Vocational Education

I read an interesting article just now on Slate.com about vocational education, “‘Kid, I’m Sorry, but You’re Just Not College Material’ Is exactly what we should be telling a lot of high school students.” While the title of the article makes me uncomfortable, I think the author brings up some interesting points. For one, the author mentions that in other countries, like Germany, students are placed on the academic or vocational track and it’s not seen as a bad thing. He sums up his argument saying, “I have no desire to punish students or deprive them of opportunity. Quite the contrary. My aim is to stop pretending that high school or college students with very low basic skills have a real shot of earning a college degree—so that they might follow an alternative path that will lead to success. A college graduate will generally outearn a high school graduate, to be sure. But a worker with technical skills will outearn a high school or college dropout with no such skills. That’s the true choice facing many students.”

I’m interested in knowing more about the European approach to vocational education. I’ve always heard that vocational schools and trades are more respected in Europe, but I’m wondering if some of the same social factors are in play there too. For example, are lower income students or students who don’t do well in traditional classrooms the ones who are tracked into vocational education? And in vocational schools, what other subjects are taught?

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