vocational training

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two girls, walking to school

As an addendum to my post of last Friday, ‘a radical proposal’, I would like to point out that Lloyd Lofthouse is posting a very interesting series on his blog, regarding the American educational system, called ‘Not Broken’ in which he compares the American system with those of other countries. I’ve learned a lot from his writing, on the problems facing the American system, and the post published yesterday, pointed to a problem that we too are facing here in Israel. We have a tendency to copy a lot of things American. In our country, we have a number of parallel systems, arranged to meet the needs of different populations within the country, but the secular school system is in fact very close to the American system.

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school girl, about to take the bus

In his post, published yesterday, ‘Not Broken! Part 4’, Lloyd discusses the lack of a program that includes vocational training. I believe that this is one of our big problems in here as well. And I really can’t understand how such a thing has happened. We used to have some very fine vocation high schools, and they are being abandoned in the last few years. But at the same time, there is a great lack of skilled workers, who could be earning a good living, and doing skilled work that is important to society. You can find the article here:
Not Broken pt 4

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32 responses to “vocational training

  1. Lloyd does make a valid point. It’s similar in Britain at the moment, all children are pushed to college and university wether they are academic or not. These days it is increasingly difficult to find an electrician, carpenter, mechanic or plumber, and very few aspire to be hairdressers or nurses.
    Years back, apprenticeships were common. I really think they should bring them back and allow young people who wished to, to learn and persue a trade. xxxxx

    • This issue has bothered me for some time now. No only because it is hard to find a skilled craftsman these days, but because I think a lot of young people are really missing out on a wonderful side of work. But I have dear friends who tell me that I am old fashioned, and that now, if something is broken you just replace it… and that it would be a shame to teach someone to be a carpenter these days. Which still leaves the question open… because even so, isn’t it possible that a person could use these skills in some way, even in the modern world? I don’t have the answer, but I’m not ready to give up on all crafts just yet.

  2. Actually that is not quite true.60 per cent don’t go to Higher Education.
    The lad next door did a course to train as an electrician and passed the exams.But he needs to do 6 months work with a qualified electrician before he can begin to work as a qualified person on his own
    .Owing to the recession no-one wants him so he’s unemployed.
    This is a from of apprenticeship and you can also do bricklaying and gas engineer training but if no-one will give you that 6 month work experience all your exams are no use…unless the government does some public works like building council houses and such then more work would be available..
    As it is such young men are unemployed and not paying tax and contributing despite their hard work.
    Maybe even 40 percent going to university is too many….but even nurses and midwives must do university degrees.Some of what they do is not needed………….learning quite hard statistics and analysing research when they need arithmetic.
    I like these photos,Shimon.

    • In a depression, almost everyone suffers, even if they have a skill or a profession. We don’t educate the young for conditions like that. And from what I’ve seen, being a trainee, and learning to work next to a seasoned professional is important. Doctors and lawyers do it too. But as I said, my impression is that college has become something of an extension of high school, and that is a shame. I would like to see a separation between job training of all sorts, and study for the sake of knowledge, as was once popular in colleges and universities. Glad you liked the photos, Kathryn.

  3. I’m glad you have reiterated this point here Shimon. I made the same point in relation to the British school system in response to your post last week. We need vocational training for non-academic students to fill a very real skills shortage. Why is that so difficult for politicians to see?

    • Yes, I remember that this concerned you, Chilbrook, as it does me. I think that one of the aspects of the ‘Post Modern Automatic Behavior Syndrome’. Is that people think that as soon as they have a new tool or a new toy, they throw everything else away. And the politicians are suffering from a very narrow horizon… And a lot of people have lost all faith in the politicians, and would quite enthusiastically throw them away too. We have to be careful about that. It would be even worse with a dictator… Thank you for your comment. I share your concern.

  4. I’d love to see more schooling available for people whose interest lies in working with their hands. We need them; not everything is computerized, and handcrafts, mechanical skills, and artistry add so much loveliness to our lives. Thank you, Shimon!

    • Thank you Catherine. Even some of the things that have been computerized, can be enjoyed differently when they are done by hand. Maybe it will take a while till people learn to appreciate human beings again, after having fallen in love with robots. I have no doubt that it will happen eventually. Meantime, we don’t get together for tea and cake at four in the afternoon… we just grab a Red Bull, and check out our status on facebook.

  5. Again I agree strongly with you! Not everyone wants or is suited for a college education. There is no shame in chosing to learn a vocation or trade. Our communities cry out for dedicated, motivated, skilled workers which are seldom to be found!

    • My aim is to separate learning for the sake of knowledge from job training on every level. Once we do that, we’ll see that there is just a small minority who wants that thin air of the mountain peaks of learning. And on the other hand, people will find their position in the workplace according to their tastes, abilities, and the attraction of the work itself. Some people like to ride a horse, and others like to tap on a keyboard. We’re in the process of realignment with a world that has changed radically. Thanks for your comment, Josie.

