The Burning Out of the Semi-Professions

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The Burning Out of the Semi-Professions

Knud Jensen, The Danish University of Education

Stephen Walker, Newman College, Birmingham, UK

Modernisation and the Transformation of the Social Relations of Work in the Public Services

During the last 20 years we have, as sociologists, recognised a series of new developments of the State in modern capitalist societies and we have been concerned with how these developments impact upon the daily lives of citizens and upon the discourses which condition our daily lives. Specifically, we have been concerned with trying to untangle what is popularly referred to as the ‘modernisation’ of the State. We need to be careful here. ‘Modernisation’ is used by some to refer to the movement towards some kind of marketised, deregulated civil society. But it is also the seductive slogan of those political leaders who desire to present their new hegemonic projects as both inevitable and devoutly to be desired. From our point of view, ‘modernisation’ refers to a series of gradual but unequivocal transformations of the processes of social control and of the possibilities for individual self-determination and development. The empirical instances of these transformations vary from one State politic to another. However, they share certain common characteristics – be they expressed in post-industrialist capitalist countries, in well-established liberal democracies, in the developing world or in newly emerging post-communist countries. Transformations through modernisation agendas seem to focus upon attempts to blur the distinction between the public and the private sectors of social life. It is well - known that, for the most part, this involves the promotion of political policies which, on the one hand aim to hand-over responsibility for the provision of public services to private individuals or corporations and, on the other, to pass on the obligation for the financing of public services to independently-acting, private individuals. Thus, summarised rather crudely but accurately, in the modernised State, the provision and the organisation of health, educational and welfare services are being progressively handed-over to privately owned and managed enterprises, and increasingly, the services are paid for from privately owned wealth, supported by minimal taxation. However, although modernisation is frequently depicted as a change in the processes of economic management it is also, clearly, a transformation of social relations. Changes to the ownership and regulation of the public services impact upon the relationships between individual citizens and the State, between individual citizens and public service workers and between public sector workers and their ’mangers’ and their co-workers.
Modernisation, then, impacts upon both the social structures of the organisation of labour and, at the same time, on the social relations of work. To recognise this will shape the kind of sociological perspective we use in our endeavour to chart these social movements and the biographies of the real individuals whose lives are transformed by them. At times like this, it is important to remember C. Wright Mills' question about sociological analysis of contemporary social trends:

"What are the major issues for publics and the key troubles of private individuals in our time? To formulate issues and troubles, we must ask what values are cherished yet threatened, and what values are cherished and supported, by the characterising trends of our period. In the case both of the threat and of the support we must ask what salient contradictions may be involved."

In this paper we will explore the ‘salient contradictions’ arising from State modernisation projects which provide structure and agency for the social conditions for those professional and semi-professionals who work in public sectors of employment. A great deal of sociological analysis of the professions and professional work has often been either descriptive (designed to chart the differences in status between professional groups so as to characterise differences between full and semi-professions) or protectionist (designed to use sociological analysis to assist professional workers to protect their rights and positions in struggles with economic or political power-holders. Mindful of the notion of ’salient contradiction, our discussion will develop a different perspective. Our concern is to reintroduce the notion of analytical dialects in the investigation of work and working. This means it will look for the positive and the negative valences of social situations and movements. In this particular paper, the dialectical analysis runs like this:

  • State transformation is real and has a destructive tendency on gains made to protect the individualistic rights of workers. It also produces new fields in which sociologists and workers can operate.

  • One of these new fields comes from the real need to train and qualify ‘flexible’ workers.

  • By definition, flexibility cannot be standardised or prescribed - it depends upon an ability to have transferable and creative competence.

  • We can use our understanding of the work process (the three elements) and of the new real conditions of work in the public sector to redesign professional education for them, which both - meet the demands of the modernisers AND provide new fields for reflective co-operation.

The State

For the purposes of this paper we accept, in broad terms, that changes in State formation, at least in Western European Union (and increasingly in ‘modernised’ Eastern European countries) can be characterised as a shift from a notion of the State as a Welfare agency to that of the State as a Responsive agency. Under the former – the Welfare State, the State acts to guarantee basic citizen rights agreed under some form of social democratic settlement. Under the latter – the Responsive State, the State acts as a caretaker, policing social arrangements by protecting the rights of citizens to determine their own social actions and futures as independent, self-evaluating, responsible citizens. This is basi­cally an ideological shift, a change from a perception of a state, which cares, to one in which the state is seen as guard­ian. The ideological redefinition involves a determination to get rid of rigid rules and bureaucratic structures from within state-employee/citizen relationships. In the rhetoric of the Responsive State, the state official or administrator is understood as a consultant or adviser, a person who does not judge right or wrong but who tries to reach for a common understanding or compromise. The citizen or the em­ployee is taken to be a respon­sible, resourceful and self-reliant individual.

