The effectiveness of vocational versus general secondary education

Julia Kuzmina (Institute of Education, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russian Federation)
Martin Carnoy (School of Education, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA; AND Institute of Education, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russian Federation)

International Journal of Manpower

ISSN: 0143-7720

Publication date: 4 April 2016



The purpose of this paper is to examine the relative academic effectiveness of vocational education in three countries with early tracking systems: Austria, Croatia, and Hungary.


The authors use an instrumental variables approach to estimate vocational education’s relative academic effectiveness in terms of achievement on an international test, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’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.


The 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 the tenth grade and generally similar gains in self-efficacy and motivation in mathematics.


The study is unique because in the three countries, the authors 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. The 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.



Julia Kuzmina and Martin Carnoy (2016) "The effectiveness of vocational versus general secondary education", International Journal of Manpower, Vol. 37 No. 1, pp. 2-24

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