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Fostering 'habits of reflection, independent study and free inquiry': an analysis of the short-lived phenomenon of General/Liberal Studies in English vocational education and training

Fostering 'habits of reflection, independent study and free inquiry': an analysis of the short-lived phenomenon of General/Liberal Studies in English vocational education and training

Bailey, Bill and Unwin, Lorna (2008) Fostering 'habits of reflection, independent study and free inquiry': an analysis of the short-lived phenomenon of General/Liberal Studies in English vocational education and training. Journal of Vocational Education & Training, 60 (1). pp. 61-74. ISSN 1363-6820 (doi:10.1080/13636820701828861)

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Abstract

In 1957, 12 years after the end of World War II, the Ministry of Education issued Circular 323 to promote the development of an element of ‘liberal studies’ in courses offered by technical and further education (FE) colleges in England. This was perceived to be in some ways a peculiar or uncharacteristic development. However, it lasted over 20 years, during which time most students on courses in FE colleges participated in what were termed General or Liberal Studies classes that complemented and/or contrasted with the technical content of their vocational programmes. By the end of the 1970s, these classes had changed in character, moving away from the concept of a ‘liberal education’ towards a prescribed diet of ‘communication studies’. The steady decline in apprenticeship numbers from the late 1960s onwards accelerated in the late 1970s, resulting in a new type of student (the state-funded ‘trainee’) into colleges whose curriculum would be prescribed by the Manpower Services Commission. This paper examines the Ministry’s thinking and charts the rise and fall of a curriculum phenomenon that became immortalised in the ‘Wilt’ novels of Tom Sharpe. The paper argues that the Ministry of Education’s concerns half a century ago are still relevant now, particularly as fresh calls are being made to raise the leaving age from compulsory education to 18, and in light of attempts in England to develop new vocational diplomas for full-time students in schools and colleges.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: young people and work, liberal education, technical and vocational education, further education curriculum,
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Education
School of Education > Department of Professional Learning & Development
Related URLs:
Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:07
Selected for GREAT 2016: None
Selected for GREAT 2017: None
Selected for GREAT 2018: None
URI: http://gala.gre.ac.uk/id/eprint/2856

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