It is difficult to know just exactly what is the social vision of the politicians who are behind this movement. Although, essentially, they are political pragmatists, they also share a broad goal of attempting to "modernise" the State. Part of this modernisation involves strategies aimed at shifting as much employment as possible from the public to the private sector so as to secure the increased productivity and efficiency, which the market-forces of the private sector are assumed to provide. It also involves a consistent political commitment to preserve and protect the authority of the State. State power-holders are to control and to manage those institutions or groups or individuals that pursue actions which impede the ‘free’ flow of market forces or who seek to resist the social consequences of market-regulated social exchanges.

In the past few years, it has become increasing apparent that the ’modernisation’ of one any particular public sector – health, education or social welfare – gets to be shaped and to be implemented in surprisingly similar ways. As we ourselves are occupied in and have our empirical studies within schools, we have used our research into the reorganisation of schooling and of teacher’s work experiences as a basis for exploring how the State elite in the Responsive or ‘modern’ State is managing certain professionals or semi-professional to become contract workers. But we are also aware that the development in this part of public sector is not so different from the development of other public sectors like health and welfare, of medical and social workers' professionalism. We can recognise the similar patterns in the sequencing of work in all sectors, we can identify similar processes of modernisation and we can detect a shared discourse growing across the public sectors. And all these public sector professions can be regarded as in crisis - a crisis often depicted as working at two levels - the visible and the invisible. The 'visible' dimensions of the crisis are to do with issues of reported feelings of anomie and of alienation amongst these professionals'. These feelings are frequently made manifest in high stress and low job satisfaction levels and these are accompanied by intractable problems of retention and recruitment to these public service occupations. The invisible or covert dimensions of the crisis are identifiable in the progressive redefinition of the function, performance and obligations of the modern public service professional - a redefinition manufactured and enforced by the new State elite.

The Recruitment, Training and Qualification of Public Sector Workers.

In the modernisation of the State in the European Union (EU) a number of crucial issues come to the fore. In particular the question of recruiting skilled personal to jobs traditionally managed by the public sector has become problematic. Within the EU the education and training of new recruits to the semi-professions is organised in a variety of different pathways but two main routes predominate. New recruits either join a semi-profession by following a subject-based, university degree course, such as a bachelor's degree, or they study for a professional qualification from colleges recognised as specialising in preparation of personnel for a specific semi-profession - teaching, kindergarten teaching, social counselling and social work or nursing. The notion semi-profession is used about groups of employees with an educational background of a total length of 14-16 years, specialised to work in specific but different parts of the public sector - like teachers, nurses, social workers etc. In ‘Eurydice” (the official EU education data base) we find that this part of the educational system is now very nearly standardised across European States as higher, non-university or sub-degree levels of training. In the United Kingdom, for example, where the ‘modernisation’ of the teaching profession is advanced, new initiatives introduced to stem the flood of experienced teachers away from teaching illustrate the contours of the change and highlight the attack on professional autonomy. In the 1950s and the 1960s, the Teacher Unions fought hard and successfully protected professional status through the recognition that all teachers recognised as qualified - in nursery, primary or secondary schools – possessed a graduate or post-graduate qualification in their specialised field – teaching. This is no longer the case. University graduates in relevant subjects can now move rapidly to qualified teacher status through school-based assessment of their competence in employment in the classroom. At the same time, many of the specialised responsibilities in teaching which were formerly carried-out only by qualified teachers are now within the provenance of unqualified classroom assistants. These shifts match similar changes in the health sector where nurses perform duties formerly the sole preserve of the doctor and student nurses take-on duties formerly performed only by qualified nurses. Even the Modern State cannot leave the effective functioning of public services to the vagaries of unregulated market forces. Consequently, governmental service regulators are compelled to solve the issue of manpower in one way or another - such as through the introduction of new divisions of work and of non-traditional recruitment strategies.


