurable), that person may be ranking high in returns to education, compared to someone with a lower income and no properties. However, would that person’s standards still be considered successful if we were to include the negative impact of issues that may be directly linked to that person professional situation, such as commuting time, unsatisfactory working environment, lack of access to cultural venues, low sense of community (suburban sprawl), and environmental issues (pollution, noise, etc). I believe that such inclusion would increase the accuracy of current HC measurements. Granted, it would require resources and time to carry out the relevant qualitative research. The results, however, may end up shifting the emphasis of HC equations towards currently disregarded aspects. Such shift could have a transformational impact on how education, work, income, well-being, health, self-actualization and more are ranked in our societies.

George Langelett, Human Capital: A Summary of the 20th Century Research

COURSE: WORK AND LEARNING Assignmemt 1.2: (other readings)

FORUM: Current development and discourses on work and learning


George Langelett, Human Capital: A Summary of the 20th Century Research (link titslearning).

As in many other articles, this one too presents Human Capital as a factor of production without discussing the repercussions on peoples’ personal development and their social role.

Human Capital definition:

“Human capital is the “know how” of the work force that increases the productivity of each worker.” (p. 1)


Throughout the article, the language of economics continues to be used to define issues that in my opinion would require a much broader approach. So, for example,

the article restates the assumption that “A more productive labor force leads to economic growth;” (p. 5) and “Human capital theory holds that education, whether formal or on-the-job, is an investment both for the individual and the society that devotes resources to providing it. Individuals decide on how much to invest based on their expected private return.” (p. 11) And also “Human capital depreciates over time, as does physical capital.” (p.12)

Garnet’s suggestion that “Human capital theory is not about individuals, it is about populations and their role in the economic prosperity of a nation” is supported in this article. Langelett talks about “nine ways in which education to individuals also contributes to economic growth fro the country.” (p. 19)

Again, in this article human capital is presented as an issue of sound investment that will eventually yield a higher income. The emphasis is therefore on investment and financial return in an economic context based on the premises of growth. (p. 18-19) As mentioned in other posts by some of us, the universal applicability of such linear progression is questionable.

Question on issues of cultural appropriateness. (reply to July’s post)

Julie wrote that Another example that I think highlights the lack of consideration of culture in human capital theory is that of the Aboriginal population.” Referring to Canada’s aboriginal population she wrote the socio-economic effects of being forced to ignore their culture and learn European values are deep and will be felt even for decades to come (i.e. low skills, high unemployment rates, poverty, sub-standard living conditions, etc.).  It is examples like these which give me trouble with the human capital theory.” I agree.

Above mentioned Langelett’s 9-way framework for economic advancement suggests that “education empowers people to move away from their traditional roles and take initiatives to create a better life. It removes society’s traditional prescriptions and individual ignorance and replaces them with more productive solutions.” I believe this approach is similar to what Julie criticized as assimilationist and colonial practices. In this statement, the equalization of traditional ways to backwardness and ignorance is undeniable. Given that, is it feasible to consider the merits of such an approach when the same develops from a narrative rooted in a Eurocentric perspective?

Reply to Julie’s and Helga’s Posts – – social capital / human element


FORUM: Current development and discourses on work and learning


Reply to Julie’s and Helga’s Posts – – social capital / human element (link Itslearning)

Hi there,

Julie mentioned the apparent lack of consideration for culture in the decision-making process affecting employment and education policies. I can only agree with you.  Last night I saw the movie “The curious case of Benjamin Button.” One of the characters was a very successful ballet dancer, and while I was watching her, my mind wandered away to….human capital theory. I asked myself how that would actually fit into that dancer’s personal quest for self-realization, and I could not see any link. In her case, it was not a matter of money, of financial gain, of investment for the future, of return to education. It was instead a matter of personal engagement, expression of art and feeling, love for music and the body. If it is true that Human Capital Theory has been used by governments to refine their employment and economic policies, then I wonder about the role of people in such design. Are we just numbers, variables in the equation of a world-wide government-run attempt towards economic success, or do we still have a say in how we perceive ourselves and what life is all about?  Helga called such inclusion the “human element.”  I sense that the essence of a life based on human capital theories and similar “laws” would be a linear progression of goal-oriented decisions and tasks that, by its own virtue, would also cause a lot of grief to people who do not quite follow that path. It would create a climate of exclusion. That would pertain for example to immigrants that have a hard time transferring into an system of very different work credentials; “global people” with weak national affiliations; people that – for whatever reasons -did not “build’ their lives according to the model based on the progression school-education-job-training-career.

