The Right Choice: A Political Attempt to Incite More Young People to Choose a Vocational Education

Katrine Engholm Moltved

Student thesis: Master thesis


Each decade, vocational education has increasingly lost its appeal as a choice of education among young people in Denmark. A new political agenda seeks to change this. According to this agenda, the Danish economy needs a workforce consisting of more people who have completed a vocational education than we have today. This new agenda understands vocational education as a superior choice for young people compared to high school education, which the majority of people choose. Contrary to what previous policies have sought to do, the new agenda introduces solutions at policy-level aiming at a surge of young people starting and completing a vocational education. This thesis examines these solutions, the problems they aim at solving and the conceptual premises within these with a Foucauldian inspired discourse analytical approach as presented in Carol Bacchi in ”Analysing policy: What's the problem represented to be?” (Bacchi, 2009). This thesis seeks to uncover what implications the new agenda has on the way that society perceives vocational education as well as on the individual’s choice of education, by drawing attention to the assumptions and presuppositions which operate within the agenda. The new agenda aims not only at inciting more young people to choose a vocational education, but also establishing an alternative discourse with new truth-claims about what can be considered a good education and about the choice between either vocational or high school education. The agenda presents the choice between vocational and high school education as the choice between what is right and wrong. Young people should consequently naturally be guided and conducted to choose to take the right path, which, according to the agenda, means choosing a vocational education. This thesis discusses power and governmentality in modern society and how young people’s educational choices can be seen as the result of a governmental rule over the individual through conduct of conduct. In this exercise of power, I find that the individual is made passive and unable to control their own decision. This is based on the understanding that young people’s choice of a high school education is automized and the attempt by the new agenda to establish a new automatized choice, which would lead young people to prefer a vocational education, in the same way that they currently prefer a high school education. 2 Furthermore, the approach presented by Bacchi allows me to challenge the common perception that policies are reactions to problems that exist within society. Based on this discourse analytical point of view, problems are constituted in the policies that are introduced to solve them. Thereby, it is possible for me not only to point to the problems that are considered true, but to identify the problems and their solutions as politically contingent constructed objects of thought. This allows me to question the otherwise unquestionable established problems and solutions within the new agenda. It is thus possible to uncover the socially embedded inadvertent conduct of self that young people are conducted to and show that the decision they are guided to make can be questioned. What is considered as the right choice is, therefore, not at all inherent but a result of a contingent politicization; an understanding which ultimately allows me to take a critical distance from what is considered the right choice in the new political agenda. The new political agenda turns previous discourses and policies upside-down, by introducing new truths to the Danish educational politics. This thesis contributes to the current debate by scrutinising these truths as contingent truth-claims and it consequently questions how the governing of young people’s choice of education takes place and what implication this governing has for society and the people living within it. Key words: Carol Bacchi, Danish education system, discourse analysis, education, governmentality, Michel Foucault, problematization, Problematization Analysis, VET, vocational education, WPR-approach.

EducationsMSocSc in Political Communication and Managment, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages76
SupervisorsDorthe Pedersen