The implementation of strategies to modernise the State is a transformation, which directly attacks the former privileges, rights and the status positions of both professional agencies and of individual workers or ‘agents’ in specific public services. Health, education and welfare sectors contain the majority of those publicly employed. The processes of modernisation of these sectors can be made more transparent by a consideration of the procedures used to reach one of the key strategic aims of the modernisation of the professions: a re-organisation of career chances from one which is based upon lifelong employment to one organised around lifelong education and which is more specifically driven by the goal of the production of a flexible, malleable, mobile workforce. The general trend is to make ’paid’ work more effective. This means the introduction of so-called ’efficiency-gain’ procedures designed to secure better control of the time paid for by the employer. And it is significant in this trend that the unions of semi-professional public servants are struggling to avoid admitting that their own active acceptance of State and sector modernisation and their active participation in favour of these projects, will inevitably result in an obvious proletarisation of their members and a change of status from career semi-professionals to the status of wage owners.

Management Through The Manuals:

The Transformation Of Traditional Work Practices Which Protected Professional Autonomy To New Instruments Of Work Regulation.

If we return to the many investigations of teachers’ work we can see that one of the few enduring patterns from investigations in the 1960s and to date is this – the recognition that a vast majority of teachers (about 75-80 %) base their work on already produced material or instruction packages. This is not surprising; it is the same old professions using the same old knowledge and expertise until some better practices are found. But this tendency also opens - up opportunities for segmentation. A search on the internet reveals that it is possible to find example of teaching, which simply follow a manual - not only according to lesson content but also in the way that learning procedures are organised. In schools today, both the means and the ends of hard-core basic subjects have become narrow and atomised - basic knowledge for basic skills acquired from a menu, which separates the possession of such skills from their practical and civic applications. In these circumstances, it is highly ironic that almost every toy store in the modern State sells computers for children which contain programmes designed to support, encourage and give praise to the child as she acquires reading, writing and number skills. And, of course, even the most conservatively minded people want this development for pupils in schools. But school education is more than mere training in the basic skills. It is also crucially concerned with the socialisation of the child into key traditions and into the culture. Why, then, should we want to exclude participation in forming 'the' culture from school experience? Basic training can be bought from the shop as fully-fledged computer packages for all subjects and lessons and in all forms of expression. Basic knowledge for basic skills. Who needs professionals? Who needs teachers? The only aspect which is more difficult to find is the pre-packaged manuals on democratisation and citizenship (although the new “Citizenship’ programme in the English National Curriculum does provide these). When you do find them they tend to deal with either abstract issues or very naive moral issues and seldom with participation in the design and the direction of learning or schoolwork.

Recruiting and Securing Semi-Professions

The implications of a number of current trends in the recruitment, training and retention of semi-professional workers show that:

  • The number of students is decreasing more in the outskirts than in the centres of bigger cities

  • More students leave before final exams

  • More graduate students never start working in the profession

  • More school leavers have a shorter perspective of the time limits in work and an acceptance of the trend that occupations are not lifelong

  • The generation curves show quite a big number will retire in few years

The connecting issue is the functions of occupational structures, which are necessary for supporting a society and its workforce and welfare. Not only is it possible to describe occupation by occupation, changes in the educational preparation for different sectors over the last 35 years. In this period, vocational preparation has obviously changed in terms of length of study demanded for entry to an occupation and in the qualifications required for admission to training. But the period also shows quite big shifts in the demands and the weight given to experience within the different occupational fields.

For the employed in different occupations it means that the assumption that occupational groups are homogenous is a fake – in terms of necessary education, training and qualification for entry into the occupation and in terms of recruitment trends. In periods in which there is a shortage of qualified teachers, kindergarten teachers, social workers and nurses, societies have accepted more in-service training as vocational education, the deployment of substitutes without the necessary educational background and, finally, that you nearly can ‘grow into the occupation’ through participation in the social praxis of the work place. We have found in all public services differences between workers of identical status and function according to recruitment, educational background and local affiliation. Of course, the use of market principles in labour discipline results in ' an investment in standards and standardisation.' But if the gap between supply and demand of workers for an occupational group workforce is high, the modernisers’ solution becomes of another kind. The work is divided into atomised segments or sequences that can be performed according to routine instructions and by following the manuals.

