Xavier Rambla Sociologia

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abr. 28 2018

Education and sustainable development (2): TVET in Latin America

Posted in Educació i polítiques socials per Xavier Rambla |

Since UNESCO convened the 3rd International Conference on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in 2012, this issue has gained momentum. Interestingly, the conference defined TVET as a system whose components are school programmes, training courses, apprenticeship schemes, scholarships, qualification frameworks, career guidance services, labour market intelligence and governance.

Looking back to the historical debate on TVET, this definition is the cornerstone of a significantly new approach. To the extent that educational planning simply relied on building new vocational schools, in the sixties and seventies the systemic features of TVET were seriously disregarded. Critics quickly noticed that the policy rationale assumed a fallacy, since these schools were not effective at all unless their activity was properly aligned with the education system and the labour market policy. In the eighties, TVET was deleted from the agenda on the grounds that increasing enrolment in primary education yielded higher rates of return. But critics also noticed that this strategy eventually provoked a bottleneck as far as transition to post-primary education was not guaranteed.

Currently, most Latin American countries work hard to build their TVET system. An array of popular initiatives indicates that policy-makers want to sort out many different problems. For instance, in Mexico the Build Yourself programme (ConstruyeT) enhances the socio-emotional capabilities of students so that future graduates get the most out of career guidance. In Brazil, before the present fiscal and economic crisis, the National Technological Programme (PRONATEC) struggled to underpin enrolment wih scholarships at the same time as new regional TVET colleges were created. In a different vein, Chilean governments have strengthened the qualifications framework at the same time as guidance services (Chile Valora).

Thus, a wider curriculum of secondary education, a expansion of school-based courses and the coherence of qualificatinos have become key focuses of reforms that aim at building TVET systems. The point is not only how effective each measure is, but mostly, to what extent these programmes contribute to build a system. The making of these systems is one of the most relevant current changes of education policies in the continent. In 2015, SDG4 highlighted the importance of these changes by requiring governments “by 2030, [to] ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university”.

This statement unveils quite important connections between TVET and other dimensions of sustainable development. The relationships with basic education and “decent work and economic growth” (SDG8) are particularly remarkable. However, so far progress has not been enough as far as these other dimensions are concerned.

On the one hand, statistical indicators capture a number of youth who are not enrolled in lower secondary education. Since perfomance is weak in basic education (see quotations from TERCE in the previous post) and a part of each cohort drops out of lower secondary education, it is noticeable that the making of TVET systems will not be sufficient to guarantee the right to education to all. In fact, the first figure below shows how net enrolment in lower secondary education has stalled despite a previous positive trend.

On the other hand, despite educational expansion during the recent decades, youth unemployment has not significantly decreased in Latin America. In contrast with the widespread causal belief in mechanical correlations between education and economic returns, it is noticeable that the trend of youth unemployment does not follow the expected pattern. A complex set of processes contributes to this fact, not least the complex “classification struggles” that sociologist Pierre Bourdieu analysed. The status of young people as students, workers or something in-between is a continuous bone of contention. In short, the second figure below records a stable trend of this indicator.





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abr. 05 2018

Educación y desarrollo sostenible (1): la educación básica en América Latina

Posted in Educació i polítiques socials per Xavier Rambla |

La comunidad internacional dispone de un legado de setenta años (cuando menos) de reflexión sobre el derecho a la educación. La escolarización de todos los niños y niñas menores de edad ha sido uno de los retos más visibles de esta empresa. Pero la inquietud por este derecho también afecta otras cuestiones, por ejemplo, el aprendizaje adecuado para desempeñar un trabajo digno, la influencia mutua de las desigualdades o las voces de la sociedad civil sobre la educación. Y muchos más.

Desde hace décadas en América Latina el debate ha tenido en cuenta al conjunto de la educación básica, incluyendo la educación infantil, primaria y secundaria. Rosa María Torres hizo un balance muy lúcido de la cuestión en 2000 (enlace). Una discusión más reciente de la Educación para Todos en América Latina se encuentra aquí.

