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The East Dulwich Forum
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messageDowngrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 10:09

I meant to start this thread a couple of weeks ago, but only just getting round to it.

What do people think of plans to downgrade vocational subjects in order to "protect more traditional" GCSEs?

Personally I think it's disgusting, particularly in a time where less young people are expected to attend university (not really a bad thing IMO), and there are less jobs available. Surely vocational subjects are more important than ever, and we should be encouraging people to go for them, rather than making them feel somehow less worthy than another, more traditionally accademic student.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by El Pibe 16 February, 2012 10:39

That seems a bit weird to me frankly especially at a time when we're supposed to be skilling up a wrokforce.

I'd agree if they were removing the likes of general/business/film studies from league table.
I'd actually be happier if they were removing league tables.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 11:33

Exactly!

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Jeremy 16 February, 2012 13:10

I think the decision is right, the primary focus of a school should be academic study. Vocational subjects have their place, but you can't claim that passing tourism or retail is an equivalent acheivement to maths, science, or languages. In fact I don't even think that shool is the right place to be teaching vocational skills at all.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by El Pibe 16 February, 2012 13:19

Aaah. I was thinking of more traditional vocational subjects like metalwork, desig&technology and so forth.

I agree that focus should be kept up on improving literacy, & numeracy paticularly, but that surely still leaves room for allowing pupils to branch away from purely academic subjects.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by david_carnell 16 February, 2012 13:42

Do we need to be training metal and wood workers? I don't mean that disparidgingly, I'm most envious of those are skilled carpenters, cabinet makers and the like.

But I do question whether we really need to be training them at school in any sizable numbers. It's not really what the British economy is going to be needing in 20 years time is it?

It's a hobby, not an industry. Engineers on the other hand.....

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 14:51

Fair point, but what is our economy going to gain from GCSE History / Sociology / R.E.?

I'm sure that in the list of 3000 odd courses to be downgraded, there will be plenty of courses that really shouldn't be on a par with a GCSE, but I'll bet there are a fair few useful vocational courses in there too, once the final list is published.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by El Pibe 16 February, 2012 14:53

call-centre studies it is then, including such key skills as 'Northern Irish and geordie accents' and 'flicking an elastic band into your co-wokers' eye whilst retaining a prefssional demanour over your headset'

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by david_carnell 16 February, 2012 15:10

I think there are two arguments here that are in danger of confusion.

The first is whether vocational subjects should be "worth" the same as a GCSE in a "traditional" subject. On this I'm ambivilent. Perhaps, but if you are pursuing that vocational subject into employment the chances are you will have gained further qualifications or your employer will value whatever other version of a qualification you have achieved.

Second, what should we be teaching our children? This is a massive, complex and emotive subject. My t'penneth worth is that vocational skills are of limited use in schools. They are better taught by an employer (in the form of an apprenticeship) who can teach them alongside on-the-job skills to a higher level and to a more specialist level. For society these skills are clearly essential - we cannot outsource plumbing or electricians. But nor are we going to progress as a country churning out schoolleavers with hairdressing certificates.

Otta asks why teach history or RE or Sociology? I presume he means why teach those things when only a very few people will become historians, theologians or sociologists. The answer is because you are teaching thought. You are teaching people, or should be, how to think. How to learn from history, the context of events and their implications on the present. Teaching people about tolerance for those of different or no faiths through better understanding of their tenets. Teaching how society functions, how citizenship works and what it means for an individual.

These subjects should teach thought patterns, abilities of logic and rhetoric, of syntax and emotional maturity that cannot always be learned inthe vocational workshop. They are of enormous value. The presence of liberal arts in education provides a voice of sanity, of cultural analysis and resistance that business and science do not.

The arts are not all pretty rhymes and sunsets, but rife with philosophical, social, historical and economic insights about the modern, complex societies we live in.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 15:15

Quote:
Engineers on the other hand.....

I don't know this for sure, but I suspect a lot of people get in to engineering off the back of the more vocational hands on stuff, rather than finding their physics classes particularly invigorating.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by El Pibe 16 February, 2012 15:30

Agree that teaching history should be more about teaching critical thinking, but at GCSE it most certainly isn't it's just rote learning some shallow narrative essays.
Perhaps a more important subject these days should be 'reading the internet' with a particular emphasis on not believing all the crap you read on the internet.

I can't help but feel the likes of new nexus are a generational phenomenon who sailed (bored) through school on a bunch of media studies type subjects and have nurtured an autodidactic world view without having previously developed the skills necessary to critically sift the overwhelming abundance of information we have to hand.

Trying saying that in one breath!

