The effectiveness of vocational versus general secondary education: evidence from the PISA 2012 for countries with early tracking
In this paper, we examine the relative academic effectiveness of vocational education in three countries with early tracking systems: Austria, Croatia and Hungary.
We use an instrumental variables approach to estimate vocational education’s relative academic effectiveness in terms of achievement on an international test, the OECD’s Program of International Student Assessment (PISA), and two possible indicators of non-cognitive outcomes—self-efficacy in mathematics and intrinsic motivation in mathematics, both also available from the PISA student survey.
Our results show few, if any, differences in student gains from attending the vocational track in secondary school as opposed to the academic track. Specifically, the results show that attending the vocational or academic track results in similar achievement gains in the10th grade and generally similar gains in self-efficacy and motivation in mathematics.
The study is unique because in the three countries, we can use a fuzzy regression discontinuity approach based on school systems’ age entrance date rules to estimate the gain in test scores over an academic year and to compare the gain for students in the vocational and academic tracks. Our results contradict almost all other studies by showing that in these countries student academic gains in vocational education are about the same as in the academic track.