The landscape of schooling has changed immeasurably from its twentieth-century antecedents. While the need for higher levels of educational attainment is seen as paramount the means by which that is to be achieved have become increasingly complex. What does this mean for twenty-first century school systems and students? How are the needs of differing groups (lower socio-economic, ethnic and indigenous students, girls and boys) catered for? How does schooling fit with increasingly complex young lives? This workshop aims to undertake a cross-disciplinary analysis of the blurred boundaries, shifting policy and practice frames, and dramatic shifts in the provision of and nature of students’ engagement with post-compulsory education and training.

Much has been written about supporting young (and not-so-young) people through post-compulsory education and training and the need for a highly educated workforce in a globalised world in the context of both the enduring and intense public policy pressures to achieve greatly enhanced retention and completion rates and of the simultaneous collapse of the full-time youth labour market. While these two contextual elements have been well traversed, the implications and the challenges of other still emerging impacts are much less well understood. In particular the de-centralisation of education and training provision, the diversification of recognised learning sites and considerably more flexible accreditation processes which facilitate distributed learning and extended (and non-continuous) engagement with post-compulsory education and training need to be analysed. The picture is complicated by the new delivery modes available from information and communication technologies which contribute to further de-centring.

The components of the workshop will be organized around the following intersecting themes:

  1. Young people’s lives reflect very different and diverse patterns of paid work, education and training which challenge notions of ‘pathways’ and ‘transitions’ envisaged in less complex times. For example, previously rigid time restrictions on the completion of senior secondary certificates have been (or are being) removed in every jurisdiction in Australia reflecting the reality that many students’ engagement typically extends beyond the minimum number of years, occurs in concert with high levels of participation in the labour market and of young parenting and carer responsibilities, often including periods of part-time study as well as complete study breaks. This section will explore changes in youth culture, how young people are imagining their lives, and the lived realities of their shifting patterns of pathways, school-work transition (or combination) and learning careers.
  2. Quantitative mapping of temporal, locational and sectoral participation in post-compulsory education and training differentiated by key demographic characteristics such as age, gender, and socio-economic dimensions. Early findings of the part-time student research referred to above have revealed significant gaps in the statistical maps that are routinely drawn on about what young people are doing. This section will draw together available evidence in these areas to develop questions and strategies for better monitoring those changing patterns. This will provide the basic material on which to build a broader national picture. While the wider community and to some extent education and training system continue to assume a locked-step engagement with education and training, within clear sectoral boundaries, where, when and how learning at this level is actually occurring, being taken up and recognized is a long way from this for many (and perhaps most) students.
  3. The new and emerging nature of learning spaces in post-compulsory education and training raise questions about what happens to learning when the sites and situations in which it occurs are distributed and diversified, and include previously unacknowledged overlaps between institutional bounded settings, labour market participation, and informal learning from personal, community and activist interests and responsibilities. This theme will include an exploration of approaches to conceptualizing and analysing these new learning spaces, including patterns of continuity and change from earlier and apparently simpler times.
  4. Historical dimensions and perspectives to the changes to post-compulsory education and training being explored throughout the workshop, including exploration of whether the institution of schooling which emerged in the late nineteenth century can be adapted to twenty-first century life. Here issues concerning historic shifts in gender relations, in expectations concerning post-school life and work will be explored. Tensions between earlier maturation on the one hand and longer dependency on the other will be teased out.
  5. Policy challenges and trajectories which emerge from these explorations extend far beyond governments’ public policy concern with increasing retention, calling into question current approaches to understanding and measurement of students’ engagement with their post-compulsory learning. This section will focus on how educational and training policy makers see the issues being explored in terms of problems and policy and practice solutions, as well as what can research offer, suggest, add to the policy agenda.