Este legado aporta una rica gama de herramientas intelectuales para interpretar los hallazgos del primer informe internacional que hace balance del Objetivo de Desarrollo Educativo 4, relacionado con la educación, que debería ser alcanzado en 2030. Entre una lista extensa de informaciones, es muy importante destacar las siguientes:

  • La participación de los distintos grupos de edad en la educación infantil, primaria y secundaria es considerable en América Latina, en algunos puntos equiparable a Europa y América del Norte.
  • Sin embargo, la cuarta parte de jóvenes están fuera de la escuela en el nivel secundario superior. En Europa y América del Norte este abandono prematuro apenas afecta a una décima parte de jóvenes.
  • Los rendimientos académicos en lengua todavía presentan desafíos importantes: “Los resultados  de lectura en sexto grado muestran que el 70%  de los estudiantes a nivel regional se encuentra en los niveles de desempeño I y II. Los logros de aprendizaje en este ámbito se relacionan con la comprensión de textos en base a claves explícitas e implícitas, lo que permite hacer inferencias acerca del sentido de los textos y sus propósitos
    comunicativos. Como desafío aparece la necesidad  de favorecer en los niños y niñas la capacidad de interpretar expresiones de lenguaje figurado y fortalecer el conocimiento de los componentes del lenguaje y sus funciones”. (Informe TERCE sobre Logros de Aprendizaje)
  • Los rendimientos académicos en matemáticas también presentan desafíos importantes. “En el caso de la prueba de matemática de sexto grado, el 83% de los estudiantes a nivel regional se encuentra en los niveles de desempeño I y II. Los logros de aprendizaje en estos niveles, se relacionan con la capacidad de trabajar con números naturales y decimales en contextos simples y con la lectura de datos explícitos en tablas y gráficos. Los principales desafíos están en la resolución de problemas complejos (aquellos que contienen más de una variable), que involucran operaciones con números naturales, decimales y fracciones, el cálculo de perímetros y áreas, y otros aspectos, como las unidades de medida y los datos que se presentan en tablas y gráficos”. (Informe TERCE sobre Logros de Aprendizaje)



març 23 2018

Why should Europe care for the future of young adults?

Posted in Desigualtats, Educació i polítiques socials per Xavier Rambla |

I recently published a short comment in the Young Adulllt project newsletter (here). Empirical reports are about to be publised.

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oct. 28 2017

Analysing HEIs and educational IOs and NGOs for global development: some tools

Posted in L'aprenentatge a l'educació superior per Xavier Rambla |

GLOBED is an Erasmus+ master on Education Policies for Global Development (link). In their second year students undertake an internship in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), International Organisations (IOs) and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) who work in this area. This activity is assessed according to the feedback of on-site mentors as well as to the quality of their journal and their analysis of the organisation. This post takes stock of a few tools that may be helpful for this organisational analysis.

The European Framework for Quality Management is extremely useful to account for the complexity of these organisations. Years ago, HEIs simply provided education, but nowadays many are also engaged in research, knowledge transference and international cooperation. International Organisations have significantly reviewed their mission for the last decades. The array of activities they labelled as “educational planning” when the UN were created has noticeably widened. Finally, the common representation of NGOs as service providers for vulnerable target groups has also been transformed. Currently, not only NGOs undertake ressearch and advocacy, besides service provision, but they have also started a wide-ranging debate on their vision and mission.

Normally I just use this diagram to explore the potential of organisations. It basically suggests some questions as the following ones:

– Which are the core processes ? Does the organisation need to implement any key support, secondary processes to complete the core ones?

– How does the organisation define its institutional strategy (e.g. its mission)?  How do the main stakeholders intervene in defining this strategy? Is leadership a significant factor for the functioning of the organisation’

– To what extent are the strategy and the processes aligned? Does this alignment contribute to improve the results?

Sometimes organisations are involved in such a basic but demanding endeavour as defining their strategy. Strategy is crucial in a rapidly changing context. A quick look at the evolution from MDGs to SDGs simply shows to what extent the context of HEIs, IOs and NGOs working for global development has been transformed. The emergence of new philanthropists has exacerbated the trend.

