Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory

2017 Edition
| Editors: Michael A. Peters

Human Capital Theory in Education

  • Donald GilliesEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-287-588-4_254


This entry is a critical exploration of the rise and limitations of Human Capital Theory (HCT) within the field of education. In recent times, HCT has become one of the most powerful underpinnings of education policy discourse worldwide. At both supranational level, within such bodies as the OECD and the EU, and within national education systems, the influence of HCT is considerable. Promoting education as an “investment” which yields returns in due course to the individual in terms of pay and to the State in terms of employment and economic growth, HCT provides a captivating model for neoliberal governance of State education. The theory thus promotes State education systems as subservient to the vaunted knowledge economy, as instrumental for economic growth. In this entry, the nature and development of HCT are outlined, its current influence indicated, and its effects highlighted. The entry concludes by pointing to some of the weaknesses of the theory as applied to the...

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of the West of ScotlandScotlandUK