Why I am against vocational education in schools

I have been reading a number of reports and blogs that are in support of introducing some sort of new version of the old  tripartite system of academic, technical (i.e. skilled ) and general (i.e. unskilled) sectors of education.

The main argument being put forward is that students need to be given skills that will equip them for the world of work after they leave school. They do not propose to reintroduce the old system  of Grammar Schools and Technical or “Modern” schools. They would though have the curriculum narrowed for  many students to be able to come out of school with specific sets of skills that would allow them to become plumbers, builders, hairdressers etc.,

Now I hear you asking… “what’s wrong with that? Surely school should equip students for the world of work and not give them some hopeless academic curriculum that means nothing to them and leads to boredom, rebellion and ultimate failure.

On that point I couldn’t agree more. I am concerned though with the idea that schools should just be seen as a training ground for industry and commerce. My main concerns are that students need a set of skills to cope with the ever-changing world that will be their future when they leave school and not some narrow set of specific skills related to a certain craft that may well not need them in a few years time.

I am also concerned with the  fact that the old system and in many respects the new system that is being proposed will direct students into a  way of life that may not really suit them or which may trap them for what constitutes their working life.

I feel that students need to find their “passion” and “interest”  and that this ought to be the basis of their studies. Schools would need to facilitate this by not teaching subjects but allowing the practise of skills through a project based approach. Students will not need to leave school with some narrow vocational qualifications but evidence, through portfolios, of abilities to be adaptive, collaborative and shown early signs of  future innovative and creative abilities that will make them adaptable and flexible in the fast changing environment that will be their “world of work”.

Surely, our main aim in education is to do the best for our children. We have already given them a hell of a difficult world to come out to try and find work in. We owe it to them to allow them to develop the skills to compete in the global economy that is the world we now inhabit and we cannot even imagine what their life may be like when they look back upon the crucial decisions that we made about their futures in 2012/2013.

I hope we do not condemn them to a future of long term unemployment following their brief and possibly unfulfilled career in the professions we thought were  the right ones for them!

About malbell

I am a retired Teaching and Learning Consultant. Previously I was a Primary school headteacher and deputy headteacher. I enjoy reading, doing MOOCs and learning new things.
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