School-to-work transition of college graduates in Korea: the impact of high school track on college-performance and post-college occupational outcomes.

Open Access
Kwon, Sung Youn
Graduate Program:
Workforce Education and Development
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
February 21, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Cynthia Pellock, Dissertation Advisor
  • Cynthia Pellock, Committee Chair
  • Mark D Threeton, Committee Member
  • Soo Yong Byun, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Committee Member
  • Kyle Leonard Peck, Special Member
  • school-to-work transition
  • college
  • graduates
  • high school track
  • vocational education
  • college performance
  • post-college occupational outcoems
  • career and technical education
  • CTE
  • vocational education and traning
  • secondary vocational education of Korea
This study aimed at examining the impacts of high school track on college performance and subsequent occupational outcomes after college graduation. To this end, the Korean Education and Employment Panel (KEEP) data from 2004 through 2010, including 4,000 samples of 12th graders as of 2004 from vocational and general high schools, were analyzed. The differences in the influence of the two high school tracks were also investigated to identify the effect of secondary vocational education. Regarding college performance, a great gap was found between the two high school track graduates. Even though the majority of the high school graduates advanced to some college, considerably fewer samples from the vocational track chose two-year colleges rather than four-year colleges. They are significantly affected by their individual and family backgrounds in determining post-secondary education. In contrast, the graduates from general high schools were significantly influenced only by their academic records and educational aspiration when making a decision on college advancement. These results support the findings of previous research, asserting that students in the vocational track demonstrate lower self-efficacy and disadvantageous socio-economic circumstances in comparison with those in the general track. High school track had significant relationships with college performance. The vocational high school graduates were less likely to enroll in four-year colleges, less likely to choose a temporary left during college education, and much less likely to complete four-year colleges than those from general high school. On the other hand, high school track did not influence job relevance to college major and job correspondence to educational level, when those who were in first-paid employment after college graduation were analyzed. These results imply that high school track has short-term effects, but the impact does not last in the middle- or long-term after the cohorts complete their college education. One noticeable finding is that those who desired four-year college graduation, enrolled in four-year colleges, and chose a temporary stop of college attendance are less likely to be satisfied with their first-paid jobs. The finding of this study—no differences in post-college occupational outcomes between the two high school track graduates—may suggest that a fundamental transformation of the policies regarding secondary vocational education is essential. The Korean secondary vocational education needs to change its goal from producing middle-level skilled labor to preparing a workforce with transferable knowledge and skills for pursuing some college education. This alteration will inevitably require integrating the vocational curriculum with the academic curriculum at the high school level. Further, given that 50% of the vocational high school graduates enrolled in two-year colleges and demonstrated more satisfaction with their jobs than their peers from general high schools, strengthening post-secondary vocational education could facilitate the college-to-work transition, thereby eventually reducing the high unemployment of college graduates. With empirical evidence, this study contributes to a better understanding of the behaviors of the vocational high school graduates, with regard to their in-college and post-college outcomes. This study also suggests that differentiating the competencies of college graduates from both tracks could ensure the identity of secondary vocational education. In addition, the findings of the study support that expediting the college-to-work transition should be the goal of the Korean secondary vocational education.