This paper reviews cross-national research and policy debates about pathways between education and work, and draws on this review to reflect on the utility of the pathways concept itself. It identifies three main uses of the concept: to analyse the relative size and role of general education, school-based vocational education and apprenticeship, respectively, in an effective transition system; to examine the relationships and interconnections between pathways; and to consider how pathways can reflect the perspectives and priorities of individual young people and enable them to manage and control their own itineraries. Pathways can be useful as an organizing concept linking policy and research, provided that the metaphor is used with precision and its unintended meanings are avoided.
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