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Return to general education and vocational education & training in Indian context: Policy implications

Tutan Ahmed (Public Policy and Management, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Calcutta, India)
Raghabendra Chattopadhyay (Public Policy and Management, Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Calcutta, India)

International Journal of Educational Management

ISSN: 0951-354X

Article publication date: 11 April 2016




Measurement of returns to vocational education has always remained a matter of controversy (Psacharopoulos, 1994; Bennell and Segerstrom, 1998; Ziderman, 1997). Based upon the return evidence many World Bank projects were scrapped (Middleton and Ziderman, 1997, Bennell and Segerstrom, 1998). However, there is again a growing interest for Vocational Education in different countries as well as in international body like UNESCO (Debroy, 2009; King, 2009; McGrath, 2012). Unfortunately there is little justification for this growth from the returns to Vocational Education literature. India is one among the countries where fervent around vocational education and training (henceforth VET) is quite discernible at present. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


Standard Minerian, extended Mincerian and Heckman two-stage methods are used to measure returns to VET vis-à-vis returns to general education in Indian context while taking care of selection bias problem. It is measured at different levels of education since the characteristics of VET changes significantly at different levels of education. This work also considers different classifications of VET (Formal, Hereditary, On the Job). National Sample Survey (NSS) data which recently has included data on VET is used for this measurement.


It shows that the returns to formal VET and On the Job training (OJT) are quite high in the primary level. There is a gradual decline in these returns when compared with general education at higher levels, namely, secondary and tertiary level. At tertiary level effect of formal VET or OJT on income becomes almost insignificant. On the other hand, hereditary training and other category of VET have significantly negative impact and insignificant impact on income, respectively.

Research limitations/implications

This work suggests that the investment in VET in present context is justified however there is a requirement to focus on specific area within the VET for this investment. Investment in higher level of formal VET as well as in the OJT set up can provide better return to the individuals. However, NSS data does not provide income data for the self-employed persons. Hence, self-employed category remains outside the purview of this study.

Practical implications

In general, formal VET and OJT are profitable for individual in wage employment. However, this profitability declines when the effect of the training is measured at a higher level of general education. Formal vocational training/OJT for the primary and secondary school dropouts are clearly profitable. However, OTJ seems to be providing a return similar to what is provided by formal training. A poor performance of formal VET indicates an institutional gap and reflects present cry from industry for “quality” manpower.


To author’s knowledge there is no study on return evidence from various types of VET in Indian context. This study is a deviance from the existing literature on VET in following ways. First, this study suggests that investment in VET can be profitable. Second, many earlier works missed out to consider different types of VET and compare them with general education at different levels. Putting all types of VET into one basket and then analyzing returns has the risk to misleading the policies. Different VETs have completely different dynamics and hence it is required to treat them separately.



Ahmed, T. and Chattopadhyay, R. (2016), "Return to general education and vocational education & training in Indian context: Policy implications", International Journal of Educational Management, Vol. 30 No. 3, pp. 370-385.



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