Functions will remain

Maybe we should apologise for what appears to be a somewhat ‘Eurocentric’ approach. Certainly, in the EU, the relatively high basic education of the population under 35 years old (for the majority 12 years or more of schooling) will influence the status formerly given to those semi-professions which traditionally linked educational qualification and the length of the time spent in education by those qualified to professional membership. But all societies will have to solve problems to do with the provision of welfare, education and heath care, which indicates that primacy will be given to solving the function and transformation of the potential workforce. This is having an impact on the way new professionals are recruited and trained, and, less obviously but no less significantly, on the conditions of service of those already in employment. In addition, the very real tension between the need for new workers to maintain the public services and the shortfall in supply is being used by those who manage the semi-professions as the basis for a new, instrumentalist rationality about the length and the curriculum content of training programmes.

Quite a lot of qualified teachers, kindergarten teachers, social workers and nurses are only staying in their professions for a limited period of time. On average, in the EU, the figure of between 6 - 10 years is often quoted as being the norm for new professionals to stay in their specialist field. This retention problem is frequently explained in terms of burnout, stress or simple professional 'escapement'. It is also a direct consequence of the new structures and managerial processes being imposed upon semi-professionals and endorsed by the professionals themselves as part of the State modernisation project. In these processes, frequent career change is both desirable for labour flexibility and accepted as normal by workers themselves.

Modernisation and the Work-Life Balance

Several investigations of labour mobility and the problems of the retention of trained workers in the public services highlight the pressures of workload intensification and point out two different, but connected, elements of workload intensification. One is the increasingly tighter control of time use and management in the work place and the consequent increase of work demanded. Another is the decreasing control over one’s own work process. Thus, burnout or occupational stress is directly attributed to factors like work intensification, bureaucratisation, loss of the locus of control in job performance, role conflict and role ambiguity. Demands for greater productivity from public sector workers through performance management schemes - which are themselves off-shoots of the need for accountability in the deregulated public sector – are nearly always expressed in terms of output as opposed to the quality of professional input or of the quality of the conditions of public sector provision. Thus public service is frequently reported as being simultaneously over-demanding and alienating.

In spite of what younger colleagues try to convince us about “never have we worked so hard”, we still adhere to the view that in Western industrialised countries the struggle for a limitation of work hours has been successful. As a generation, we have migrated from rural areas to urban living, we have enabled women to work and provided institutions like kindergartens for the majority of children. And further, taking Denmark as an example, 75% of the working population now deal with trade and services and only 25 % are employed industry or simple production or farming. This does not mean, from our point of view, that we now live in more separated, fragmented worlds. Nor does it imply that our grandparents did not reflect upon the balance between hours spent in paid ‘work’ and time given to leisure and self-determined social ‘life’. It means that, as individuals, we have extended the opportunities we have for deciding in which social field we will invest most of our energy. We could say that we are experiencing a new expression of a middle-class way of living - sharing our social activity between work, family, politics and cultural activity.

To understand what is going on, we have to accept the facts that as citizens, at least in the EU, we have time for more than work and reproduction. We also have to accept that this situation gives the opportunity for what we will call the ‘middle class’ mode of giving priority to other fields than work - if only because of changes in lifespan and in a reduction of expectations about what counts as normal working hours. It is necessary to stress that we are dealing here with two ongoing movements, two salient contradictions, the need for manpower and the priorities of the potential manpower.

We propose to illustrate this situation by the model of a shell, which can give a picture of how we live our lives through activities in different fields - depending on our actual interest, upon the access we have to different fields of social activity and upon the resources we have and want to use.

The shell

As you can see, we have been inspired by both Herbert Spencer and by Maslow1. We accept, in this representation, it is possible for some individuals, sometimes and not always lasting, to reach very nearly the highest level of individual resourcefulness and self-determined action.

Each of the rings illustrates a social field in which the agent participates. To understand relations we have to get a picture and it must be a dialectical one: the demarcations between the rings are semi-permeable membranes. This is an organic metaphor to illustrate that sometimes the external pressure is so strong, that you need to let ‘impressions’ in. Sometimes you put your rational need to be active in another field. You exchange your intentional activities into the social field perceived as is the more important ‘here and now’ or is perceived as more important in terms of a strategic goal. We can go a step further showing how it is possible to get some empirical correction.

