Effects of early career decisions on future opportunities : the case of vocational education in Chile
- Higher education is increasingly desired by families because it is seen as an important mechanism of social mobility that allows students to achieve better living standards. However, access to higher education appears consistently correlated with student socioeconomic status (SES). It seems that low-income students face higher barriers in their access to higher education. The lack of prior opportunity to study a curricular program that provides both the quality and content required to proceed to higher education is suggested as the most important barrier. It is worrisome, then, that some low-income, high-performing students who expect to continue to higher education choose programs with lower-level content or quality. This situation is common in educational systems that are stratified into vocational and academic education at the secondary school level (VESL and AESL, respectively). VESL is a curricular program designed to prepare students for work, whereas AESL is designed to prepare students for tertiary education. Given that the rates of return to higher education are usually high and that at the same time the probability of entering higher education is lower for VESL students, it is important to analyze why some high-performing, low-SES students enroll in VESL and what effects result from these decisions. If students' schooling decisions are predicted by cultural factors and if a large gap exists in students' test scores depending on those decisions, a system of stratification could result that reproduces itself over time. This dissertation utilizes the case of Chile to explore the relationship between VESL and the reproduction of inequality. Chile is a highly stratified country, with about 46 percent enrollment in VESL, and where about 70 percent of eight graders expect to go to higher education. This dissertation answers the following questions: 1) Do AESL students academically outperform comparable VESL students at the end of secondary education? 2) Does VESL enrollment correlate with the persistence and performance of students in vocational education at the tertiary level (VETL)? 3) What are the factors related to high-performing, low-income students' choices to attend either VESL or AESL? This study approaches a causal analysis combining propensity score matching and diverse robustness check strategies. It also uses a rich panel of censal data that follows students from eighth grade 2004 to higher education in 2011. In addition, it takes advantage of an ad hoc survey conducted in 2011 by the author. The findings suggest that VESL contributes to the reproduction of inequality for low-SES, high-performance students in Chile; moreover, results suggest that in a highly stratified country without policies that help students to make decisions, choice could also contribute to the reproduction of inequality. Firstly, SES, cultural values, the pressure of the environment, parents' expectations, and self-perception are correlated with enrollment in VESL. In addition, the educational system and public policies do not help students in making good school-career choices. The problem is that these decisions have important implications for performance on the higher education entrance tests and for obtaining funding for higher education. In the basic fields, math and language, the average estimated gap between comparable VESL and AESL students is equivalent to 0.28SD and 0.19SD, respectively. The results also show that high-performance, low-SES VESL students are less likely to go to a bachelor degree program than a comparable student from AESL. In contrast, they are more likely to enter a VETL program. Results also show that VESL students who remain in the same field of study at VETL have higher persistence than students from VESL who change their field of study. However, they tend to have a lower persistence than students from AESL. Hence, due to the important differences in the rates of return, VESL could be distracting and preventing some low-SES, high-performance students from obtaining better incomes, better employability, and better social status, ultimately reducing their social mobility. The corollary from this study is that choice could help to the reproduction of inequality in highly stratified countries. This situation could be reinforced if there are no formal policies to help the choice of the students and their families. Even when this corollary comes from the analysis done in a particular educational level, the extension to decisions done at different points in the educational trajectory is direct.
|Type of resource
|electronic; electronic resource; remote
|1 online resource.
|Farias Arenas, Mauricio Alejandro
|Stanford University, School of Education.
|Statement of responsibility
|Mauricio Alejandro Farias Arenas.
|Submitted to the School of Education.
|Thesis (Ph.D.)--Stanford University, 2013.
- © 2013 by Mauricio Alejandro Farias Arenas
- This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 Unported license (CC BY-NC).
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