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Jeremy 16 February, 2012 15:32

As a general rule, "engineering" (as I understand the term) requires a solid foundation in the sciences, so if you don't at least have a decent Maths A Level, you're not going to make it.

I know that there are vocational engineering courses (BTEC?), but I think these would usually be seen as a stepping stone towards a degree, and would need to be accompanied by Maths A Level.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by david_carnell 16 February, 2012 15:38

Really? What sort of "vocational, hands-on stuff"?

I'd be interested to see any stats on the backgrounds of engineers or engineering degree entrants to prove your hypothesis.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by david_carnell 16 February, 2012 15:44

El Pibe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Agree that teaching history should be more about
> teaching critical thinking, but at GCSE it most
> certainly isn't it's just rote learning some
> shallow narrative essays.
> Perhaps a more important subject these days should
> be 'reading the internet' with a particular
> emphasis on not believing all the crap you read on
> the internet.

I agree with all of that but I think that is an inditement of the curriculum and an obsession with exams, league tables and parental choice. Teaching critical thinking doesn't equal a good league table place if your syllabus requires listing the definitive moments of the Weimar Republic. On the other hand, you should be a dab hand at discussing this quantative easing malarky.


> I can't help but feel the likes of new nexus are a
> generational phenomenon who sailed (bored) through
> school on a bunch of media studies type subjects
> and have nurtured an autodidactic world view
> without having previously developed the skills
> necessary to critically sift the overwhelming
> abundance of information we have to hand.

I don't want to belittle individual users but you're right that information sifting is going to become a heightened skill. Whilst books allowed for a more bite-sized approach to learning and mining of data, the near infinite availability of information online does tend to lead to thought becoming redudant. I'm guilty even on this thread of repackaging some of David Lammy MP's words for my own means. But only because his were more eloquent than mine. Accuracy is very different.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by StraferJack 16 February, 2012 15:55

Quote:
I'm guilty even on this thread of repackaging some of David Lammy MP's words for my own means. But only because his were more eloquent than mine.

Hari-alert!!

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by El Pibe 16 February, 2012 15:56

completely agree re the targets and league tables.
Mind you GCSE/O'Level was ever thus even before the league tables. Perhaps 15-16 is considered too young to develop those skills!

A pity, no wonder kids find history boring when it should be about thinking for yourself and not accepting everything at face value.

As for the not belittling individual users, I though that was your hobby!!

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by david_carnell 16 February, 2012 16:00

El Pibe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> As for the not belittling individual users, I
> though that was your hobby!!

Cheek. winking smiley

Well, one or two maybe....

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 16:27

Jeremy Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> As a general rule, "engineering" (as I understand
> the term) requires a solid foundation in the
> sciences, so if you don't at least have a decent
> Maths A Level, you're not going to make it.
>
> I know that there are vocational engineering
> courses (BTEC?), but I think these would usually
> be seen as a stepping stone towards a degree, and
> would need to be accompanied by Maths A Level.


This is exactly what I am getting at.

I never said we should replace accademic subjects with vocational, of course we need accademic subjects, especially Maths, Sciences, and Languages.

Quote:
D_C
Otta asks why teach history or RE or Sociology?

I certainly bloody well did not!

I asked whether teaching them was going to be more useful down the line, than teaching wood / metal work. You said that they teach thought, which is all good, and everybody needs that (although as EP has already said, at GCSE Level they don't really do what you're suggesting).

I have never suggested having one rather than the other, I am suggesting that we need both, and that vocational subjects need to be given equal recognition.

Totally agree that the best place to learn any vocation is in the work place, but there is nothing wrong with learning the basics before you enter the work place.

Finally...
Quote:
The arts are not all pretty rhymes and sunsets, but rife with philosophical, social, historical and economic insights about the modern, complex societies we live in.

Thanks for that.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by david_carnell 16 February, 2012 16:36

I was suggesting that people taught critical thinking maybe more useful to our economy, disagreeing with your suggestion, than those who can knock out a well turned table leg - but you clearly missed that point.

And whilst I agreed with El Pibe, I don't remember anything being taught at GCSE to a level sufficient to allow a school leaver to possess the skills or processes beneficial for the economy.

A good reason to continue some form of education till 18 perhaps.

I'm still not sure how a GCSE in a vocational subject should be of equal worth to one in a foreign language or maths though. We need vocational skills, for sure, but our economy isn't going to be built on them in the same way it was 50 years ago. Those jobs simply don't exist in the same way. So why give them equal merit in education?

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 16:56

I didn't miss your point, I disagreed with it.

