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Philosophy of Vocational Education

While there has been extensive debate over the principles and philosophy of academic education in recent decades, the same has not been the case for vocational education. This has led to constant experimentation, change and frustrating repetition.

As the consensus both here and internationally grows that high quality vocational education is a fundamental contributor to addressing future economic challenges, now is the time for us to have that debate. By establishing the underlying principles and philosophy of English vocational education, we can start to move away from instability towards a more settled and focused vision for the future.

The Edge Foundation is leading this work in partnership with colleagues at the National Baccalaureate Trust, Kings College London, Institute of Education and City & Guilds. We want to continue to develop a national debate about the principles and philosophy that should underpin vocational education in this country.

We published our initial paper setting out key questions in this area in early 2018 and received an inspirational set of responses, leading to a Big Debate in March 2018.

This discussion formed the basis of our first report in this area – Debating the First Principles of English Vocational Education. These are available to download below.

This report posed a further set of questions and we would welcome short responses of up to 250 words on any of these areas by the end of September 2018.

1. In no more than 100 words, how would you define vocational education?

2. How can vocational education best develop the broad transferable skills that will be needed as we progress through the fourth industrial revolution?

3. Should our approach to vocational education be one of (a) distinctiveness; (b) unification with general education (c) attempting to reconcile the two?

4. What is the right age for young people to begin to have access to vocational education?

5. What would be the key ingredients of a distinctive vocational pedagogy?

6. To what extent should the assessment of vocational education be based on: (a) equivalency to academic education; (b) distinctive measures; (c) a holistic baccalaureate?

We will host a second Big Debate on this area in Autumn 2018. If you would like to submit a response to one of the questions or are interested in attending this event, you can contact our Director of Research and Policy at