Research in Comparative and International Education
ISSN 1745-4999


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Volume 7 Number 4 2012

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CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

SPECIAL ISSUE
Researching Transitions in Learning and Education: international perspectives on complex challenges and imaginative solutions
Guest Editors: VIC LALLY & LESLEY DOYLE

Vic Lally & Lesley Doyle. Editorial, pages 394–408 http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.394 VIEW FULL TEXT OPEN ACCESS

Akio Inui & Yoshikazu Kojima. Identity and the Transition from School to Work in Late Modern Japan: strong agency or supportive communality? , pages 409–418

José Antonio Arrueta & Helen Avery. Education Reform in Bolivia: transitions towards which future? , pages 419–433

Paxton Andrew Zozie & Peter Benwell Kayira. Transition and Tertiary Education: a case study of Mzuzu University, Malawi, pages 434–445

Lesley Doyle. Conceptualising a Transition: the case of vocational and academic learning in England, Scotland and the USA, pages 446–464

Paul T. Crawford. Educational Transitions in the United States: reflections on the American Dream, pages 465–479

Vic Lally & Madeleine Sclater. The Inter-Life Project: inter-cultural spaces for young people to use creative practices and research to assist with life changes and transition, pages 480–502

Marianne Teräs. Intercultural Space as Transitional Space: movements, transformations and dialectical relations, pages 503–513

Birgitta Nordén, Helen Avery & Elsie Anderberg. Learning in Global Settings: developing transitions for meaning-making, pages 514–529

Merike Darmody. Institutional Habitus and Secondary School Transitions: comparative study of Ireland and Estonia, pages 530–546


Identity and the Transition from School to Work in Late Modern Japan: strong agency or supportive communality?

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.409

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This article examines the precarious transition from school to work, considers its relation to young people’s identity formation in late modern Japan, and rethinks the theory of identity formation in late modernity. Although Japan’s transition system had been efficient and stable over many years, since the late 1990s this has been replaced by an increasing precariousness. The Japanese government has responded with a Career Education promotion policy to foster young people’s work aspirations and attitudes in the form of an employability enhancement policy. This policy discourse coincides with a late modernist theory (as put forward by Giddens and Cote & Levine) that emphasises the importance of personal agency for young people’s transitions. However, in our longitudinal qualitative study, we found that the ‘transitional communities and networks’ that young people encounter in their transition from school to work have an important supportive role to play. These transitional communities are important in young people’s transitions from the school/college community to the workplace community. Those who had a strong sense of agency but no helpful community experienced serious depression and did not make a successful transition into work. Our case studies support Erikson’s argument that community (communality) is indispensable for young people’s identity formation. We conclude that both community and agency are important for successful transition in late modernity.

 

Education Reform in Bolivia: transitions towards which future?

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.419

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This article concerns the impact of educational reforms on young people in Bolivian society as they transition into adulthood, against the backdrop of globalisation and far-reaching structural changes. Ethnicity and cultural capital are linked in complex ways with social stratification in Bolivia. In a pluricultural society, the language of instruction and curricular content are among the most fundamental conditions that determine which social or linguistic groups will be excluded or disadvantaged during formal education. Language and content are particularly significant in identity formation and in the shaping of cultural capital. Each contributes to the formation of specific intercultural skills and opportunities for communication within national or international communities. Additionally, each of these components helps determine which educational paths are open for young people, and which activities they can engage with later in life. In Bolivia, various education reforms have attempted to reshape these parameters. Intercultural Bilingual Education and other key aspects of the reforms will be described along with the historical context in which they emerged. Some conclusions are put forward related to their implementation.

 

Transition and Tertiary Education: a case study of Mzuzu University, Malawi

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.434

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This article reviews the role of guidance and counselling in Malawi in reducing dropout and easing the transition of students to tertiary education, as well as in helping them during their time in tertiary education. It begins by identifying key success factors in guidance and counselling services for learners in both developed and developing countries. The article argues that the provision of viable secondary school careers guidance and changes to the university counselling programme could reduce the dropout rate and create a smoother transition for students during tertiary education with a positive impact on learning progression. The rationale for integrating guidance and counselling between school and tertiary provision is then explored. Drawing on case-study research carried out at Mzuzu University (MZUNI), the article presents findings on the preparation of students at secondary school for university education, the relationship of subjects offered at secondary school to courses pursued at university and the challenges faced by students as they start university and progress through the levels. The article concludes with some recommendations for enabling smoother transitions through the integration of school guidance and counselling in learning institutions.

 

Conceptualising a Transition: the case of vocational and academic learning in England, Scotland and the USA

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.446

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The contention of this article is that the potentially productive developmental learning experience of the transition which young people in secondary school make between concurrent vocational and academic courses is largely unrecognised and thus unexploited. To support this contention, and to suggest a more productive way forward, understandings of, and attitudes towards, vocational learning and the rationales behind them are analysed. Following on from this, findings are presented from three related empirical studies on the experiences of young people, and their teachers, as they transition between vocational and academic courses. The findings are then conceptualised through the lens of theoretical approaches which privilege and highlight the importance of supported developmental learning, as distinct from the current focus on societal and policy rationales. Particular attention is paid to Beach’s notion of ‘consequential transitions’. The article concludes with an outline of the opportunities that an approach based on symbiosis between vocational and academic learning can offer for the improved acquisition of skills, knowledge and understanding by young people.

