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EDUCATION REPORT – July 24, 2003: Vocational Education - 2003-07-23

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

American educational experts are debating the future of vocational training. This kind of training provides job skills for high school students who often have no plans to go to college.

The federal government first began to pay for this training in high schools in nineteen-seventeen. Skills like machine operation and wood-working helped many young people learn to support themselves.

But over time, critics began to say that vocational training did not place enough importance on subjects like mathematics and reading. They said boys and girls -- including a lot from poor and minority families -- were sometimes directed toward such training unfairly.

Critics said this denied the students the chances for more education and better paying jobs. In recent years, federal money for vocational education -- and student interest in it -- have both decreased.

The United States Department of Education now says high schools should prepare every student for college -- even if the student chooses not to attend. The Bush administration budget for next year calls for cuts in money for vocational education.

Education Department official Carol D’Amico says the department recognizes the importance of vocational education. But she says it also disapproves of training programs that are weak in traditional subjects. A federal law called “No Child Left Behind” now requires students across the country to take yearly examinations in these subjects.

Many educators praise vocational training in New York. Frank Carucci is a union official with the United Federation of Teachers and a vocational education expert. Mister Carucci says the city’s Career and Technical Education programs offer more than preparation for jobs. He says creative teachers have found ways to teach basic subjects, and that the job skills taught can help students pay for college.

Mister Carucci argues that the proposed cuts in spending would harm vocational programs. He says loss of such programs could mean that more students leave school before they complete their studies.

Whatever happens to the vocational education budget, the debate about what is best for students is sure to continue.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Jerilyn Watson.