  6. The American school system is so sad. My sister in-law is a teacher in the States… In Georgia. I a former education major… Switched majors because I knew I couldn’t handle the public school system. Anyways, my sister in-law just moved here to Atlanta (from Chicago, Il). She moved from great to sad in terms of the schools shed be working in. So far, she was hired in the summer then let go a month later do to budget cuts (she has her masters but no one wants to hire teachers with masters degree because they can’t afford it). She’s a great teacher with great results. She found a new school that hired her to teach 2nd grade (she taught 3rd grade before). She’s been teaching 2nd grade for a month and now they want to move her to third grade because they need a string third grade teacher since all the other 3rd grade teachers have never taught 3rd grade before. It’s all geared towards the standardized tests so she is not free to teach how she needs to reach these kids (in poor urban schools). Plus, she has to teach out of a standarded, mapped out, Basel reader so her kids are learning nothing but what they need to cram to learn for a test. She does her best despite the circumstances. Wonderful post… Got me thinking :)

    • One of the big problems of the public education system, is that it is supposed to serve all of the population. Aside from that, it has to be very expensive, and people have their doubts about whether it’s worth the expense. And worst of all, there is a huge bureaucracy that is supposed to manage it all. I have the feeling that it will soon change. And that it will include the advantageous of the internet. Even on the University level, we had problems with the predefined content of courses. But the vision of what education is all about, changes from time to time, as society goes through changes. I think we have reason for hope. Thanks for coming by, and for your comment, Polly.

  7. Yes, we need vocational training in the public schools. Our philosophy of education for the masses must change if that is to happen.

    • There are a lot of different methods of education. Like apprenticeship, for instance. I’ve always thought that jobs should pay according to the pleasure intrinsic in the work. So the garbage collector would make more than the orchestra conductor, and the bricklayer more than the architect… but of course, that only works in my dreams. Thank you for your comment, George. Always good to hear from you.

  8. Great discussion. Our technical colleges do a great work of providing skills and training. There’s no reason why students should have to wait until college.

    • Glad to hear about the technical colleges. And I agree with you, yearstricken, no reason that a student should wait till college. Such studies could be incorporated into the high school agenda, and I think that they could provide a lot of motivation and satisfaction for young people.

  9. As someone who grew up in Israel where you had regular highschools and ORT (the vocational schools), I can state the good, bad and ugly. First and foremost, the assumption that youngsters know “what they want to be when they grow up” is misguided. Very few do. Having a vocation is great, but it also creates a narrow box, and makes people think that that’s all they can do.
    Moreover, there is a sense of shame nowadays, if one has a menial job. In Israel it has become the job of the Arabs, and in California it has become the job of Hispanics.
    The vision of the Halutzim (pioneers) is gone. Everyone has to be the director:)

    • Yes, Rachel. Even those who think they know what they want to do when they grow up, often change their minds as life goes on. But I supposed you realized already, that you’re talking to an old fashioned old man, who believes in work, and thinks it has nobility, and still has the vision of the halutzim. That is what I taught my children too, and I am very happy to say, that they see no shame in physical work. One of my sons just finished building his own home, with his own two hands. Your comment reminds me of a joke we have here in Jerusalem. An old man is visited by his grandchild, a young boy. When they walk through the streets, the boy mentions that the street is narrow. And his grandfather tell him that he and a few friends actually paved the street, many years ago. And then, when they are about to enter the house, the boy sees a low hut in the back yard. What is that, Grandpa? He asks. Well, that used to be the chicken coup. I used to raise chickens when I was a young man, and we ate the eggs and enjoyed them. The grandchild looks at his grandfather for a long moment, and then asks him, ‘When you were a young man, were you an Arab, Grampa?’

  10. I completely agree with you on this. The ability to fix things, work with the hands is becoming a lost art.

  11. Vocational education is worthwhile. Interestingly, for many years it served as a dumping ground by high schools for troubled students … these students also sought vocational high school as an alternative to traditional high school thinking it would solve their problems. Students told me that I was one of the few teachers they had who encouraged vocational education … but I also warned those who were running to something different. Meanwhile, our technical and community colleges continue to strive.

    • It is terrible to think of a school as a ‘dumping ground’. And equally distressing to think of it as a ‘baby sitting’ institution. But I suppose this is part of the danger of forcing children to go to school. Some have to learn from life. Human beings are truly individual, and the moment society starts treating all according to some plan, we know there are going to be some bloody victims along the way.

