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技職國際趨勢

國外編輯部/當拼升學成為事實…美國重新省思技職教育

作者/Nicholas Wyman
編譯/陳嵩仁、余欣融

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當拼升學成為事實…美國重新省思技職教育

縱觀美國前半段的歷史,高中生被嚴格要求學習讀、寫、算數三個主要科目,以及就業導向的實務技能。

但從1950年代開始,另一種聲音出現了,另一派人主張學生應依循自身能力選擇不同的教育管道。當時的想法是,讓有意準備大學的高中生,修習傳統的學術課程(如拉丁文、創意寫作、科學以及數學)並排除技職訓練; 而不打算上大學的學生除了基本學科外,再加上技職訓練,或進工廠實習。

分流實施後,並未得到老師和家長的青睞,他們覺得分流不是按照學生的能力,而是透過其社經地位和種族來區別,分到後段班的學生通常來自社經地位較低的家庭。這種分流也間接造成教育資源配置不平衡,最有經驗的老師都被分去前段班。造成的結果是,本該是備受尊重的技職教育,變成了少數族群和出身中下階層家庭學生的補救方案。

受到抨擊的分流,並沒有讓技職教育重回高中的重點項目。相反地,學校反而把重心轉移到幫助所有學生升大學,美國高中的課表仍是以大學預備課程為主。

把所有學生都送進大學錯了嗎?取得高等學術文憑不是讓所有學生都可以從中受益嗎?但事實證明,並不見得。不是每個人都擅長數學、生物學、歷史和一大堆學術級的傳統科目;也不是所有人都著迷於希臘神話,或者迷戀維多利亞時期的文學作品。有呆板、制式化的學生,當然也有藝術家性格、風雅的學生。有的能在教室裡全神貫注聽講,有的得透過動手操作以茁壯成長。

而且不是所有高中生都會念大學。根據美國勞動統計局(Bureau of Labor Statistics)的最新數據顯示,只有68%的高中生上大學,這意味著有超過30%的畢業生既無大學學歷,也沒有工作技能。

升上大學的那68%學生也不見得會過的比較好,其中有將近40%的大學生沒念完,意味著大量的時間和金錢平白浪費,還背了一屁股沉重的學貸。而那些好不容易完成學業的學生,有超過三分之一最後從事的工作,根本不需要花大學四年的時間也能勝任。勞動統計局發現,目前37%大學畢業生從事的工作,其實只需要高中學歷。

弔詭的是,明明數據一再地指出,四年制的大學課程能帶給學生的優勢越來越少,政府還是頻頻地砍技職訓練的預算。例如擁有超過60萬學生的洛杉磯聯合學區在2013年決議砍掉近乎所有的技職訓練。技職訓練非常耗錢,因為要買裝備,班級也只能小班經營。比起來,傳統學術課程便宜太多了。然而在七成高中生選擇大學教育,其中近半無法順利畢業,超過一半的畢業生不是找不到工作就是就業能力不足的情況下,還能這樣砍技職的預算嗎?

美國經濟形態早已改變,製造業的擴張和現代化造就出具挑戰性且高薪的高技術性工作(雖然在1980年代初期一度被認為不行了)。技職教育在高中階段的沒落造就今天的製造業人才荒,只好把大量的工作機會轉給就業能力不足的大學畢業生及高中生。 其實,透過學徒制、在職培訓、或是社區院校提供的職業訓練就能取得製造業的就業機會,並不需要一張昂貴的大學文憑。(延伸閱讀:【國外編輯部專欄】美國學徒週 學徒制跟你想的不一樣

幾十年前我們的(公立)教育體系給予年輕學子認識製造業和種種職業的機會,然而在今日的高中裡,學生鮮少接收到選擇技職的後續發展訊息,士大夫思維排擠了其他的管道,整體經濟因而付出了很大的代價。如果我們希望每個孩子都能學有所用、出人頭地,重振高中的技職教育,勢在必行。

註:美國高中有提供技職課程,舉凡家政、打字、木工、金屬、製圖、維修等等,但學校的主力還是放在學術課程。

【作者介紹】Nicholas Wyman

美國Institute for Workplace and Innovation執行長。Institute for Workplace and Innovation關注職場技能的創新發展。

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Why We Desperately Need To Bring Back Vocational Training In Schools

Throughout most of U.S. history, American high school students were routinely taught vocational and job-ready skills along with the three Rs: reading, writing and arithmetic. Indeed readers of a certain age are likely to have fond memories of huddling over wooden workbenches learning a craft such as woodwork or maybe metal work, or any one of the hands-on projects that characterized the once-ubiquitous shop class.

