OECD Finds Strengths, Weaknesses in U.S. Career-Related Education

July 11, 2013

The U.S. system of providing career-related postsecondary training has both strengths and weaknesses, according to a report released Wednesday by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. "Extensive decentralization gives rise to many strengths, to diverse and flexible forms of provision meeting the needs of many groups of learners, to a rich field of policy development and innovation, involving state governments and many non-government organizations. The quality of data analysis and academic research available to support policy development is clearly outstanding," the report says.

But at the same time, the report also notes weaknesses. "Three factors may act as barriers to postsecondary attainment," the report says. "First, the basic skills of U.S. teenagers and high school graduates are relatively weak compared with many other OECD countries. Second, decentralization means that the choices faced by any individual are more difficult and more uncertain, with many routes to a target career or occupation. Third, despite public financial support which makes college programs affordable for many students, the financial risks of investing in postsecondary education can be higher in the U.S., because costs and returns are highly variable."

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