|dc.description.abstract||Career education sits on the metaphorical boundary between school and adult life. As such, it should prepare young people to collectively shape their futures, and individually manage their lives. Implicit within this are issues of social justice as career education intersects with the socio-political dimensions of life which extend beyond economic engagement. My study has identified how the contested concept of social justice was articulated within the career education and guidance (CEG) policy guidelines produced by the New Zealand Ministry of Education, and conceptualised and enacted by career advisors in practice. My concern was with the multiple, complex and competing ways in which economic, social and political discourses shape career education, and inform concepts of ‘self’, ‘work’, ‘opportunity’, ‘justice’, ‘inclusion’, and ‘good citizenship’, within this curriculum area.
Located within a critical theory framework, my study draws on the work of the political philosopher Iris Marion Young. Deploying Young’s concepts I examined how social in/justice is located within policy guidelines for career education, and the practice of career advisors, from the standpoint of those social groups who are least advantaged. Data was collected from two primary sources: the CEG guidelines and other related documents; and semi-structured interviews with careers staff in New Zealand high schools. A critical qualitative methodology was adopted to facilitate this inquiry, and critical discourse analysis employed to make sense of the data. A critical approach helped to uncover, and interrogate taken-for-granted assumptions about the relationship between career education and the world of work, that are written into, and reinscribed through, dominant discourses.
My findings indicated that the term ‘social justice’ was absent from the CEG guidelines, and the career advisors were unfamiliar with the concept. Looking through a critical-recognitive social justice lens, career education was found to be primarily utilitarian in nature, focused on the development of ‘self’ and located within an ‘apolitical’ neoliberal labour market context. The CEG guidelines called attention to the economic ‘health and wealth’ of the nation, associating this with goals for ‘career development’ and ‘employability’. In relation to practice, career advisors sought to ‘do what was best’ for their individual students, by providing a curriculum aimed at assisting them to make the ‘right’ educational/occupational choices. Hence, I found a degree of confusion as career advisors navigated the tensions between a liberal humanist philosophy (which underlies career education), and the state’s neoliberal emphasis on economic self-management. There was also a lack of conceptual resources available to career advisors to help them actively locate social justice within this curriculum area. This inhibited a broader understanding of how career education might both contribute to, and challenge, those social injustices that sustain oppression and domination.
This study makes a significant contribution to research in the career education field, demonstrating how the concept of social justice is relatively invisible in this curriculum area, a finding that has received little attention in the New Zealand or international literature. Assisting career advisors to deepen their understanding of the multiple iterations of social justice opens career education up to closer critical scrutiny. Thus I have identified ways in which social justice might be more meaningfully located within career education, and contribute to culturally respectful and politically responsive transformative practice. The recommendations made, and areas for further research identified, extend the conceptual resources available to career advisors, providing them with a social justice framework that can be used to guide their practices.||