Education for a good life? Lessons from a longitudinal study

Year: 2021

Author: Fu, Jun

Type of paper: Individual Paper

The role of education is often discussed in relation to qualifications and employability under the current policy discourses informed by neoliberal ideologies. This narrow focus of education has been proved problematic by mounting evidence which shows an increasingly opaque connection between education qualifications and labour markets (Furlong et al., 2017). Education in this sense became an unpredictable investment of young people (and often their families). Moreover, employment does not guarantee a “good life” (Bessant et al., 2017) in current society featured by individualisation, high mobility, technological advances, and new forms of flexible labour. The enduring well-being issues of Australian young people highlight the significance of a broad range of factors such as social relationships, civic participation, and connection to places for making a happy and healthy life (Wyn, 2021). Against this backdrop, it is necessary to reimagine the purpose of education beyond the narrow frame of preparation for employment, exploring its role in supporting young people to achieve a positive future in a complex and uncertain time.  This paper explores the role of education by examining young Australian adults’ reflections on their education/learning-related experiences which had a positive effect on their post-school lives. It draws on survey data collected by a longitudinal study of Australian young people. Participants of this study have been invited to comment on the issues that had affected their pathways to adulthood in an annual survey from the age of 23 to 30, which spanned over the period of 2011-2018. Through a thematic analysis, this paper identifies the factors related to their education and learning experiences (both formal and informal) that have played a positive role in their post-school lives. It also discusses the implications of these factors for constructing a meaningful and purposeful education. Reference: Bessant, J., Farthing, R., & Watts, R. (2017). The precarious generation: A political economy of young people. Routledge.Furlong, A., Goodwin, J., O'Connor, H., Hadfield, S., Hall, S., Lowden, K., & Plugor, R. (2017). Young people in the labour market: Past, present, future. New York: Routledge.Wyn, J. (2021). Youth Studies Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education.