Panel D.08 — School to Work Programs: an opportunity for social justice?

Convenors Mauro Palumbo (University of Genoa, Italy); Donatella Poliandri (INVALSI, Italy)

Keywords School-to Work Program, High School, Educational Inequalities


School-to-Work Programs (Pathways for Transversal Skills and Orientation) have sparked a wide debate in Italy, leading to different interpretations of the processes activated by schools and the results achieved. The goal of this panel is to understand if and how PTSOs can be a resource for developing guidance that can reduce the social reproduction that develops through school choices directed by families and by the school itself (Romito, 2016). PTSOs can offer “windows” into worlds other than those that the different social and cultural capital of families may prospect, thus proving to be a tool for equity among students from different social background, as they are able to modify expectations that are often due more to social origin than to students’ actual abilities. The fact that PTSOs can bring into play resources other than those mobilized by the school could also enable them to mitigate the reproductive aspects of inequalities that schools show. PTSOs could enhance school’s contribution to reducing social inequalities by providing additional skills that help people bridge the gap between skills supply and demand (Arlotti, Barberis, 2015). These topics are present in the literature on school-to-work transition (Walther, 2017) and skills training (Valiente and Capsada-Munsech, 2021, Scandurra and Calero, 2020).

However, recent studies have shown that PTSOs mostly take place in a context of weak integration between school and work. In the context of Lifelong Learning policies, the relationship between training and work has become central (Parreira do Amaral et al., 2020). A stream of interdisciplinary research focuses on exploring the heterogeneity of individuals’ experiences regarding the nexus between learning and labour market transitions, and the meaning each individual attaches to these experiences. A key strand of research relates to governance analysis of the regional skills ecology as the result of the interaction between the regional skills system and the regional socioeconomic context (Green, 2013). The challenge for governance is crucial for PTSOs, which likely depend on social and cultural factors that characterize the contexts in which the experience takes place and have little to do with the codesign processes advocated by the norm. These factors should lead to reflection on how the norm is applied in practice (Pinna, Pitzalis, 2021): effects of its implementation could reproduce the same shortcomings it tended to overcome.

The panel will host contributions from the research team that are concluding a PRIN on this topic with the aim of: delineating the developmental trajectories of career expectations of students involved in PTSOs; describing the opportunities provided by schools; describing the governance systems that can promote quality PTSOs (Poliandri, 2023). The project involved 78 secondary schools, 350 PTSO tutors and school principals, 200 partners, and 4000 students, the cohort enrolled in Grade 11 of the 2021-2022 school year.

The panel is also open to other contributions to reconstruct a dynamic portrait of PTSOs, trying to identify which general aspects can help improve future planning of this educational policy and which, on the other hand, more peculiar ones can help enhance schools’ experiences.

Guidelines and abstracts submission