The Double Helix of Learning and Work. Arguments for Vocational Contents in Higher Education

1. General premises of our common concerns

The crisis of present-day educational systems, of labour markets and of world political systems, is a real and worrying pressure of societies on the organisation and contents of higher education itself.
It is important to notice that concerns referred to the contents and organisation of present-day educational systems, exists all over European countries, in the spite of the fact that it is based on backgrounds of significantly different experiences and countries’ history. We can see for instance that, while governments are increasingly preoccupied with the chronic disease of unemployment, companies have recently become very actively involved in educational processes by recycling the workforce and sponsoring computer-aided education.
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The Double Helix of Learning and Work

Two major tendencies, having high visibility and causing intense debate, have marked social developments over the past three decades. The first of these has been the emergence of the concept and practices of lifelong learning. The traditional conception and organization of education as a continuous block, ten to eighteen years in duration, situated at the beginning of life and institutionalized around schools and universities, is being replaced by a more flexible scheme, whereby formal schooling, as well as non-formal and informal education, extends over increasingly long periods. The focus has gradually shifted to learning. Equally, work is no longer perceived as an activity consigned to the continuous block of adult life, devoted to contractual employment for thirty or forty years in productive enterprises, administrative institutions, or services. Work itself has been divided into categories similar to the formal, non-formal, and informal triad, according to the nature of remuneration (monetarized, monetized, or non-monetized, see Giarini and Liedtke, Wie wir arbeiten werden, Hoffman und Campe, Hamburg, 1998). It has also been extended to become ‘lifelong work’.
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