The nagging problem of significant numbers of youth leaving school unprepared for career employment has revitalized interest in vocational education, particularly apprenticeships. Support for vocational education comes from people across the political spectrum, from both labor and business groups, and from the popular media. The clearest manifestation in policy is President Trump’s executive order that calls for immediate expansion of existing apprenticeship programs while simultaneously disparaging the effectiveness of current education and training programs.
Ministers and education officials from a wide range of countries and international agencies converged on Incheon in the Republic of Korea last month to discuss a new set of development goals at the World Education Forum. A draft document lays out a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will follow on from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that included education goals to be accomplished by 2015.
Later this year, the UN will set the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. These goals will follow on from the previous Millennium Development Goals. The plethora of targets that is likely to emerge will make it hard to use them either as policy levers for change or as a means of charting progress. Instead, because knowledge capital is of utmost importance for inclusive world development, the primary post-2015 development goal should be that all youth achieve at least basic skills. The boost to future prosperity would be immense.
“The big picture of U.S. performance on the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) is straightforward and stark: It is a picture of educational stagnation.... Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. today are average in science and reading literacy, and below average in mathematics, compared to their counterparts in [other industrialized] countries.”