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In several countries member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), up to 30% of the students drop out of school before they complete high school or upon graduation from compulsory school (OECD, 2015). One relevant avenue to facilitate access to quality jobs and to get better working conditions is to encourage students to take non-university qualifying training programs like Vocational Training Programs (VTP) and Career & Technical Programs (CTP). In these non-university tracks, student graduation rates typically oscillate around 75% for VTP and 45% for CTP. What distinguishes students who achieve well and pursue their program upon graduation from those who abandon it? In the current work, two studies were carried out to examine the role of two psychological factors (the student’s certainty of vocational choice and future time perspective) and two contextual factors (student’s perception of a competitive-approach of learning in the classroom and of how teachers contextualize teaching and learning) in achievement and persistence of VTP (study 1) and CTP (study 2). Specifically, the two studies intended to evaluate a theoretical model presented in figure 1.
Figure 1: Theoretical model evaluated
The model include two psychological factors (the student’s certainty of vocational choice and future time perspective), two contextual factors (student’s perception of a competitive-approach of learning in the classroom and of how teachers contextualize teaching and learning) as well as motivation (expectations of success and subjective task value) and achievement indicators (grades, persistence). To do so, path analyses were performed on 356 VTP students (study 1) and 503 CTP students (study 2). For VTP students, motivation (expectations of success and subjective task value) is predicted by the four targeted determinants. In turn, as expected, motivation of VTP students predicts indicators of school achievement (grades and persistence). For the CTP students, only three determinants (student's certainty of vocational choice, student's future time perspective and, student’s perception of a competitive-approach of learning in the classroom) significantly predicted motivation. However, the future time perspective did not predict motivation of CTP students. In addition, expectations of success were positively related with certainty of vocational choice, negatively by competitive-orientation of the classroom and positively by contextualization. The perception of a competitive structure-approach in the classroom was negatively related to subjective task value. On the hole, in the context of CTP, it appears that subjective task value is not explained by the targeted determinants. Finally, expectations of success predicted students’ grades whereas subjective task value did not predict either of the achievement indicators in CTP, a rather surprising finding. In summary, results of these two studies do not only provide recent data about the factors predicting achievement and persistence according to the type of school/program but also about the effects of motivation on achievement indicators in these respective programs. Furthermore, these findings will have important implications to help counsellors and educators better adapt VTP and CTP programs to students’ needs.