SWOT analysis is an easy and instrumental tool to think about strategies. Basically, it requires to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of an organisation. Some models also shed light on strategies insofar as they highlight complexity, non-linear changes and contingencies. This one sets a good illustration.

Finally, specific tools to analyse the impact of research are in the making. Recent debates have focused on the impact of HEIs, who were the main agents of research a few decades ago. But clearly IOs and NGOs are launching their own research programmes. So, accounting for the demonstrable effects of research both within and outside the academia has become a new focus of interest.

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jul. 31 2017

Social mobility narrows down

Posted in Desigualtats per Xavier Rambla |

For decades research on social stratification has measured social mobility in a variety of countries. Contrary to initial hypotheses, the findings do not show declining statistical associations between parental social position, individuals’ level of instruction and individuals’ position. At most, these linkages have loosened in a few Scandinavian countries.

Recently, Thomas Piketty has noticed the disparity between the return of high fortunes invested in finance and the average economic growth. In his view, this disparity is likely to constrain future opportunities of social mobility. This month some evidence of this effect has been published. Apparently, social mobility is certainly narrowing down in the US and the UK.

The available corpus of sociological theory suggests a few explanations. First, financialisation and global value chains endow the elite of the income distribution to appropriate a great share of the added value. This phenomenon has been defined as exploitation. Second, the continuous tension between the expansive rights of citizenship and the advancement and retrenchment of fiscal redistribution used to compensate for exploitation, but the outcome of mainstream policies implemented since the seventies seems to have damaged the potential of citizenship. This phenomenon is normally labelled as social closure. Third, the misrecognition of social identities and the common circumstances people experience during their life course also has to do with this imbalance.

Some normative strands of social theory also contribute to understand the importance of these findings. In essence, this debate has confronted those who legitimise inequality if the agregate welfare improves with those who see a flaw of social justice in inequality. The first perspective basically prioritises economic growth and does not worry much about inequality if production levels are eventually increasing. The second perspective argues that social justice is flawed if people are not endowed with enough resources to enjoy a meaningful life. In this view, child poverty, forced labour, evictions, mass imprisonment, economic vulnerability and other correlative manifestations of inequality indicate that many people are not endowed with that mininum threshold of resources.



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juny 06 2017

Prevenir el abandono escolar prematuro

Posted in Canvi social i globalització per Xavier Rambla |

POSTER (ABJOVES Eina 1 Prevenció cast)

Entre 2013 y 2016 el projecte ABJOVES ha estudiado varias políticas que intentan apoyar a los estudiantes expuestos al riesgo de dejar la escuela sin graduarse. Ha observado que dos factores agravan el problema indirectamente.

En primer lugar, el índice estatus económico, social y cultural (Status ESC) de las familias es el factor determinante de los rendimientos educativos en toda la muestra de la prueba PISA de la OCDE (OECD, 2003). Este índice se calcula a partir del estatus laboral de los padres, de su riqueza y de sus recursos culturales. Puesto que desde 2008 la crisis económica ha perjudicado a muchas familias, esta precariedad también amenaza los resultados académicos de sus hijos e hijas (OECD, 2016). La coyuntura económica, pues, ha actuado en sentido negativo.

En segundo lugar, la segregación socio-económica separa a los estudiantes según su clase social. La concentración del alumnado más vulnerable en unas mismas escuelas, a menudo, les empuja a abandonar (OECD, 2012). Hace diez años la burbuja inmobiliaria dispersó a la población en urbanizaciones que no reflejan la diversidad social de las ciudades más consolidadas. Hoy en día la subida de los alquileres otra vez separa a los jóvenes según los recursos de sus familias.

Para hacer frente a estos factores negativos, la OCDE y la Comisión Europea proponen políticas preventivas. En primer lugar, piden evitar la repetición de curso y el agrupamiento por nivel académico. De hecho, estos remedios son peores que la enfermedad, ya que las decisiones de repetir y agrupar muchas veces confunden los criterios académicos con prejuicios sociales y culturales.

