The Wolf report on vocational education this week set out the way vocational education will change in the UK over the coming years and highlights significant problems in current provision. http://www.education.gov.uk/publications/standard/publicationDetail/Page1/DFE-00031-2011.
Michael Gove, education secretary, when commissioning the report said
"For many years our education system has failed properly to value practical education, choosing to give far greater emphasis to purely academic achievements. This has left a gap in the country’s skills base"
Professor Wolf said
"Our current arrangements for 14-19 education are highly bureaucratic and inflexible. They also make it very difficult to encourage excellence in anything which is not conventionally academic: writing about people doing things gets rewarded more than actually doing them."
Personally I am unhappy with the whole idea of "vocational" as against "academic" learning. Is the majority of academic learning not also designed to make you employable? and should non academic subjects not be taught as part of a holistic education to the brightest students as well as less academically able? The crafts seem to me to be one place where those academically able folk that also enjoy tangible work find a good balanced life, engineering is another. Should brain work and hand work be viewed as mutually exclusive? and does the current academic vs vocational system tend toward that view?
Current government thinking is that they want to raise the status of vocational eduction. Will they manage that without getting better quality students to consider it as an option? I feel at present vocational is viewed in school and beyond as the career choice for the academically less able. This is wrong. Many academically able people end up coming back to working with their hands out of choice at a later stage because it can be fulfilling, tangible work. The Wolf report is good and highlights some excellent schemes such as Rolls Royce apprenticeships as well as slating the vast number of low level vocational courses which are now proven to offer no improvement in job prospects.