  12. this comment is probably longer than most of my blog posts….just warning you.

    america and americans are, unfortunately, obsessed with numbers and results. when the results are the “right” numbers, then america (but not necessarily americans) is satisfied. we have a compulsion to rank, list, compare, contrast, and compile numbers and statistics. and have a hunger to see who is “number 1,” but we don’t seem to care why. “why” is probably one of the most important words ever – um – worded.

    we have a system, at the moment, created by president bush (that he borrowed from england) called “no child left behind.” (NCLB) england’s was called “every child moves ahead.” the system spanned something like 14 years, and it mandated that by the year 2015, 100% of our children will be proficient in 100% of all the work or subjects they study. we have children of 13 who wear diapers and can’t tied their own shoes, but they are still counted in that mandate. it was an impossible solution to a misunderstood problem, but claiming to make every child proficient was a great way for bush to win an election.

    in new jersey, and i assume in other states, we have a tiered system of “failure.” every year during NCLB, each school is expected to improve by a certain percentage of students compared to how many scored as “proficient” the previous year. to improve is to make “adequate yearly progress.” (AYP) if a school does not gain AYP two consecutive years, then you are considered a “school in need of improvement.” let’s say a school fails to reach AYP two years in a row and then reaches it the third year – that is considered “safe harbor.” it doesn’t mean you reached AYP, but it does grant a reprieve for a year. if a school is “in need of improvement” for four years, you get a visit from the state dept. of education who will want to see that you’re really trying. after around 6 years, they want to see a specifically-written “restructuring plan.” by 7 years, the state has the ability, if it so chooses, to start replacing principals, teachers, board members, and anyone else they feel is contributing to the problem.

    the school i worked in – until last year – was “in need of improvement” for 9 consecutive years. the state had every right to wipe out anyone they wanted – but the state barely got involved at all. why? because my school district was so poorly run, so mismanaged, that the state wanted nothing to do with us. they did not want the responsibility because they knew there was nothing they could do to improve us, and the state did not want to seem like an equal failure to the fools running the district.

    but failure is a big word, and what really needs to be examined is how it is determined. what you’re going to see is that the same system that determines pass or fail is unfortunately promoting racism in schools.

    all students are broken down into 41 categories based on gender, race, socio-economic status, diagnosed disabilities, language proficiency, and others. each school must reach a certain percentage of proficient students in every category, all 41. let’s say there are 10 students in every category, and let’s say the passing percentage is 85. that means at least 9 kids in each group must be proficient for the whole school to be proficient. and let’s say that in all 41 categories we have 9 proficient kids – that school passes. 369 kids were proficient and 41 were not, but the whole school passed so it’s okay.

    down the street there’s another school also with 10 kids in each category. in 40 categories, all 10 passed, but in one category there were only 8 kids who passed. sorry – that school failed because one category failed. there were 408 kids who passed and only 2 kids who didn’t, which is much better than that other school that passed, but it doesn’t matter because it’s all about the 41 categories.

    let’s look at it further and see that the one category that “failed” was one race, one subgroup, and let’s pretend that group is asians. the school will get a report card that is available to everyone involved, every teacher, administrator, parent, etc. and that report will clearly show that the school failed because the asians failed. now all the other races and subgroups will accurately say, “those asians ruined our school!”

    another problem with the testing obsession in america is that schools are now forced to steer their spending towards those tests. not everything is one the test. there’s no woodworking test or culinary test, so schools are dropping those subjects in order to focus their resources on what is tested. a school won’t fail because of poor “early childhood studies” classes, so those classes are dropped because they are irrelevant when it comes to the state test. no test? then no class. i watched many long-time and long-loved teachers pack their bags because their subjects just did not exist anymore.

    and let’s look even closer at the test and how absurd it can be. there was a great controversy this past year over an essay question on the 4th grade test. it read something like, “write about a secret that you never told anyone and explain why you never told anyone.” that – is – insane. here we have schools facing such great pressure to pass the test, and kids who have had the pressure dumped in their laps, and now they get a question asking them to reveal a secret. what happens when a student writes about how their parents use drugs or perhaps how a relative once in appropriately touched them? what happens when someone from the state reads that test? will they show up at the family home to investigate? kids are regularly taught to embellish their essays in order to get better scores. what if a child totally creates an abusive situation because it will get a better score? but what if an investigation occurs that greatly embarrasses the family? or, what if it’s true, and there is no investigation? it was a horrible circumstance. but it can get worse.

    about 7 years ago there was no test in 3rd grade, but the state commissioned one. the testing company produced a test for 3rd grade, and then – statewide – kids scored horribly. the state turned to the testing company and asked them to find out what went wrong. the test company then admitted that they missed their deadlines for the 3rd grade test and, instead, gave them the same test as the 4th graders. another great embarrassment.

