Date: 17 Nov 2010

Vocational Education and Training in France and Germany: Friend or Foe of the Educationally Disadvantaged?

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Abstract

The modern history of education systems in the developed world shows two striking trends which are related – the mass use of secondary education and widening vulnerability to failure at school. The more that young people have stayed on at school, the wider the net that school has thrown over the population and the greater the exposure of weaker groups to the demands of school. In the early decades after the Second World War, the majority of children from working-class backgrounds did not attempt extended secondary schooling. Many were considered to be underachievers. They repeated grades and were not admitted to academic secondary schools, or if they were admitted, they were placed in terminal courses. Thus failure came early and was definitive. Massification came later – though national chronologies vary – and, along with this, insecurity at a higher level of schooling. The children who had once completed only compulsory schooling (if that) and who had found refuge of sorts in the labour market progressively surrendered this protection which the stagnating economies of the late 1970s had greatly undermined. They were now trapped between the failure of economic institutions – to deliver more growth, especially in accessible areas of employment – and the failure that educational institutions could and would visit upon them.