This page originally authored by Jennifer Puharich (2007).
This page has been revised by by Shari Virjee (2008). This page has been revised by Michele McFarlane (2009)This page has been revised by Monica Campbell (2009) This page has been revised by Sian Osborne (2011)
The term Post-Fordism describes an economic and cultural shift that occurred at the end of the 20th Century. It refers to the idea that “modern industrial production has moved away from mass production in huge factories, as pioneered by Henry Ford, towards specialized markets based on small flexible manufacturing units”  . Post-Fordism has affected the way we operate in most industrialized countries and permeates all aspects of culture.
Educational Issues in a Post-Fordian World
If we accept that we are in a post-Fordian world and that our job as educators is to prepare students to be successful in this new economic reality, then education must adapt accordingly. For example, the nature of work and the workforce require adjustments in how we think of literacy. In addition, educators need to focus on critical thinking skills and to encourage flexibility of thought. Furthermore, it is critical that students develop collaborative skills if they are to be equipped to participate in the emerging economic landscape.
Educators today are faced with vast disparities in the economic backgrounds of their students and their resulting life opportunities. (The New London Group, p. 61) Tension exists between those in society who lament the disappearance of a focus on grammar and basic literacy skills in the name of progress, and those who are trying to meet the needs of students in this post-Fordian reality. Communities are breaking into more diverse and subculturally defined groupings. The changing technological and organizational shape of working life provides some people with access to increasingly affluent lifestyles while others are excluded, causing it to appear that a person’s attainment of success be linked to their education and training. (The New London Group, page 61)
It is therefore necessary to ensure that the educational opportunities provided focus on developing multiliteracies so that students will be well equipped to function in this post-Fordian world. In a post-Fordian world, literacy represents more than being able to understand what is written inside the covers of a book. Our increasingly globalized society, with its cultural and linguistic diversity, provides a variety of texts in a multitude of forms. Therefore, it is imperative that students be multiliterate (able to comprehend, analyze and communicate in a variety of text-rich and visual media) in what Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes as ”the present, post-alphabet, intensely informational, and statistically complex environment” (The Black Swan, Kindle reference location 1754). Similarly, Alvin Toffler notes that "the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn” (cited Richardson, 2008). Educators need to foster knowledge in the variety of tools available to support comprehension and understanding. This includes being web-literate, information-literate and literate in the use of Web 2.0 tools. Furthermore, students still need to learn to write in order to express themselves and become creators/authors of new knowledge. In so doing, students will be able to fully participate in our post-Fordian economy and culture.
Implications of Post-Fordism on Education
In 1997, pedagogical directions in curricular development were “to generate pro-market and productivist attitudes in pupils” thereby creating future participants who are stable and constructive in the workplace (Carter, 1997). Instead of emphasizing the transmission of information, the focus is on judgment and interpretation. Students are taught to get behind the data, to examine reality from many angles, and to visualize new possibilities and choices (Reich, 1991).
The current economic realities also contribute to the need for educators to rethink their role in preparing students for the world of work. Practical skills and positive work habits (teamwork, mutual respect for peers, subordinates, supervisors, peoples & cultures) must also be taught and encouraged in the school setting. This will allow for the seamless transition of students from their secondary school environments to the working requirements of the post Fordian labour force. This preparation will place more emphasis on the process of education rather than the product of education.
Designs in Curriculum
When designing curriculum material necessary for a student’s future employment, the authenticity and practicality of the content must be considered. Educators must ensure that the learning culture created is one that fosters the principles of post Fordism.
Traditionally speaking, secondary school students have tended to be the least prepared to enter the job market having an impractical concept of the working world and being unaware of the opportunities available for possible employment. Secondary school performance and course selection can dictate the choice of jobs or career path selected by students (Behrisch, 2002).
Students must be taught the numerous fundamental skills necessary for success in the post Fordist system. Skills such as how to research issues; prepare thoughtful written and oral presentations of their findings and beliefs; be ethical in their approach to their duties and dealings with others. “Think and communicate clearly and concisely;” be familiar with computer technology systems and programs (Williams, 2000). They should be able to demonstrate teamwork skills, as well as flexibility, pursue higher knowledge regarding their chosen field and be multi-skilled in that areas well as displaying leadership qualities while still respecting the authority of a supervisor.