En segundo lugar, proponen sistemas controlados de elección de escuela. Reclaman que todos los centros sigan los mismos criterios de matriculación para todo el mundo. Además, desaconsejan que envíen mensajes diferentes a diferentes públicos, y hagan la vista gorda con las irregularidades en el empadronamiento u otros procedimientos relacionados. Se trata de evitar que las escuelas más prestigiosas seleccionen a los mejores estudiantes y desanimen la entrada de quienes tienen más dificultades. En esta línea, la prevención del abandono también incide en la necesidad de distribuir los recursos de acuerdo con las necesidades de los estudiantes evitando ventajas y agravios comparativos entre tipos de centros.

En tercer lugar, la educación post-obligatoria también puede ayudar en la prevención. Aquí es preciso aproximar los itinerarios de bachillerato y educación profesional, y a su vez, facilitar la transición entre ellos. Si no acaban convenciendo a los jóvenes, es imprescindible que sus primeras opciones se puedan reconducir sin demasiados traumas.

El póster presenta estas ideas de izquierda a derecha. En general, la desigualdad agrava el riesgo de abandono prematuro (AEP), mientras que la igualdad (o las medidas dirigidas a suavizar la desigualdad) actúan en contra de este riesgo. El AEP se sitúa en el centro de las preocupaciones sobre la educación porque levanta un muro que cierra las oportunidades vitales de muchas personas.




OECD (2003), “PISA Index of Economic, Social and Cultural Status (ESCS)”, in OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms, OECD Publishing, Paris. URL: https://stats.oecd.org/glossary

OECD (2012), Equity and Quality in Education: Supporting Disadvantaged Students and Schools, OECD Publishing, Paris.

OECD (2014), “Executive summary”, in OECD Employment Outlook 2014, OECD Publishing, Paris.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/empl_outlook-2014-3-en

OECD (2016) Inequality, URL: http://www.oecd.org/social/inequality.htm Accessed: 20 July 2016.

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juny 02 2017

Prevenir l’abandonament escolar prematur

Posted in Educació i polítiques socials per Xavier Rambla |

PÒSTER (ABJOVES Eina 1 Prevenció v4)

Entre 2013 i 2016 el projecte ABJOVES ha estudiat diverses polítiques que intenten recolzar els estudiants exposats al risc de deixar l’escola sense graduar-se. Ha observat que dos factors agreugen el problema indirectament.

En primer lloc, l’índex estatus econòmic, social i cultural (Status ESC) de les famílies és el factor determinant dels rendiments educatius a tota la mostra de la prova PISA de l’OCDE (OECD, 2003). Aquest índex es calcula a partir de l’estatus laboral dels pares, de la seva riquesa i dels seus recursos culturals. Com que des de 2008 la crisi econòmica ha perjudicat moltes famílies, aquesta precarietat també amenaça els resultats acadèmics dels seus fills i filles (OECD, 2016). La conjuntura econòmica, doncs, ha actuat en sentit negatiu.

En segon lloc, la segregació socio-econòmica separa els estudiants segons la seva classe social. La concentració de l’alumnat més vulnerable a unes mateixes escoles, sovint, els empeny a abandonar (OECD, 2012). Fa deu anys la bombolla immobiliària va dispersar la població en urbanitzacions que no reflecteixen la diversitat social de les ciutats més consolidades. Avui dia la pujada dels lloguers altra vegada separa el jovent segons els recursos de les seves famílies.

Per fer front a aquests factors negatius, l’OCDE i la Comissió Europea proposen polítiques preventives. En primer lloc, demanen d’evitar la repetició de curs i l’agrupament per nivell acadèmic. El fet és que aquests remeis són pitjors que la malaltia, ja que les decisions de repetir i agrupar moltes vegades confonen els criteris acadèmics amb prejudicis socials i culturals.

En segon lloc, proposen sistemes controlats d’elecció d’escola. Reclamen que tots els centres segueixin els mateixos criteris de matriculació per a tothom. A més, desaconsellen que enviïn missatges diferents a diferents públics, i facin els ulls grossos davant d’irregularitats en l’empadronament o altres procediments relacionats. Es tracta d’evitar que les escoles més prestigioses seleccionin els millors estudiants i desanimin l’entrada dels qui tenen més dificultats. En aquesta línia, la prevenció de l’abandonament també fa incidència en la necessitat de distribuir els recursos d’acord amb les necessitats dels estudiants tot evitant avantatges i greuges comparatius entre tipus de centres.

