Thursday, November 18, 2010

Is it worth going to college? How strengthening vocational education could improve US education.

President Obama declared that he wants to send every U.S. student to college. Is this a reasonable goal? Is a college degree the best way to get a good job?

The U.S. does not have a developed vocational school/apprentice system present in many European countries. This gives young U.S. students few options. The video shows an ABC report that concludes that entering a craft instead of going to college might be a better career decision for students who don't excel in academic learning.

From one of my earlier posts:
In other countries, the belief is that schools educate and select the students that show academic excellence, while other students enter vocational training. As the U.S. does not have a vocational school alternative, K-12 education became a try-to-fit-all solution. The president of Bard college, Leon Botstein, suggests that junior high schools should be removed and replaced with a K-10 school, and the graduation age of 18 should be dropped to 16. At the age of 16, students can either go to college or get a job.

An example is Switzerland that established a dual-education system (and wikipedia on dual education system): At the age of sixteen, students choose to follow an higher academic education or the enter an apprenticeship. Apprentices are employed by companies and receive a small salary. They work for their employer while spending 1-2 days each week at vocational school where they continue their general education and learn skills related to their craft. After completing their apprenticeship, students can decided to remain in their craft or attend a professional university. Professional university offer bachelor and master degrees equivalent to the traditional university. Professional university graduates are often in high demand as their portfolio includes both practical experience and theoretical knowledge. Swiss craftsmen are among the highest skilled in the world and they frequently win international craftsmen championships.

Additional discussion about vocational education in these blog post and How higher education has failed the U.S.

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