Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Maybe College Isn’t for Everyone

We keep hearing about how our education system is failing many of our kids. Maybe that’s because our education system is too narrowly focused. We’re not taking into account the skills, interests and needs of all of our students.

A veteran teacher I interviewed for The Teacher Chronicles believes in a dual-track education system that provides for vocational training as well as academic instruction. The national education system is currently geared toward preparing students for college. But not all students are interested in pursuing a career that requires a college degree. Some of them have skills and interests that will take them in a different direction.

By insisting that every student aspire to go to college, aren’t we devaluing the occupations that don’t require a college degree. Don’t these occupations make a valuable contribution to our society?

With the right amount of motivation and dedication, every student may be capable of academic success and college admission. But that's not the issue. The question is, are we encouraging every student to become a productive member of society.

The teacher I mentioned believes that offering vocational training will allow schools to maintain the interest of students who are not necessarily college-bound. If these students are offered course options that appeal to their interests, tap into their skills, and prepare them to enter the work force after high school, they may be more committed to school and their academic subjects. After all, academic subjects are important—we all need reading and math skills, an understanding of history and current events, knowledge of life sciences—but for some students, this is not enough to maintain their interest in school.

Until we stop viewing college as the ultimate goal, and start recognizing that other options have merit, schools will continue to alienate a percentage of students and a successful national education system will continue to elude us.

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