 

Educational Transitions in the United States: reflections on the American Dream

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.465

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Education involves socialization so that individuals become productive members of society. At present, in the United States, educational transitions are primarily viewed in terms of their location in an outcomes-oriented process and framed as helping people achieve the American Dream, but in terms of the status quo national economic interest. But what about US residents who are unwilling to accommodate this particular worldview or its component ethos? Current conceptualizations of educational transitions in the United States favour economic efficiency and national security. However, new demographic realities will necessitate a revised notion of national security, one that is based on social inclusion. Consider, for example, the burgeoning Latino population in the United States. Will the current offer of education remain as valid in 2020 or 2050 when the nation has become a patchwork of minority populations? Individual choice at the moment of educational transition in the United States is increasingly framed as a zero-sum calculus: conform to the status quo or risk marginalization. The educational system is being co-opted by narratives associated with standard gross domestic product (GDP) metrics. The metrics used to guide and warrant educational policy and practice need to be widened so that educational assessment is based on the ‘context of human lives’. Despite an uneven record of cultural and ethnic injustice, the United States has narrative-based resources that support social inclusion. At the heart of the nation’s orienting narrative is a quandary: how to balance a sense of manifest destiny with an understanding that our future is uncertain and sustainable only by joining many human capabilities?

 

The Inter-Life Project: inter-cultural spaces for young people to use creative practices and research to assist with life changes and transition

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.480

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The aim of the Inter-Life Project was to investigate the use of virtual worlds and creative practices to support the acquisition of transition skills for young people to enhance their management of important life events. In particular, the authors have been investigating the role of the Inter-Life virtual worlds in supporting the development of life transition skills in young people, some of whom were in the care of local authorities. Creative practices, such as photography, digital storytelling and filmmaking, were used as a vehicle to enable young people to access and develop new personal and shared narratives as they worked together with researchers over an extended period on ‘Interlife Island’. The Inter-Life Project created an embryonic virtual social research laboratory in order to study how young people can use a virtual world creatively, working together as a research community to develop skills that will help them navigate their key life transitions. The project focuses on how participants act and develop in Inter-Life, while engaged in co-designed creative and research activities. It also examines how the skills and understandings that were developed through a range of creative practices map onto their real-world experience. The project environments (based upon the commercial platform ‘Second Life’) incorporate ‘in-world’ data-gathering tools (as distinct from the ‘transition tools’ created for the participants’ use) that support content analysis. Such data enable the analysis of complex activities in the virtual world using activity theory as a theoretical perspective. The skills acquired and the development of identities as young people engage in shared activities are reported and analysed. The article concludes by assessing the potential of augmented 3D digital technologies to assist young people in the social and emotional challenges of transition in their lives. It also considers the potential of 3D environments to support student transitions in higher education, with particular reference to art and design education.

 

Intercultural Space as Transitional Space: movements, transformations and dialectical relations

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.503

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This article reports on research into an intervention called a ‘Culture Laboratory’, based on a generic ‘Change Laboratory’ method within developmental work research and cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT). Within the Culture Laboratory, transitions can be viewed as movements, transformations and reciprocal relations, undertaken as participants attempt to improve their training in a process of observing, comparing and creating. The 17 participants in this study were students from eight different countries of origin, their teachers, other school staff and researchers. Experiences from this study would suggest that transitions are not outright movements that follow a certain path, but are rather complicated back-and-forth movements and tension-rich in-between spaces, which can enrich development and learning through creative actions.

 

Learning in Global Settings: developing transitions for meaning-making

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.514

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Global teaching and learning for sustainable development reaches from the classroom to the world outside, and is therefore a particularly interesting setting for practising transition skills. The article suggests a number of features perceived as crucial in developing young people’s capability to act in a changing world and under circumstances that are difficult to predict. The suggestions are based on an empirical study of the Lund Calling project, which aimed at implementing a web-based international programme for teaching preventive environmental strategies in Swedish secondary schools. The article first presents some of the conditions in Sweden that particularly impact on young people’s transition to adulthood. Related research in sustainability education is also briefly outlined. Knowledge capability theory is used to discuss results from the empirical study of the Lund Calling project, where interviews were conducted with secondary school students, teachers and headmasters. Based on these interviews, features that appear to be particularly relevant as transition skills in global learning for sustainable development include transdisciplinary action, democratic collaborative action, as well as self-directed and independent initiative. The article concludes that young people today cannot, as in earlier periods of history, base their actions entirely on the traditions of the family or community. Instead, they also need to learn to form their own communities, capable of acting at both local and global levels. Education here plays an important role in developing the necessary transition skills that enable young people to be prepared for a rapidly changing and uncertain world.

 

Institutional Habitus and Secondary School Transitions: comparative study of Ireland and Estonia

http://dx.doi.org/10.2304/rcie.2012.7.4.530

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This article explores secondary school transitions from a comparative perspective. It focuses on a stage at which a major institutional transition takes place in two different educational systems. Over the years a number of international studies have explored different learning environments and their impact on student educational outcomes. Much of this research explores the impact of school choice and the transition from one level of schooling to another. In general, these studies refer to school transitions as a time when students are particularly vulnerable due to structural and environmental differences between different levels of schooling. In other words, the new learning environments generally have a different ‘institutional habitus’. While seamless and unproblematic transition from one level of schooling to another is seen to ensure students’ success at the subsequent level of schooling and beyond, negative experiences and difficulties around adjustment, on the other hand, are shown to result in disengagement and becoming at risk of early school leaving, with detrimental consequences for the individual concerned. Furthermore, different pathways within the educational systems have been found to reproduce unequal life chances. To discuss and re-theorise school transitions, the article draws on a large-scale comparative study of the transitions in secondary school in Ireland and Estonia, and utilises a conceptual tool called ‘institutional habitus’ to gain better understanding of the processes involved. While the article discusses similarities and differences between children’s transition experience in two different countries, it also calls for a careful approach to ‘direct borrowing’ of practices from other countries.

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