The extent to which higher education (HE) is conceived as ‘within the bounds of the possible’ and worthwhile for non-participating adults
Fuller, Alison, Heath, Sue and Johnston, Brenda (eds.)
Widening Participation for Reluctant Students: Involving ‘ordinary people'.
This chapter will consider how people come to navigate their way through a terrain of differential enablements and barriers to work and education, alongside a consideration of their engagement in, and attitudes towards, formal and informal learning. It will examine the extent to which participation in HE may be conceived as worthwhile and ‘within the bounds of the possible’ for some of our sample members - that is, something they could imagine themselves as doing - whereas for others it is not. The chapter will draw on the life stories of two networks, to illustrate how members of these networks are making their way along various educational and career pathways, and how their concerns influence what they regard to be realistic or possible options for themselves. These perceptions may be subjective but they are nonetheless based on realistic assessments of the opportunities and barriers that present themselves to individuals. The paradox of course is that such assessments risk ultimately being self-fulfilling and can reproduce patterns of (dis)engagement over generations. A key finding here, though, is that these ‘boundaries of the possible’ are not fixed, but can be transformed by people’s shared life experience, influenced by the experience of HE of people in their networks, as well as by local education and training interventions. Circumstances change, for some more than others, but they are not static or unidirectional; younger generations influence the thinking of older generations as well as vice versa. A consideration of the ‘bounds of the possible’ sheds some light on changing patterns of participation, as well as on changing attitudes to learning despite predominantly negative experiences of compulsory schooling. The chapter will conclude that these shifting boundaries are like a flexible membrane able to expand and contract as people learn from their life experience and the experiences of those around them.
Actions (login required)