En tercer lloc, l’educació post-obligatòria també pot ajudar en la prevenció. Aquí cal aproximar els itineraris de batxillerat i educació professional, i alhora, facilitar la transició entre ells. Si no acaben convencent els joves, és imprescindible que les primeres tries es puguin reconduir sense massa traumes.

El pòster presenta aquestes idees d’esquerra a dreta. En general, la desigualtat agreuja el risc d’abandonament prematur (AEP), mentre que la igualtat (o les mesures adreçades a suavitzar la desigualtat) actuen en contra d’aquest risc. L’AEP és al centre de les preocupacions sobre l’educació perquè aixeca un mur que tanca les oportunitats vitals de moltes persones.


OECD (2003), “PISA Index of Economic, Social and Cultural Status (ESCS)”, in OECD Glossary of Statistical Terms, OECD Publishing, Paris. URL: https://stats.oecd.org/glossary

OECD (2012), Equity and Quality in Education: Supporting Disadvantaged Students and Schools, OECD Publishing, Paris.

OECD (2014), “Executive summary”, in OECD Employment Outlook 2014, OECD Publishing, Paris.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/empl_outlook-2014-3-en

OECD (2016) Inequality, URL: http://www.oecd.org/social/inequality.htm Accessed: 20 July 2016.

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abr. 20 2017

Reflective journals in higher education: some observations

Posted in L'aprenentatge a l'educació superior per Xavier Rambla |

Personal journals have been a literary genre for a long time. In higher education, reflective journals have been used in order to raise awareness of the specifics of professional activity, for instance, medical interviews with patients, qualitative social research, or teachers self-assessment of classroom practices.

In general, reflective journals may be helpful to develop the higher-order learning outcomes. For instance, Bloom’s taxonomy distinguishes remembering, comprehending, applying, analysing and synthesizing. Remarkably, journals induce students to analyse evidence which could otherwise be taken for granted without recognising its importance. This tool also requires students to elaborate their own synthesis of a case or a particular situation.

In this entry I want to comment on three contributions of electronic journals to higher education. In other words, I want to write down some contributions of blended learning in this area.

  1. Reflective journals are useful for students and lecturers to discuss fieldwork observations in qualitative social research. Writing journals for this purpose has been a common practice for a long time. By accounting for the researchers’ observations and feelings, this technique expects to control for bias, and mostly, to construct theories through a constant dialogue with empirical evidence. Since electronic journals allow students and lecturers to share observations and feedback in a same space, they help both parties to think of the whole research process step by step. This is a promising intellectual exercise as well as careful, detailed and transparent method of academic assessment.
  2. This tool is also instrumental to report on professional internships. Normally, internships are assessed by final reports issued by both mentors in the workplace and academic supervisors. These reports mostly take into account to what extent the student fit into the placement and was able to make interesting suggestions both from the professional and the academic point of view. Electronic journals provide another opportunity to enhance these discussions and the ulterior learning insofar as they allow students and supervisors to discuss everyday experiences. This discussion may detect any problems disrupting fit for a variety of reasons (e.g. expectations, roles, miscommunication, unexpected emotional reactions). At the same time, a continous dialogue requires students to ground their specialised judgement of the experience on a huge variety of small details that otherwise would be easily overlooked.
  3. Finally, reflective journals open new opportunities for widening the array of relevant learning outcomes in the midst of academic cultures which are systematically centered on lecturing. Lecturing is a teaching instrument which may be as useful as any other one, but for complex historical reasons it has become the only one in some academic cultures. Then, it compels lecturers to elaborate on their personal view of topics. If students are to prove they attended the lectures and made sense of them, they are also implicitly required to adhere to this view. Only an excellent communication and a strong trust would allow for some room for explicit discrepancy in a written exam that assesses a series of lectures. In this context, reflective journals posit new occasions for debate and require both lecturers and students to take account of each other’s views and understandings. While lectures may be complemeted by question and answer sessions, this is normally a complementary activity after a long one-way transmission of information and professional judgements. However, if properly designed and scheduled, reflective journals may alleviate face-to-face sessions from this burden and open new spaces for different teaching and learning activities.

