A question of agency : applying Sen’s theory of human capability to the concept of secondary school student career ‘choice’

Galliott, Natal'ya & Graham, Linda J. (2014) A question of agency : applying Sen’s theory of human capability to the concept of secondary school student career ‘choice’. International Journal of Research & Method in Education, 37(3), pp. 270-284.

View at publisher


In this paper, we seek to operationalize Amartya Sen's concept of human capability to guide a scholarly investigation of student career choice capability. We begin by outlining factors affecting youth labour markets in Australia; a prosperous country that is affected by a ‘two-speed’ national economy. We then examine recent government initiatives that have been designed to combat youth unemployment and cyclical disadvantage by enhancing the aspirations and career knowledge of secondary school students. We argue that these policy measures are based on four assumptions: first, that career choice capability is a problem of individual agency; second, that the dissemination of career information can empower students to act as ‘consumers’ in an unequal job market; third, that agency is simply a question of will; and finally, that school education and career advice – as a means to freedom in the space of career development – is of equal quality, distribution and value to an increasingly diverse range of upper secondary school students. The paper concludes by outlining a conceptual framework capable of informing an empirical research project that aims to test these assumptions by measuring and comparing differences between groups in the range of freedom to achieve and, therefore, to choose.

Impact and interest:

2 citations in Scopus
Search Google Scholar™

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

ID Code: 69558
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: Amartya Sen, capabilities, agency, career education and development, post-school transitions
DOI: 10.1080/1743727X.2014.885010
ISSN: 1743-7288
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Cultural & Professional Learning
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Deposited On: 31 Mar 2014 03:48
Last Modified: 29 Apr 2015 03:33

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page