All these abilities can be integrated into the secondary school curriculum thereby creating a “real connection between prosperity and learning” while reinforcing “the weave of education and economy” (Williams, 2000).
Educators must reinforce the employability skills outlined in the Conference Board of Canada’s “Employability Skills 2000.” This list encourages employees to demonstrate skills in three core areas: fundamental, personal management and teamwork skills. As well, teachers must facilitate students' navigation through critical labour market information (or LMI) and career preparation activities to ensure capacity is built in young adults to forecast and research employment requirements for the future (Brehony, 2005).
To help ensure student preparedness for the post Fordian workplace, the British Columbia Ministry of Education has designed Prescribed Learning Outcomes (or PLOs) within the Integrated Resource Packages of the curriculum that speaks directly to these employment demands.
Beyond secondary school, those in college and post-secondary institutions must adopt a 'systems thinking' approach to learning and doing, in order to self-manage their work and careers.
Educators themselves must become aware of the changes in the approach to career selection driven by the global economic realities of the time and continue to recognize the need to encourage diversity in thinking. It will also be useful to become knowledgeable about the non-traditional and unconventional careers (Fullan, 2000).Teacher preparation in career development therefore becomes an area of interest and focus for all stakeholders and curriculum writers.
Post Fordism has influenced the realities of the working world. The expectations of life-long employment at a single occupation are no longer; rather, individuals now seek out their own careers in terms of contracts which will change frequently over their employment careers. Employees must now take responsibility for training and “staying up to speed in terms of what skills [is] required in the marketplace” (Williams, 2000). The construction of products is now the collective responsibility of the production process, an integral component being the multi-skilled worker (Heffernan, 2000). This freedom permits the worker within the post Fordism system to further develop their multi-skilled abilities and allow for their active involvement in the economic process.
Within the post Fordist system, “the young, low-skilled [or under-educated] and low-paid were most likely to be underemployed” as opposed to the high-skilled, over-educated worker who continues to be in demand (Edgell, 2006).
The long-term implications on curriculum in a Post Fordian society and economy is the rise in lifelong learning: the need to refresh knowledge and re-skill at various stages in one's professional career and personal life, in order to be actively involved in economic and democratic processes. Life Long Learning begins at birth. Formal education designed to prepare students for a post-Fordian workplace begins in the elementary school. Elementary Education must therefore address the needs of students to become functioning and successful members of this post-Fordian society. Skills in collaboration, critical thinking and literate in the multiliteracies will go a long way to preparing them for life-long learning.
Stop Motion Artifact
- Behrisch, T., Hayter, R. & Barnes, T. (Winter 2002/2003). ’I don’t really like the mill; in fact, I hate the mill’: Changing your vocationlism under fordism and post-fordism in Powell River, British Columbia. BC Studies, Issue 136, p.73.
- Brehony, K. J., Deem, R. (July 2005). Challenging the post-fordist/flexible organization thesis: The case of reformed educational organizations. British Journal of Sociology of Education, v26n3, p.395-414.
- Carter, J. (March 1997). Post-fordism and the theorization of educational change: What’s in a name? British Journal of Sociology of Education, v18n1, p.45-61.
- Edgell, S. (2006). The sociology of work: Continuity and change in paid and unpaid work. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.
- Heffernan, N. (2000). Capital, class and technology in contemporary American culture: Projecting post-fordism. Sterling, Virginia: Pluto Press.
- New London Group,. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review. 66 (1), 60-92.
- Nichols, M. (2003). A theory for eLearning. Educational Technology & Society, 6(2), 1-10, Available at http://ifets.ieee.org/periodical/6-2/1.html (ISSN 1436-4522)
- Reich, R. (1991). The work of nations: Preparing ourselves for 21st century capitalism. New York: Knopf.
- Taleb, N. (2010). The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. New York: Random House and Penguin. ISBN 978-1-4000-6351-2..
- Williams, B., Morrison, C., Russell, H., Raymes, S., Cianfrini A. (2000). Employment trends and future careers. Orbit, Vol. 31, Iss. 2, p. 6.
- Collins Dictionary
- Chris Kennedy-Culture of Yes
- British Columbia Ministry of Education: Integrated Resource Packages, Career Planning
- British Columbia Ministry of Education: Integrated Resources Packages, All Subjects
- British Columbia Work Futures: Workplace Skills