Life Jacket and Art of Living. Social Competency and the Reproduction of Inequality in Education

G. ten Dam, M.L.L. Volman

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    After a period in which the emphasis in education was on "the basics," increasing attention has been paid at the turn of the century to the "moral task of education" in the Netherlands. Schools are not only expected to prepare students for further education and/or the labour market but also for participating in society in the broadest sense, for example, in politics, care, and culture. In this article we will focus on one aspect of students' development as a task of the school, namely, the furthering of students' social competence. Six case studies were conducted in which projects aimed at social competence were analysed in general secondary education and prevocational education. The results show that in the general secondary education projects the emphasis was on the meaning of changes in society for students and the contribution they can make to such changes (social competence in education as an "art of living"). The prevocational education projects focused on improving the chances of students at school and in society by developing aspects of social competence that they have not acquired at home or earlier in their school careers, such as self-confidence and social and communicative skills (social competence as a "life jacket"). We interpret these different focuses in terms of the production and reproduction of social inequality and discuss how such reproduction processes can be countered in the context of educating for social competence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)117-137
    Number of pages21
    JournalCurriculum Inquiry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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