    if i had not already stopped teaching, i would not share this next part, but now i’m in a position where i can share it. i taught 7th grade for many years, and for many years there was a big drop in scores from 6th to 7th grade and then a great climb the following year in 8th grade. so every year, i and the other 7th grade teachers looked like idiots while the 8th grade teachers looked like heroes. a few years ago i noticed that of the 8 stories that kids were reading on the language arts test, about 3 of them were the same, year after year. they were also part of the cause of the low scores. one year, one of my students got sick during the test and had to leave the room. i took her test booklet and, during a break, i typed one of the difficult stories, verbatim, into Microsoft Word. i then performed a reading analysis, which showed that the story in question was written on a 12-grade reading level. but it was a 7th grade class. it is tremendously unfair to give 7th graders a test that was built on a skill level 5 years above them. how could they possibly be expected to perform well?

    this past year i finally saw something that made me smile about the state test. one town in new jersey had a very brave group of parents who told the school that they were keeping their kids home during the test. the school said that they would then make up the test the following week. the parents said “no, my kid is not permitted to take the test.” the school said, “but they have to” and the parents said, “no, they don’t.” and the parents were right, and their reason was because they saw the trends, and they saw the inaccuracies. and they did not want their children being unfairly judged by an unfair test. i thought it was brilliant, and i truly hope it happens more this coming year. and that brings us to the real cause of the downfall of american education – parents.

    there are some wonderful parents out there doing everything they can to help their children succeed. but there is a growing number of parents who just don’t care or don’t have the time to help while juggling three jobs. we have kids coming to school for only two things – to talk to friends and to get food. they don’t work, they don’t study, they don’t care. they just want the free food and they want to see friends. they can’t read because they don’t care about it and their parents have not prepared them for learning. their parents have told them that their teachers are idiots (sometimes true) and they tell the kids to do what they want. surveys show increasing numbers of parents who haven’t finished high school and place no value in education, thus they instill no value of education in their children.

    what’s there to do about it? nothing – because absolutely NO politician or school board member will dare stand up and tell the truth and risk losing votes.

    okay – i said a whole lot, and i doubt anyone stuck it through to the end. i don’t blame you because it’s a battle that can’t be won because the people causing it are the same people who we entrust to fix it. but they can’t, they won’t, and they don’t know how. all they want are happy voters. and voters are happy when they see numbers they like. those numbers might not make sense or be valid – but numbers are numbers, and numbers don’t lie.

    • Thank you very much, Rich for sharing your view of the situation with me. I’ll start where you conclude; “numbers don’t lie”. We both know that numbers can be very misleading. And for years now, clever statisticians have been lining them up in such a way as to give the impression that they wanted to give. I believe that some very well meaning people, who really did want to make the world a better place for us all, pushed this idea that we could all get to the same level, the same accomplishments, if we just provided the proper intellectual nourishment to all the young. I saw the start of this movement in the 60s, and for a while, I believed it myself. But as I continued to study the subject, I realized that it was not at all true. Given the proper nurture, a person could reach much closer to his potential. But there are vast differences between the abilities of different people, and it is a great mistake to ignore these differences. Part of the package is the home environment, and the schools can’t change much there. It seems to me, especially after what I’ve heard from you and from Lloyd, that an impossible burden has been forced upon the teachers and the schools. And now it seems a question of which link of the chain is going to break first. I am sure that there are still some idealists who choose to become teachers despite all the obstacles. But at the same time, the job is getting harder… often close to impossible.

      I think there is a necessity for tests, but tests only work when the whole system works, and tests have to be well thought out, with very clear objectives. Giving the same test year after year, is already a sign of inadequacy. The society we are living in, is continuously becoming more dense, and people are becoming more interdependent. This curtails individual freedom, and the ability of the exceptional individual to go off and do his own thing. Your story of the assignment to children to write about a secret sounds like something that might have come out of soviet Russia. It is a terrible affront to the children. I can only hope that there will be some brave leaders willing to admit to failure before the school system breaks down completely. But it might happen.

  13. in the late 80′s we had a governor in new jersey who recognized the need to attract more businesses to my state. he knew that businesses brought two things – tax revenue and jobs. how to attract businesses? by proving that we have very well educated people. how to prove that? the governor devised a test for all high school seniors to prove their competence. part of his plan was that each year, the minimum passing score would be slightly lowered, thus making it appear that kids were getting smarter and smarter each year. that was called the High School Proficiency Test. (HSPT)

    problem was that you can only lower a test so far before it becomes invalid. about four years later, the test moved from high school seniors to sophomores. a couple of years later, it was moved to 8th grade, each time with a new name. HSPT. HSPA. EWT. GEPA. and so on.

    the testing company realized how much money they were making, and also realized how much money was waiting to be made if they could convince the state to expand the test to more and more grade levels. at one time it was 4th and 8th and 10th. then 5th and 9th. now, it’s every grade from 3 to 12. and it costs the states and the schools hundreds of millions of dollars every year to prepare, print, distribute, score, and tally the tests.

    it’s a great waste, and it’s a great cash machine too.

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