A lot of both old and newer literature in sociology deals with the question of why do people not behave as they are supposed to do according to their material condition, i.e., social belonging.2 False consciousness it was called, when sociologists still believed in social classes as the historical subject. Simple surveys investigating samples of blue collar union members3 to which extent they were motivated by material or non-material interests and to which extent they were driven by individualistic or common interests show attitudes as:

  • blue collar workers

  • white collar workers,

  • self employed

  • career minded people

We probably never have had, a simple direct correspondence between type of work and employees’ aspirations. The typical labelling as the surveys produce only brings us a step further accepting that we are actively involved in other social fields than work, and wage earners in most of EU become shareholders as part of their pension schemes.

Modernisation has undoubtedly resulted in a visible differentiation within public services between those who have become key workers and those who have come to be defined as peripheral workers. As a key worker, one becomes part of the institutionalised management. As a peripheral worker, however, one has few options except to accept and follow given procedures and instructions. But it becomes obvious that this division into two forms escalates and each of them divides ones more. Alienation of these types of semi-professionals is rampant and, in this paper, we question why semi-professionals seem to accept this destruction of their professionalism. We also explore the trend to generalise and to make uniform both professional training and professionals.

The victory of Fordism

Descriptions of the importance of Ford's innovation of skilled manual labour will most often tell a story about the assembly line, the result of his work. However, the remarkable idea of Ford is not the assembly line, it is the imaginative work, how to split up processes of work and organise them and the social relations in new ways. The consequences as extreme forms of alienation and oppression are not the agenda here. Our thesis is, that within the public administration and public services transformations have changed in a "Fordist" way of segmentation, changed social relations and ways doing the job. And these changes have opened for next step, the import of Taylor's work on workload and control. We share this stand with several of our colleagues (Chantal Mouffe, Herbert Gintis)

The tools in the public sector are imported and developed: new manuals, new wage systems, new internal evaluation and external inspections and comparison between single institutions, and it is done with a global outlook. The movement is a turn away from the estate of needs and support of the citizen by the civil servant in the national welfare state towards a situation where the estates are given as instrumental procedures, manuals, and limited by the frame of the given budget.

It is not our intention to tell a story about the good old days but to keep in mind necessary landmarks in sociology and become aware of forms and frequency of current use. The experiences from industrialism guide us to look into a few examples in the public sector. The turmoil in health sector between nurses and nursing aids, in school sector between teachers and kindergarten teachers and teachers becoming teachers without further education and in the social sector between skilled social workers, and clerks working with social issues is obvious.

The transformation

Like Ford got rid of the skilled worker, the modern state gets rid of semi-professions, and within time, the professions as well. While we earlier in education would demand some personal qualifications incorporated in the workforce together with skills and capacities to behave like a democratic citizen, the education sector will be satisfied with personal norms and standards, named competence, and let the public assembly line do the output. The side effect of mobility will be more generalised and less stabile employees.

The democratic citizen be forgotten, and in our minds twisted into an understanding of a lifelong obligation to join institutionalised education.4 It is necessary to investigate the influence from theories of capitalist production on modern theories of State administrations. It is possible to see standardisation of higher non-university level of education in Europe and also of university education as a movement of mobility of a free labour force

Examining several surveys in Denmark and in the UK both longitudinal and actual surveys about the recruitment, training and retention of semi-professionals - teachers, nurses and social workers – gave no reason to change what we already have mentioned the semi-professions in relation to the four trends introduced above.

Implementing the strategy of modernising the state is a direct attack on these groups' former privileges, rights and the status of the agent's position in a specific social field. The groups contain the majority of those publicly employed. The process of modernisation can be visualised by an investigation of the procedures used reaching one of the strategic aims: From lifelong employment to lifelong education aiming a flexible, mobile workforce.

Work and learning

It is necessary in the European Union to reconsider the demarcation of related notions. In the more wealthy part of the region an increasing part of the workforce is occupied within service functions. The main difference between the classic industrial work, craft and service is that services do not create use values in the same sense as manual work. The service act is use value in the relationship and reproduction, not in production.

Let us introduce a simple model we used in mapping where and how students and workers didn’t have access to the whole process. They were excluded from parts of the process. A simple presentation of the work process enlightens some fundamental difficulties. We have to agree that each of the phases is alike the total work process i.e. each phase of work can be segmented as if it is a work process.

