CNN recently profiled a story on a local school (in GA) with a vocational model. At first glance, it is an excellent idea. Teach children what the need to get a job and they will be more successful. According to the article, if you “Ask the graduates of Central Educational Center in Coweta County, Georgia, and you’ll likely get a resounding Yes.” But what happens when and if the former student decides the vocation they picked and were educated for no longer suits them.
According to Quintcareers.com, “most studies show that the average job-seeker will change careers (not jobs) several times over the course of his or her lifetime”. Reasons for changing careers include life changes, job burn out or stress, lack of excitement, financial, and industry changes.
“CEC is about change in the workplace,” says Whitlock. “In the 1960s and 70s, most jobs could be accessed with a general high school diploma or less. …Today, most jobs require something beyond high school — though not necessarily a four year degree — and generally technical in nature.” It seems this schools aim is to teach the kids what they need to know and eliminate the need for college. Apparently, it is time to make a high school diploma ‘good enough’ again.
It is not all bad though; Honors student Toby Hughes received a salary of $52,000 after graduating from high school. There is no law that says he should not be able to go to college part time and actually be able to pay for it too. In addition, attending vocational schools such as this have been known to produce more high school graduates, and fewer dropouts.
One has to ask, however what children will be guided to take the vocational route vs. what children will be guided to take the college route. “In the fall of 1992, 73 percent of public vocational teachers reported that they considered their classes to be composed either primarily of students of average ability (40 percent) or of students spanning a wide range of abilities (33 percent). Teachers in academic courses viewed their students differently; they were more than three times as likely as vocational teachers to indicate that their students were of higher than average ability (35 percent compared to 11 percent). Seventeen percent of vocational and 13 percent of academic teachers believed that their class was composed primarily of students with lower than average ability.” (National Center for Education Statistics) http://nces.ed.gov In our society, it is clear that snap judgments will be made about the ability of students and that an unfairly assessed minority will end up in the vocational route when they would have been better served going to college. For this reason, an increased interest in vocational schools makes me nervous.
While this vocational model of education makes good sense, and is actually a Godsend to many, I believe it is rather short sighted. It will pigeonhole people into careers for the rest of their lives based on decisions they made at age 14. How many 50 year olds are still doing the career they chose at 14, and are happy?