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Interweaving Personal and Community Transformation in a Capability Approach: An Education for Development Case Study in Colombia

Due to the rise of unemployment and underemployment among growing youth populations in conflict-affected areas in the Global South, education systems that prepare young people for the worlds of work in both the formal and informal economies are gaining prominence in international development agendas. The rationale that underlies many agencies that make of use of education for work programs is rooted in a belief that work opportunities will deter people from violence. Research points out, however, that such programs often framed in outdated modes of development, narrowly focused on economic growth, are not conducive to dignified working opportunities for young people nor are they conducive to social cohesion and civic engagement. In response to these limitations, a growing number of scholars and practitioners are exploring capability approaches to technical and vocational education that elevate conceptions about the world of work. This research explores, in the context of conflict-affected areas of Colombia, a specific capability approach to education aimed at the development of capabilities that can enhance livelihood opportunities of youth populations and their engagement in positive social action. Using a cross-sectional qualitative case study from a grounded theory perspective, this dissertation examines the potential that participation in a rigorous education for development program concerned with personal and societal transformation has 1) in fostering the identities of youth as promoters of community wellbeing, and 2) for improving the wellbeing of youth, their families, and communities in conflict-affected areas of Colombia. This study found that youth engagement in a program of study with a clear social purpose that contains elements of a scientific, technical, community-oriented and moral education and is imparted through a tutorial methodology that integrates theory and practice contributed towards fostering identities aimed at promoting the common good. In addition to the knowledge youth acquired through study of the content of the program and engagement in social action, networks of social support were key to the development of youth’s identities as promoters of community wellbeing and to bridging them to resources that improved their education and livelihood opportunities.
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