The model5 was created from the experiences on an experimental school where nearly all education was based on manual work. Everyone, all positions, in the project was concerned about participation, empowerment and democratisation. But it became evident that in most situations students did what they were told and teachers did what other positions had decided or they thought they were expected to do. The model is quite fair to other investigations on teacher's work in Denmark. Newer investigations still tell the story about teacher's preparation, it is three out of four times limited by textbooks or readymade educational material. The question is of course, how can you learn participating in a work process, if you only are allowed to do the labour? If one learns through and by working, work is a learning process too. The difference between work and labour is the first map of alienation.

The inner frame is the sequences' students normally are actively in, the second marked frame shows the limitation of teachers' work. When education is organised as a work process, or when work is organised as an educational process, it will, in its simplest form, involve three phases:

  • the first in which the impression of the work is formed;

  • the second in which the work is carried out; and,

  • the third in which the efforts are evaluated in relation to the applicability of the product.

If you - as the model shows - do not participate in several phases in the process, how can you imagine learning from those phases? Maybe schools have even not recognised the issue?

Mapping alienation in work and learning

Work in social settings

Phase 1

Conception, decision

Phase 2

Action with regarding to change

Phase 3

The product and its utility

Sequence 1:

Idea/ consideration/ examination


Who owns the idea concerning change ?


Obtaining the necessary materials, means and manpower


Can it be used? How did it proceed? Be valuable for Whom?

Sequence 2:



What and why does one want to change and, who is going to do it?


Which actions are going to take place, when? And who is decided/ pointed out / ordered to do it?


What did it change compared to the former situation if we specify it according to participants?

Sequence 3:

Decision/ Evaluation/ Control


What is going to change? Which social relations are present? How will it be realized or dropped?


Is the aim fulfilled?

Who controls the relation between aim and product, according to actions?

to relations ?

New conceptions/ ideas:

Why was it successful or a failure?

Does the new situation open up or involve new possibilities?



More often than not, the three phases cannot be so sharply separated, and consequently it happens that work must be given up provisionally in order to revise the conceptions, Nevertheless, the phases are a help when education has to be organised, and the content of education has to be determined. If we consider the conception phase as an example, then the conditions for its progress and the result will depend partly on the external conditions, partly on the participants' world of experience and not least the attitude taken by the participants towards these two aspects. The empirical correction of the model shows the power. What use trying to answer the question: what has the students gained out of participation in the concrete work process, when the work process in the mind of the students (and teachers) lacked parts of the process and was different to what the researchers' thought?

It is not new but worthwhile to reconsider that the labour market has several agencies. If the demand of labour force is high it opens for substantial parts to get higher wages leaving their jobs and work as general or specialised substitute. What is happening is the workforce privatising itself. The public degrading of public service and public service semi-professionals results in 'creeping privatisation' from all agencies.

Key and peripheral workforce

The core is to introduce and to open-up the notion of key and peripheral worker in the domains of teaching, nursing and social work. The redefinition of public service semi-professions is well supported by the functioning middleclass’ ideology about the importance of education. If you will get higher in the hierarchy you must be further educated, develop your competences, if you fail or drop out you must be further educated to come back in.

The nightmare of educational planners is not only the qualification of workforce; but how will it be possible to get the supply and demand to go together. How will it be possible to develop a workforce highly qualified and flexible? And likewise important, how is it possible to avoid a too specialised workforce impossible to press to take other jobs? It is possible now to show examples from different nations getting ideas how to see organisational solutions to the questions.

Civil servants have been changed to public employees based on contracts. Access to higher education is given to persons who have a practical training in kindergartens, schools, hospitals and social work. In most nations you will find entrance to a specific job in public sector, through training and through studying. The mobility within a sector's workforce also forms the distinction between the key work and the work easily substituted for. Training practical parts of let say nursing opens the opportunities for employment in other language areas, while the key workforce at least for a period must be academically qualified in national languages.

We have within health sector an excellent example of these types of movements. Using Denmark as an example we have had a transformation of how different ways to become recognised as a nurse can be, the trainee way, and the academic way. At the same time WHO are working on a specific curriculum of how the goals for educated nurses should be formed within region Europe. And it is not difficult to guess that the national descriptions will take the international prescriptions into consideration because it makes sense to do it.

The situation for teachers is a more tricky one, but it is possible now to see how problem solving can take form of copying solutions elsewhere. And the solutions go for the schools as such.

Exactly these changes can be observed if you take a ride at the internet. What is an effective teacher? What is a good output?

