Vocational secondary education, tracking, and social stratification

Yossi Shavit, Walter Müller

Research output: Working paper / PreprintDiscussion paper


Most secondary school systems maintain a distinction between academic and vocational education. Scholars ascribing to human capital theory view vocational education as a safety net, which enhances students’ chances of Žnding gainful employment as skilled workers. Others view it as a mechanism of social reproduction, which diverts working-class students from higher education and the professions. We hypothesize that the extent to which vocational secondary education performs each of these roles - safety net and diversion - can vary by country. Drawing on earlier work, we offer several hypotheses concerning the effects of school systemic characteristics on the role of vocational education in shaping patterns of labour force entry for young men and women. We then test these hypotheses through secondary analysis of data for countries with diverse educational systems. We Žnd that in most countries secondary vocational education reduced the odds of unemployment, and the chances of someone entering the labor force as an unskilled worker. Second, the advantages associated with vocational education are most pronounced in countries where vocational secondary education is speciŽc rather than general. Third, graduates of vocational secondary education attain lower occupational prestige than that attained by graduates of academic tertiary education. This disadvantage of vocational education is most pronounced in countries where vocational education also serves as an effective safety net. This is an important Žnding because it means that 'diversion’ and 'safety net’ effects are not mutually exclusive but are the flip side of the same coin.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTel-Aviv
PublisherGolda Meir Institute for Social & Labour Research
Number of pages33
StatePublished - 1999

Publication series

NameDiscussion paper (Golda Meir Institute for Social & Labour Research)
PublisherGolda Meir Institute for Social & Labour Research

ULI Keywords

  • uli
  • Education, Secondary
  • Labor supply -- Effect of education on
  • Track system (Education)
  • Vocational education
  • Children -- Education (Secondary)
  • High school education
  • High school students -- Education -- Education, Secondary
  • Secondary education
  • Secondary schools -- Education, Secondary
  • Education and employment
  • Employment and education
  • Flexible progression
  • Student placement
  • Tracking (Education)
  • Education, Vocational
  • Vocational training -- Vocational education
  • Work experience


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