Julie also brought up the concept of “social capital.” That is also mentioned by Smith in Workplace learning and Flexible Delivery. (p. 70) Citing Putman, social capital is defined as

“the networks, norms, and social trust in a given social organization that enable cooperation and collaboration toward mutually beneficial outcomes,” and is linked to the concept of “collective intelligence.”

I believe that by allowing issues of “national interest” to take on a role that is already discounting people’s “human element” we are standing on dangerous ground.

Peter J. Smith , Workplace Learning and Flexible Delivery

COURSE: WORK AND LEARNING – Assignment 1.2 (other readings)

FORUM: Current development and discourses on work and learning


Peter J. Smith , Workplace Learning and Flexible Delivery (link to Itslearning)

I found this article very interesting, but also complex and deserving a lot of attention, as it covered a lot of ground, from a comprehensive review of concepts relating to work and learning, to practice-oriented solutions for the delivery of effective training programs at the workplace.

In this post I will focus on the relevance of collaborative learning for the flexible delivery of training programs.


Smith clearly promotes a social-constructivist view of both work training and delivery modes. He gives many examples that support such perspective. Here are some citations from the article that may be useful to develop an initial understanding of Smith’s position: (page numbers in brackets refer to the article)

Billet and Rose take a socio-cultural constructivist view on knowledge. They said that, although resource-based learning materials have an important part to play in the development of workplace knowledge, they need to be used in conjunction with the guidance that is available through interaction with others in the workplace. (p. 74)

Smith and Henry found that the vast majority of evidence supported the view that successful on-line training must include interaction between learners and between learners and their instructors.”(p.75)

Trentin proposes a network-based collaborative model that includes active dialogue.(p.75) and suggests that instructors should consider the prominent role of collaborative learning, advocating the combination of the learning of abstract “concepts with direct experience.” (p. 149)

Smith also suggests that flexible delivery of training require the learners’ engagement with both material and the learning community at large. Learning ensues also from – with a reference to Wenger – the “effective use of the community of practice to pursue learning goals.” (p. 80)

Even when discussing delivery of learning programs such as CMC (Computer Mediated Communication), the importance of a social environment is emphasized. Citing Smith and Henry, the articles reminds us that “the vast majority of evidence supported the view that successful on-line training must include interaction between learners and between learners and their instructors.”(p.75)

Stacey also remarks along the same line the importance of collaborative learning adding that “the group contributes to learners’ understanding beyond what they could achieve individually.” (p.76)


My comments on Smith’s constructivist view on learning and delivery concern the issue of “naïve constructivism,”(p.73) which Garrison defines as the perspective of educators who “have a blind faith in the ability of students to construct meaningful knowledge on their own” (cited on p. 78).

In spite of my personal interest in the social-constructivist approach presented in the article, I also realize that such perspective cannot be universally and uncritically applied across different work and learning contexts. In this article, Smith cites research by Warner et al. showing that a majority of Australian VET learners “are not prepared for self-directed learning.” Other research outcomes confirmed that learners have “a low preference for independent learning” and seem to prefer learning situations where “an instructor leads the process” and makes “very clear what is expected of learners.” Smith also cites Brooker and Butler’s research on the Australian workplace supporting the idea that “apprentices rated highly those pathways to learning that involved structured learning and assistance from another more expert worker.” (p.78-79)

My questions are:

How do we accommodate such clear learning preferences into the broader social-constructivist approach?

Could an integrated model such as that proposed by Poel et al. (see the article Learning-Program Creation in Work Organization) serve as a holistic approach aimed at overcoming issues of “naïve constructivism” by providing the necessary platform for learning programs that would be sensitive to the actors’ needs and diverse learning approaches and also to the contextual institutional necessities?

Additional resources: Preparing for flexible delivery, by Peter Smith et al.

