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Vocational Studies in School – Does it Matter if I’m a Girl and if I’m Poor?

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This article examines the participation and performance of young women in a new school-based vocational certificate in the Australian state of Victoria – the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning (VCAL). It does so within a broader context of developments in the provision of vocational education and training (VET) in schools and persistent patterns of gender and socio-economic status differences in curriculum choice in Australia and other Western nations. This article presents evidence that young women experience demonstrably poorer transitions than their male peers from the VCAL program, facing a greater risk of unemployment and part-time work. Subject to a labour market which has become increasingly hostile to young workers, but particularly to young females, those who do get work find themselves more likely to be situated in poorly paid and largely part-time and casualised occupations such as sales assistants and food handlers. It suggests that the strong emphasis on work-based destinations leaves the program open to changes in economic and labour market conditions that can further disadvantage girls and low SES students.
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Keywords: educational inequality; gender; vocational education

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The University of Melbourne

Publication date: January 1, 2009

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  • Educational Practice and Theory is a bi-annual, independent, refereed journal which, since its launch in 1978, has become an important independent forum for original ideas in education. It publishes innovative and original research in the area. Its focus is both applied and theoretical and it seeks articles from a diverse range of themes and countries.
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