When is an academic degree the best vocational education? Bedouin professionals reflect on their life choices

Esther E. Gottlieb, Smadar Ben-Asher, Kassim Alsraiha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


We test Foster’s enduring assertion that “the best vocational education is an academic degree” by examining a case study of Israeli Bedouin women and men, young professionals who shared with us their personal stories of their parents taking them out of their local separate but equal schools and moving them to the majority schooling system. The narratives we collected enabled us to follow the education journey of Bedouin children whose achievements are attributable not to institutional initiatives but to grassroot alternatives where parents and their children secured their own vocational future. We outline the professional journey of 16 men and women who moved to a Kibbutz school, mastered the majority language, matriculated, and confidently acquired academic degrees. Their narratives attest to professionalization and self-fulfillment but also awareness of the context of their upbringing and the daily pressures to sustain their social equilibrium. These young professionals fashioned themselves in the interstices between identities, developing both a hunger to participate in the global marketplace and loyalty to the local. Ending up holding jobs that contributed to their own society, and refusing to perform stereotypically minoritized vocational identities, they achieved the kinds of lives they have reason to value. Compelled to honor their journeys, we conclude that our case study corroborates Foster’s finding that the best vocational education is an academic degree, as reflected in professional achievement and enhanced opportunities for social mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168-181
Number of pages14
JournalDiaspora, Indigenous, and Minority Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education


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