Does renaming improve public attitudes toward vocational education and training in higher education? Evidence from a survey experiment

Siu Yau Lee*, John Chi Kin Lee, Bess Yin Hung Lam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to offer direct tests of the effectiveness of renaming vocational education and training (VET) in enhancing the image and popularity of the subject. Although many proponents of renaming argue that the word “vocational” is associated with lower levels of skills and knowledge and should therefore be supplemented by better recognised words, empirical evidence regarding the effectiveness of this strategy is scant. Design/methodology/approach: This study exploits a rare policy change in Hong Kong, where VET was renamed as vocational and professional education and training (VPET) and conducted an original survey experiment of 1,004 parents in the city to test if the new name would improve respondents' perceptions of the subject. Findings: The findings reveal a complex picture regarding the effects of renaming. Although renaming does not seem to improve the overall popularity of vocational education, it may widen the support base for vocational education by diluting its class character. Specifically, while attitudes toward VET are significantly and negatively correlated with family income, no such association is found in regard to VPET. Originality/value: This paper offers the first direct and comprehensive test of the effectiveness of renaming vocational education – a popular policy suggestion in many countries. Its findings complicate conventional expectations and contribute to the study of educational preferences in advanced economies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)347-359
Number of pages13
JournalEducation and Training
Volume64
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2022
Externally publishedYes

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)
  • Education
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

User-Defined Keywords

  • Framing
  • Policy
  • Public perception
  • Social status
  • Survey experiment
  • Vocational education and training

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