Does the vocational curriculum have a future?

M F D Young, Jim Hordern

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In this paper, which takes the form of a dialogue, we discuss the possible directions that vocational education might take in the contemporary social, economic and technological context of the early 21st century. Taking account of the unresolved debates around vocational education internationally and future global economic demands for expertise we discuss tensions and dichotomies that continue to shape the character of vocational education by questioning definitions of the ‘vocational’ historically and in current policy. These include: the relation between ‘vocational’ and ‘academic’ pathways and the possibility of their integration, the meaning of technical education, the purpose of vocational qualifications, the role of trade unions and employers, and whether there should be a ‘skills route’ for ‘low attainers’. The principal focus is on the English context, although the discussion draws on comparative examples where relevant, as well as broader factors likely to be significant in any country.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-88
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Vocational Education and Training
Issue number1
Early online date21 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2022


  • vocational
  • curriculum
  • knowledge
  • VET policy
  • qualifications


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