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març 16 2017

Did a complex web of education policy transfer contribute to human development? Comparing Brazil and the Philippines

Posted in Educació i polítiques socials per Xavier Rambla |

For the last decades Brazil has overcome the Philippines regarding the UNDP  indexes of education and life expectancy. These disparate trends highlight the diversity of middle-income countries. Although Brazil and the Phillippines have suffered in a similar way from the so-called “middle-income trap“, their human development has not followed a correlative pattern. I have analysed the factors of these trends in a recent publication.

A particular correlation with the patterns of education policy transfer is telling. Both countries have repeatedly adopted the policies widely sponsored by the International Financial Institutions since the eighties. Some time ago the Philippines was also cited a best practice of the Green Revolution.

However, Brazil struggled to adopt a different view regarding social policies. Its main conditional cash transfer scheme, Bolsa Familia, was initially a local initiative but became a popular programme for most international organisations. The administrations of Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff also engaged in multi-layered consultation to design and implement Federal plans for Education, as required by the 1988 Constitution. At the same time, an array of political players built coalitions which promoted diverging but related views of education policy. Thus, the Global Campaign for Education allied with teacher unions, Federal, state and local administrations as well as international organisations such as UNESCO and the Organisation of Ibero-American States. The business community also searched for the support of the World Bank to launch the Todos pela Educaçao campaign. Did this dense network of collaboration foster an improving trend of human and educational development? Statistical trends were remarkably positive since the nineties. How was conflict managed within the frame of this civil society? Looking at the impeachment of President Rousseff, it is obvious that conflict was a powerful underlying process. This is really an intriguing case for further research

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març 12 2017

Gestionar innovacions en la societat del coneixement

Posted in L'aprenentatge a l'educació superior per Xavier Rambla |

La “societat del coneixement” es caracteritza per un seguit de canvis socials que combinen processos visibles a les escales geogràfiques local, estatal i global. Per especialitzar-se en la gestió empresarial, la gestió pública o la intervenció social a través del tercer sector, una persona ha de comprendre fenòmens com ara l’enormitat de les finances, la configuració de cadenes globals de valor, la formació de sistemes regionals i estatals d’innovació, o bé la importància estratègia de la gestió del coneixement i la formació de xarxes urbanes globals.

Com s’aprèn a gestionar les innovacions en aquest context? Certament cal adquirir i aplicar un ventall de coneixements teòrics de diverses branques de les ciències socials. Però no n’hi ha prou. El panorama és prou complex perquè un/a professional necessiti sovint expressar la seva opinió experta sobre diversos temes. I això només s’aprèn amb una pràctica ben orientada per la teoria. A més a més, és imprescindible organitzar el propi treball amb autonomia, i comunicar idees amb eficàcia.

És molt difícil de desenvolupar aquests aprenentatges si la docència universitària consisteix tan sols a donar i rebre classes magistrals, i proposar i resoldre exercicis. Aquesta pauta normalment implica que els estudiants reparteixen la seva atenció entre llargs períodes de molt baixa intensitat i un o dos moments de màxima tensió en les corresponents èpoques d’exàmens. En canvi, per adquirir i aplicar coneixements teòrics alhora que hom aprèn a formular judicis especialitzats, organitzar-se i comunicar, cal tot un altre plantejament del treball de docència i aprenentatge. Per això és necessari prestar un nivell mitjà d’atenció a un ventall d’activitats durant tres o quatre mesos, i en tot cas baixar la guàrdia quan tan sols es tracta de completar els informes que ja s’han anat esbossant al llarg d’aquest temps. El gràfic adjunt perfila les dues pautes (corba-atencio).

Per tant, a més de classes magistrals i exercicis, aquesta mena d’aprenentatges requereixen altres eines. L’aprenentatge basat en problemes, l’elaboració de diaris, el b-learning i la participació en relacions intergeneracionals poden ser alguns instruments molt apropiats per assolir aquesta fita.

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