Edit: Because I shouldn't care.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2012:02:16:17:02:24 by Otta.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 17:36

More background




Although I'll happily support this kind of plan (from Sept 2010)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2012:02:16:17:40:12 by Otta.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 17:41

For the record, I would totally agree that everyone should have to take Maths & Enlish, and get a C to go any further in education. I admit I hadn't realised that was no longer the case.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by katie1997 16 February, 2012 18:13

Perhaps the issue is that some vocational subjects are of more value than others?

Some people are geared more towards vocational subjects (practical studies)than academic ones, and in many cases, both.

If the vocational subjects are well-recognised and supported by the industries they relate to then this is a good thing especially if they offer training/apprenticeships. If they aren't then I'd say they were a waste of time.

I wouldn't underestimate the satisfaction that may be gained from eg someone studying woodwork becoming inspired into eg engineering by the fact they've designed something, built it, taken it home and tested it, more so than a strong ability in maths and physics. haven't worded that very well but I think a good mix of subjects is really useful for later life. Employers are increasingly moaning about so-called highly qualified graduates having less practical skills to do the job.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by womanofdulwich 16 February, 2012 18:22

I think a vocational skill in customer service would go down well.Not to mention being able to present yourself.
Good morning, how can I help you? Our young people ane woefully lacking in personal skills. Texting/ facebook messaging is not the same.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 18:28

Katie, your post is basically saying what I wanted to say, but failed to get across.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by david_carnell 16 February, 2012 20:20

Katie. All good points except the idea that, not being much cop at academic subjects, young David does his woodwork course and finds great satisfaction from making things. All good stuff. To then leap to him taking up engineering (a profession Britain woefully lacks) because he likes making stuff is simply too great.

And I agree we need to teach customer service skills to those who work in those roles. But putting on your clothes te right way round, smiling and being polite and helpful do not require a qualification. And anyone saying otherwise in the education world is good winking our youth. You can learn all that in a week on a shop floor.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 21:04

But what if young David is top of the class in his academic subjects, but happens to enjoy CDT, and becomes inspired by it?

You seem to be making this about academic subjects for clever kids, and vocational for thick kids, and it should just be about having the choice.

Having said that, there clearly will be those kids who don't excel academically, and yet work just as hard on their vocational subject as the geek who got the A* in maths, English, and all the sciences.. Why should they be told that their effort isn't worth as much, and what sort of message is that sending them in to the world with?

"Work as hard as you like, you'll always be second rate".

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by Otta 16 February, 2012 21:10

Just to add, that I have no doubt that there are vocational courses that need to be looked at and redesigned. I also have no doubt that some schools provably have tried to play the league tables.

That is because when you put in league tables and targets, people start using performance management techniques.

It's like the government and OFSTED being all shocked and scandalised following the death of baby p, because local authorities had seemed to be performing better. These local authorities never broke rules, they just interpreted the targets in a way that made them attainable.

League tables and OFSTED reports tell you nothing about a school.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by katie1997 16 February, 2012 21:23

Yes d_c I did think that someone might pull me up on that for it being a great leap.

I am not denying that to be a good engineer (and am agreed about the lack of them in the UK), there is a necessity to have decent grades in academically important subjects such as maths and science. What I was trying to say (not very well I grant you) was that being good at those subjects does not necessarily enthuse or inspire pupils to take up such careers in the first place.

In some cases of course it may but you cannot under-estimate the value of practical activities that help people to see their connection with maths and science. So if vocational subjects were deemed not as important, we may not get the benefit anyway.

I was also trying to point out that it was perhaps a case of some vocational subjects holding greater value than others, for example, I would be dismayed if someone studying 'customer service' skills expected that to be weighted the same as a subject such as english or maths.

Literacy and numeracy are vital - as said above by others. But there are equally good practical subjects out there too. Some people are better at the purely academic subjects; some people better at vocational stuff; some people work well choosing a mixture of both.

Look at home ecomomics. I feel so old saying this but back in my day that encompassed: food & nutrition theory (yay), practical cookery, textiles & fabrics theory, practical sewing (ugh), making and mending type stuff. Now many people may view that as not quite as academically important as sciences, languages for the economy/job market. But I can think of plenty small (artisan if you like) food and drink producers, bespoke hand-made products being artfully produced by small businesses. So whetting people's appetites in some subject from a young age is pretty useful.

I won't even go into the sponges/marbles/straws props that I know have helped younger children to understand engineering concepts and who knows, may well have helped theories to stick in their mind and inspire them to study something they'd previously not have thought of later in life ;)

(sorry for long post, may edit later)

edited to add the word 'people' for clarity.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit was 2012:02:16:21:26:36 by katie1997.

messageRe: Downgrading of vocational subjects
Posted by katie1997 16 February, 2012 21:24

embarrased smiley I took so long writing that I didn't see all the other posts in between, sorry.

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