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Study urges greater focus on occupational instruction

By Christine Amario
Associated Press / February 3, 2011

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The current US education system is failing to prepare millions of young adults for successful careers by providing a one-size-fits-all approach, and it should take a cue from its European counterparts by offering greater emphasis on occupational instruction, a Harvard University study published yesterday concludes.

The two-year study by the Pathways to Prosperity Project at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education said that while much emphasis is placed in high school on going on to a four-year college, only 30 percent of young adults complete a bachelor’s degree.

While the number of jobs that require no post-secondary education has declined, the researchers said, only one-third of the jobs created in the coming years are expected to need a bachelor’s degree. Roughly the same amount will need an associate’s degree or an occupational credential.

“What I fear is the continuing problem of too many kids dropping by the wayside and the other problem of kids going into debt, and going into college but not completing with a degree or certificate,’’ said Robert Schwartz, who heads the project and is dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

The report highlights an issue that has been percolating among education circles: That school reform should include more emphasis on career-driven alternatives to a four-year education.

The study recommends a “comprehensive pathways network’’ that would include three elements: embracing multiple approaches to help youth make the transition to adulthood, involving the nation’s employers in things like work-based learning, and creating a new social compact with young people.

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