The BEC/BTEC National Diploma in Business and Finance was, from the late\ud 1970s to the mid 1990s, a major vocational award in England, Wales and\ud Northern Ireland. Although the majority of BEC/BTEC students were located\ud in the further education colleges within the somewhat marginalised postcompulsory\ud sector, the BEC/BTEC National level curriculum was directly\ud experienced by hundreds of thousands of students as well as their lecturers,\ud and indirectly by a range of educational stakeholders including employers\ud and university tutors coming into contact with former BEC/BTEC students.\ud Having transformed the rhetoric and substantially altered pedagogic practices\ud within further education the BTEC National Diploma was beginning to\ud establish an identity when it was, in effect, superceded by the Advanced\ud GNVQ in Business. Notwithstanding the significance of BEC/BTEC as a\ud major awarding body the associated curriculum attracted relatively little\ud interest from researchers, receiving only a fraction of the attention which has\ud been attracted by the more recent NVQs and GNVQs. This study is primarily\ud a curriculum history which aims to provide an account of a curriculum which\ud was conceived and implemented at a time before policy makers had come to\ud recognise the value of the post-compulsory sector as an engine for potentially\ud improving national economic performance, and as a catalyst for the creation\ud of a culture of life-long learning. The study attempts to theoretically\ud contextualise the BEC/BTEC curriculum as an important instance of\ud vocationalism. Ideas drawn from Gramsci, Althusser, Foucault and Lyotard\ud are utilised in order to provide a critical but multi-perspectival analytical\ud framework. The study incorporates an outline discussion of vocationalism in\ud England; an account of the genesis and development of BEC/BTEC as an\ud institution; an overview of various versions (or "generations") of the\ud BEC/BTEC National curriculum as well as those which have superceded it\ud (using course specifications and associated documents); and presents\ud perceptions of the BEC/BTEC National curriculum drawn from a\ud questionnaire survey and interviews. The BEC/BTEC National curriculum is\ud seen as an innovatory curriculum which, for many students, presented\ud important opportunities to progress. It is suggested, however, that ideological\ud assumptions implicit in the model of vocationalism as operationalised in late\ud Twentieth Century capitalism have necessarily emasculated the critical\ud potential and intellectual integrity of vocational education and training in\ud England
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