Hiding in plain sight: de-educationalising employability through multistakeholder social responsibility in fostering post-school labour entry

Year: 2021

Author: Magyar, Bertalan

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Policy interest in evaluating the economic utility function of education has been relentless in Australia and around the world with no signs of abating. The origins of assuming a linear, mechanical relationship between educational qualifications and employment outcomes can be traced back to the early days of Human Capital Theory (HCT) of Schultz (1961) and Becker (1964). There are also more recent frameworks that are commonly deployed in commentaries regarding the state of the education system. In particular, arguments of the following two intertwined critical lines of thoughts deserve scrutiny: ‘21st century skills’ and the calling for the ever-extending accumulation of a wide range of ‘capitals’. Taking together, these two critical orientations have been remarkably successful in presenting themselves as standpoints from which a set of seemingly justifiable arguments can be launched to highlight various perceived shortcomings of the education system. In effect, the combined rhetoric alleging that students and graduates lack crucially important 21st century skills, and various ‘capitals’ inadvertently positions teachers and schools as parties to blame for broader, system-wide economic challenges affecting the globalised labour market in the age of advanced and digitalising capitalism.The paper argues that a systematic, rational defence of the public education sector is well overdue.  The paper aims to contribute to that end by emphasising that ‘21st century skills’, and the many types of ‘capitals’ have in fact always been integral parts of the learning experience since the beginning of modern compulsory education, as evident from the early works of Dewey (1915, 1916). As society begins transitioning into a post-pandemic phase, it is imperative that we build on earlier positive momentums regarding the public perception of teaching so that the education sector can continuously receive the support it deserves. As education-to-employment transition has always been, and remains to be fundamentally an economic problem, it cannot be addressed through purely curricular means. Instead, we argue that the responsibility regarding skill-development (including employability) needs to be shared more evenly among schools, educators, career counsellors, employer organisations, the private sector, higher education, and the relevant branches of the Government. Finally, school-industry partnerships would need to be reconfigured around progressive career-education, problem-based learning, and work-integrated learning, based on a new conceptualisation of ‘social corporate responsibility’ which recognises the enormous potential of the private sector in playing an active, positive role in considerably smoothing labour market entry of school leavers.