But in the 1950s, a different philosophy emerged: the theory that students should follow separate educational tracks according to ability. The idea was that the college-bound would take traditional academic courses (Latin, creative writing, science, math) and received no vocational training. Those students not headed for college would take basic academic courses, along with vocational training, or “shop.”

Ability tracking did not sit well with educators or parents, who believed students were assigned to tracks not by aptitude, but by socio-economic status and race. The result being that by the end of the 1950s, what was once a perfectly respectable, even mainstream educational path came to be viewed as a remedial track that restricted minority and working-class students.

The backlash against tracking, however, did not bring vocational education back to the academic core. Instead, the focus shifted to preparing all students for college, and college prep is still the center of the U.S. high school curriculum.

So what’s the harm in prepping kids for college? Won’t all students benefit from a high-level, four-year academic degree program? As it turns out, not really. For one thing, people have a huge and diverse range of different skills and learning styles. Not everyone is good at math, biology, history and other traditional subjects that characterize college-level work. Not everyone is fascinated by Greek mythology, or enamored with Victorian literature, or enraptured by classical music. Some students are mechanical; others are artistic. Some focus best in a lecture hall or classroom; still others learn best by doing, and would thrive in the studio, workshop or shop floor.

And not everyone goes to college. The latest figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that about 68% of high school students attend college. That means over 30% graduate with neither academic nor job skills.

But even the 68% aren’t doing so well. Almost 40% of students who begin four-year college programs don’t complete them, which translates into a whole lot of wasted time, wasted money, and burdensome student loan debt. Of those who do finish college, one-third or more will end up in jobs they could have had without a four-year degree. The BLS found that 37% of currently employed college grads are doing work for which only a high school degree is required.

It is true that earnings studies show college graduates earn more over a lifetime than high school graduates. However, these studies have some weaknesses. For example, over 53% of recent college graduates are unemployed or under-employed. And income for college graduates varies widely by major – philosophy graduates don’t nearly earn what business studies graduates do. Finally, earnings studies compare college graduates to all high school graduates. But the subset of high school students who graduate with vocational training – those who go into well-paying, skilled jobs – the picture for non-college graduates looks much rosier.

Yet despite the growing evidence that four-year college programs serve fewer and fewer of our students, states continue to cut vocational programs. In 2013, for example, the Los Angeles Unified School District, with more than 600,000 students, made plans to cut almost all of its CTE programs by the end of the year. The justification, of course, is budgetary; these programs (which include auto body technology, aviation maintenance, audio production, real estate and photography) are expensive to operate. But in a situation where 70% of high school students do not go to college, nearly half of those who do go fail to graduate, and over half of the graduates are unemployed or underemployed, is vocational education really expendable? Or is it the smartest investment we could make in our children, our businesses, and our country’s economic future?

The U.S. economy has changed. The manufacturing sector is growing and modernizing, creating a wealth of challenging, well-paying, highly skilled jobs for those with the skills to do them. The demise of vocational education at the high school level has bred a skills shortage in manufacturing today, and with it a wealth of career opportunities for both under-employed college grads and high school students looking for direct pathways to interesting, lucrative careers. Many of the jobs in manufacturing are attainable through apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and vocational programs offered at community colleges. They don’t require expensive, four-year degrees for which many students are not suited.

And contrary to what many parents believe, students who get job specific skills in high school and choose vocational careers often go on to get additional education. The modern workplace favors those with solid, transferable skills who are open to continued learning. Most young people today will have many jobs over the course of their lifetime, and a good number will have multiple careers that require new and more sophisticated skills.

Just a few decades ago, our public education system provided ample opportunities for young people to learn about careers in manufacturing and other vocational trades. Yet, today, high-schoolers hear barely a whisper about the many doors that the vocational education path can open. The “college-for-everyone” mentality has pushed awareness of other possible career paths to the margins. The cost to the individuals and the economy as a whole is high. If we want everyone’s kid to succeed, we need to bring vocational education back to the core of high school learning.

 

【Author】Nicholas Wyman

CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation, which is a global enterprise, committed to skills and workforce development in today and tomorrow’s workplace.

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其他參考資料:

Tracking (education)

A 21st-century vocational high school

 

原文刊登於《Forbes》,經作者Nicholas Wyman授權編譯,未經許可不得轉載

 

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《技職3.0》為一個關注「技職教育」與「技能發展」議題的獨立媒體。

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