November 3, 2018

Enhancing the quality of career guidance in secondary schools – Ronald G. Sultana | University of Malta

This Handbook is one of the products of the MYFUTURE Erasmus+ project. It offers educational leaders and career guidance staff practical ways for improving the quality of career guidance products and services in their secondary schools (ages 11-16), with a special focus on career education. The goal of the Handbook, and the frameworks, resources, and tools it provides, are meant to be useful in catering more effectively for all students. However, a special emphasis is placed on the needs of those who, for different reasons, have disengaged from formal learning, or are in danger of doing so. Career guidance is one of the ways we have of re-igniting motivation in such students, especially when the service offered by the school is robust and fit for purpose.

The Handbook is organised in such a way as to both enhance critical reflection, and to provide the tools and resources needed to translate understanding into improved career education and guidance.

Part One of the Handbook looks carefully at what we mean by ‘quality’. This is important because ‘quality’ is, in fact, a difficult and contested concept: different people think of ‘quality’ in different ways, and hold contrasting views as to whether the product or service they use is one deserving the ‘quality’ label. Since the way we define has implications for what we aim to achieve with students in schools, it is important to be clear about our understanding of ‘quality’ in the field of career education and guidance.

After we define ‘quality’ – i.e. what we are talking about when we use the term in relation to career guidance – we then look at why it is important to make sure that products and services in secondary schools are of a high standard, and who has the responsibility to carry out such quality assurance. We identify different actors here, including system managers, institutional leaders, career guidance practitioners, other stakeholders, and the service-users themselves (i.e. students and/or their parents/guardians). We also describe how and when the quality

of career products and services in schools should be reviewed, presenting a series of distinctions that help identify different options, and the advantages and drawbacks with each. We also consider the rise of concerns with quality across Europe, critique the models of quality assurance shaped by neo-liberalism and New Public Management, and outline an approach that is informed by other values and ideological orientations which we prefer.

The first part of the Handbook concludes by highlighting some of the more important features that one typically finds in a career guidance service in secondary schools. Six such features are presented. We argue that the quality of career guidance products and services can improve if we pay attention to [1] our career learning programmes [2] the career information made available [3] the personalised support offered through career counselling [4] the provision of a well-organised and accessible career resource hub [5] the development of partnership input in career education and [6] the formation of reflective practitioners who make the attainment of high standards a habitual goal. These six features are linked, but we separate them out so as to be as specific as possible about the ways in which quality can be improved.

Part Two then looks in depth at each of these 6 aspects of a career guidance service as described above, with a chapter dedicated to each of them. Each chapter follows the same pattern: first, we describe the feature so that the relevant issues are unpacked, drawing on insights from international research (‘what we know’). Then we address the aspects that can be reviewed in order to improve quality (‘how we can improve’). We populate the sections with examples of promising practice, as well as with tools and resources that can be used in order to evaluate and improve practice.

Enhancing the quality of career guidance in secondary schools