credentialism


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credentialism

the allocation of persons to social positions, especially occupations, on the basis of specific paper qualifications. Though these qualifications are, in particular, educational ones, this does not necessarily lead to either education for socially relevant need, or improved performance in occupations. There is a high demand for jobs in modern economies, which leads to considerable competition among applicants. The requirement is for educational credentials (certificates, diplomas, degrees), which regulate the flow of manpower. The pursuit of such credentials becomes an end in itself, leading to what Dore (1976) called the ‘diploma disease - see also Berg's The Great Training Robbery (1970). The form and content of education is of secondary importance. What is of primary significance is the level of qualification attainable. The process is criticized as failing to meet the real needs of industrial societies because it tends to serve mainly as a method of selection in the entry to occupations, rather than providing a preparation for them (see SCREENING). It is also criticized for frustrating many of those who embark on higher education hoping to advance occupationally since the number of appropriate jobs does not expand to match the expansion in the numbers qualified’ to fill such posts.

An identical process, although potentially more insidious in its implications (according to Dore), is the way in which, in THIRD WORLD countries, credentialism and the attempt to emulate Western systems of secondary and higher education leads to the expansion of educational systems in a form which is inappropriate to the needs of the economies of these societies. For both developed and less-developed economies, however, the counter-argument can be made that the thesis of‘credentialism’ undervalues the intrinsic value of extra education, both in employment, in providing specialist as well as general transferable skills (see also HUMAN CAPITAL. POSTCAPITALIST SOCIETY), and as a consumption good pursued for its own sake, rather than merely for reasons of gaining employment (see SOCIAL DEMAND FOR EDUCATION). See also GRADUATE LABOUR MARKET, HIGHER EDUCATION.