Reply to Dana’s post — Variation in hiring policies in different countries


FORUM: Current development and discourses on work and learning


Reply to Dana’s Post – – access and social justice (link to Itslearning)

Dana wrote:

I don’t think that Masters Degree should be the only measuring stick of employees!

In the U.S. it’s not uncommon for a job description to require “a master or equivalent experience.” Compared to the much stricter selection requirements displayed in German job announcements (that consistently use language from that draws directly from the national classification for education and training), the U.S. wording  leaves a window of opportunity open to non-traditional candidates.  However, in the case of public employers, very often such job postings are phony, as the institution already has its eyes on a particular candidate that is likely to be already working there. I understand that this is a different issue, but thought of mentioning it anyway.

Reply to Helga’ s Post – – access and social justice


FORUM: Current development and discourses on work and learning


Reply to Helga’ s Post – – access and social justice  (link to forum)

Hi Helga,

What a wonderful thread! I really enjoy reading all the interesting posts. I checked out Claudia’s e-portfolio profile and realized that she has quite a bit of experience in this area, which definitely adds to my interest in reading all these posts. I added my comments below.

HELGA WROTE: Seems that in a lot of countries there is a meritocracy, where those with higher qualifications are recognised (even if its only for an interview). This idea is not pervasive in Australia where those who are highly educated are regarded with some suspicion and distrust –  the idea is that those qualified people are trying to pull rank or be “better” than their mates. This particularly applies to recent arrivals, where there is still an apprehension that they have come to “take our jobs”

As an immigrant, I became very familiar with this Australian trait and learned to know it as “the tall poppy syndrome.” (basically and crudely, those who stand out get pushed back down into alignment with all the others). I found that particular issue one of the most striking differences between the U.S. and OZ. Based on individualistic premises, in the U.S. personal self-reliance and initiative are highly encouraged. As for the “they-come-to-take our-jobs” attitude, I just posted another message about Italians being chased away by fearful British workers in these days. Would the historic link between Australian and the U.K. serve as an explanation of such similar attitudes? Although we also know that the same could happen in a lot of other places.

HELGA WROTE: One way of dealing with this is to require that they undergo local training. I have come across many highly qualified doctors whose qualifications and experience are simply not recognised here and who are not in a position to undertake extensive retraining. What a waste of human capital!

Yes, I agree. I remember bringing this up in our first course. It also reminds me of my personal experience upon my arrival in Sydney. I thought I was being looked with suspicion because I had an American education rather than the required Australian credentials.

HELGA WROTE: As far as qualifications in the service industries go, the government here, with the agreement of industry,  has made some kind of qualification mandatory  in many previously quite menial jobs. Therefore, to work as a waiter/waitress, one now needs a Certificate in Hospitality (or be prepared to get one). To work in childcare, one needs a Childcare Certificate or Diploma, and these requirements are now spreading to Aged Care, Disability etc. Even to work in retail as a shop assistant, employers are looking at some kind of certification.

This reminds me a lot of the system in place in German-speaking countries, and to some extent – based on what I read – also in Scandinavia, where the VET system is highly structured. For those who grow up with such system, things will eventually fall into place. Credentials are built over the years, through formal education and a mechanism of workplace training. But for those who are new to the country, no matter what their credentials are, they would be feeling like aliens in a system that does not have much room for variation and foreign alternatives.  This is definitely true for Germany, though I am not sure if the same also applies to the Nordic countries. Such certifications have also found acceptance into Australian immigration laws. Up to the late 1990’s “skilled migrants” was accepted based on their potentials; now they have to go through an evaluation process of their education and professional credentials.

HELGA WROTE: Having written that, I realise that we seem to be heading towards some kind of “norm” (or mediocrity) –  no one too qualified and no one totally unqualified. That means that those outside those parameters will have the most difficulty finding work.

Helga, I agree with you. If one goes the motions, adjust to requirements and the system, s/he’ll be o.k. For those instead who – in spite of high qualification and valuable experience – do not match in-country requirements, life can be very difficult. This is definitely an area where nation states do not want to give up control, no matter how much they otherwise support policies of globalization of both the market and education.

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