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Vocational Courses Still Aren’t Valued…Why?

Vocational Courses Still Aren’t Valued…Why?

Vocational courses still aren’t valued…why? When I was at school, teachers were always focussed on directing students towards the ‘right’ options for GCSE and A-Level. Specifically, the onus was on ‘academic’ courses such as the Sciences, Maths, History etc. We were left in no doubt that these were the credible choices as these would put us on the path to a good quality course at University.

EVERYONE was expected to go on to Higher Education. Friends of mine who were not as academic were clearly viewed as less intelligent and let’s face it, a bit of a failure.

Over my career as a researcher, I have interviewed many young people about their education, the perceived options available to them in terms of their further learning after school and their experiences of these. Time and time again I have come across reports of feeling somehow inadequate if a vocational course is undertaken, almost as if this is a dirty word. In addition, many feel there are not enough of these courses available to them – at times, this appears to be because those choices are ‘hidden’ from them or not adequately explained. A list of options presented at school does not always include those vocational elements, because it appears that institutions do not see these as ‘valued’ enough by key stakeholders such as parents and governors.

It is now 20 years since I started university. ┬áIt is clear that this over-reliance on academic study has not changed. I am genuinely concerned about the lack of viable vocational opportunities for youth who are not keen on studying for an academic course or for whom university is not possible – this of course includes the economic realities of our current times. In a strange twist, we now see reports of young people selecting more ‘vocational’ degrees such as Business Studies at university, as these are seen as more likely to guarantee them employment…even if they don’t particularly enjoy that subject.

Our priorities should be on supporting young people who have more hands-on and creative skills to develop themselves and become more enterprising, both in terms of starting their own businesses and becoming more employable. Many of these youth have a very strong will to succeed, but encouragement for this must start in schools. In order to do this, schools must be given ‘permission’ to devote more time to these activities and also in working with local providers to deliver great quality vocational provision.

I would love to know what you think about this post, please do contribute to this debate by commenting below…

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