An experiment

In our point of view state has during the last 20 years developed and refined tools needed in the transformation within public sector. It became more and more impossible during the period to say: it is not possible, because someone else somewhere had already done it. And the language changed as well. 25 years ago it was not possible in education to use notions like:





Line management of Teams based on a concept

Modules and manuals


Strategic Action Plan



Quality Control

Performance indicators

Team organisation

Manager and substitution labour force

Senior management/ Middle management and 'The Managed'

Guided talks to develop the employee


Frequent evaluation cycles

Key and substitution work force

Evaluation and control of

Product, economy and organisation

New forms of wages

Financed according to a decided output of production

Performance Related Pay

Differentiated skills level of work; wages based on a three part scale: basic salary, qualification salary and performance salary

Our preliminary thesis' are:

  • We are only in the beginning of implementation of the new language adapted from management without connections or links to neither history nor sociology.

  • We can develop any kind of module in education. The combination of options for education will be nearly endless.

  • It is possible to make a quite clear distinction between different skills, personal competence and personal capacities.

  • External influence will increase, the ordinary institution will be nearly occupied by adjustments and only sometimes get a breath to develop aims and means of their own.

Examining the typical way of construction of higher non-university level/ sub-degree education without taking too seriously that each field express it is very special a cluster shows up. One part normally about 1/3 of the time is for higher standards in basic knowledge, like language(s), math and social understanding and introduction to public service.

A second part is training and introduction to a specific practical job longing about 1/3 or 1/2 of schooling, often depending of the need of substitution workforce in hospitals, schools etc.

A third part between 1/6 and 1/3 is offered the students as individual work about issues connected to their future profession.

We practise to enlighten a theme with different approaches. We know our students get their information from many different sources and we know how to organise us out of chaos. As researchers we know how to draw demarcations during a process at least in two ways, sometimes we define what is in and what is out, sometimes we ask if another approach can make the explanation more distinct and clear.

The experiment then?

Imagine you have three years of a higher non-university level in four different fields, schooling, health, social work and administration. Imagine they are educated in the same institution, not necessarily in the same building we intensify the use of IT and build the curriculum in this way:

Module 1-?

Occupational standards: basic skills, occupational languages and training

Module 2-?

Socialising and training: Individual work, teamwork and project work in public sectors

Module 3-?

Students’ reflexive work: Investigation. Description. Identification

And descriptive, analytical, corporative problem solving.

If we made this sketch detailed and described the content carefully we could offer education of a more flexible, mobile key and peripherical workforce. We have also opened for meeting of the new wage form decided on basic salary +qualifications + performance etc.

A side effect would be, that also the educational week parts of a region could qualify their own contract workers. It is ironic that the more education differs from the professional domain and praxis, the more the unions’ and associations’ ideologically claim their specific capacities at the same time they call for managers, wages according to qualifications etc.

Our aim is not to quantify which argument is the more important but to analyse how economy, politics and culture influence national and transnational development and the other way round, having in mind the struggles and conflicts inside different social fields and between different fields.6

Doing this we also hope to contribute to an illumination of Ulrik Beck's thesis: The fading away of the Nation State 7, by searching for options, boundaries, and barriers in the modernisation of the Nation State. We are doing this, modestly spoken, by clarifying the issue, the process and the social fields. Our example is the key labour force employed by the state: Those educated to take care of education, health social welfare.

Social agents are capable to act not only according to habitus also according to provoked interests and as Garfinkel shows, preparing oneself to do what we imagine others expect us to do. And this goes in any part of the shell, family, work political field etc.

Education as developed has less and less to do with the social practise and more and more to do with theories used as slogans. The solution is not to be found in neither a master- apprentice nor a master-trainee relation, it is to be found in the study of social practises.


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1 Spencer work On education, 1895, Copenhagen ed.. Maslow in Psychological Review vol.50 July 1943

2 Robert Merton,1957, Social Theory and social structure, Glencoe Illustrated

3 Bild Tage,1993 is one reference to these types

4 In Denmark, The Netherlands, UK social rights as getting social welfare will be minimised if unemployed don't accept either to accept any kind of labour or education

5 Stephen Walker & Len Barton, Youth unemployment and Schooling, Open University Press, 1986 p. 187-212

6 We use social field quite similar to Bordieu.

7 Ulrich Beck, 2000, British Journal of sociology, vol 51 no.1

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