Taking the Path Less Travelled? Long-run Impacts of Vocational Secondary Education in Singapore


In many countries, students are assigned to different educational tracks early in life. This paper studies the long-run impacts of vocational secondary education using a natural experiment in Singapore. Students are assigned to tracks in secondary school based on a cutoff score in the nationwide Primary School Leaving Examination. Using a fuzzy regression discontinuity design and social security administrative data, we find that students assigned to the vocational track are more likely to complete secondary school (3pp) and attain a post-secondary (usually vocational) qualification (9pp), but less likely to attain a university degree (3pp). Attending the vocational track has no average effect on later-life employment, earnings or wealth, because positive effects on some students balance negative effects on others. Despite evidence that some students benefit substantially from attending the vocational track, nearly all students given the choice opt for the academic track. These patterns are consistent with a simple theory where individuals have different learning styles and there is social stigma against the vocational track. 

Last updated on 11/13/2018