The U.S. on the other hand has a monumental disdain for anything that smacks of "tracking." The result is that an unacceptably high number of students choose to drop out of high school, or pay for vocational training after high school. Too many of our adolescents know that they have no interest in pursuing college, and yet, that seems to be the only option our educational system wants to prepare them for.
Of the 18,000 public high schools in the U.S., about 900 are vocational (or about 5%) according to the U.S. Department of Education statistics. Why the disdain? Why are we so reluctant to encourage teens to pursue careers as welders, electricians, computer technicians, or health care workers? These are good jobs and for many students, learning something useful would be better than marking time in a "comprehensive" high school completing low level academic courses.
The Economist article raises a good point.
America has a unique disdain for vocational education. . . . . However, many Americans hate the idea of schoolchildren setting out on career paths—such predetermination, they think, threatens the ethos of opportunity.This is the same sort of thinking (the every child is a unique snowflake thinking) that led us to such destructive curricular choices in K-12 education. In our attempts to educate every single child in their own unique way (differentiated instruction with whole inclusion of SPED), we have adopted curricula that are a mile wide, an inch deep, and so obsessed with not offending anyone at any time, that it fails to meet the fundamental objective of actually educating the kids.
Vocational and technical (now called Career and Technical Education or CTE) is so despised, that few kids are ever encouraged to pursue it, despite the clear benefits of higher wages and less time in training. The Economist article found statistics that show adult men with CTE training were more likely to be married and to have a 17% higher income.
The discussion following the Finland Phenomenon highlighted how badly we serve the needs of our youth with our current system. By age 25, the U.S. has a terrible record of achievement -- only 30% of 25 year old have completed a 4 year college degree and only an additional 10% have earned a 2 year associates degree. That means that 60% of our 25 year olds are either in the category of "some college" or no college. With results like that, its time to rethink our cultural disdain for vocational education.