The Vocational School Fallacy Revisited
Philip Foster was a critical sociologist of education, spending time first in the University of London and later in the University of Chicago. One of his key contributions was to question the capacity of school systems to change the employment aspirations of children and youth by means of changing the curriculum. He argued persuasively from his research in Ghana shortly after that country’s independence in 1957 that student ambitions for work were determined by their perceptions of the opportunities in the ‘modern’, formal sector of the economy, and not by the specific curricular orientations of schools. He had tried a novel way of checking student ambitions by asking them first to indicate what jobs they would ideally desire, and then asking them to assess realistically what jobs they would end up with. Foster was able to show that farming, for example, did not come at the bottom of the students’ prestige rankings, as might have been anticipated in a newly independent country in Sub-Saharan Africa.
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