High school is definitely not for everyone. People are individuals and have different interests, different aims, they also mature at different rates and have differing learning styles. It is these differences that are accelerated in the teenage years and result in the fact that high school may not be the most productive environment for all students.
The main purpose of high school is to prepare and pass examinations needed to enter college to study academic subjects. However, not everyone has the desire or motivation to attend college for these subjects. They may want to follow in their parents footsteps in blue collar work, or work at the family business.
Everyone should be encouraged to reach a basic level of literacy and numeracy, at level needed to function in everyday life and to attend college at a later date if they so choose. Education higher than this, once students are around 14 should be flexible to allow alternative ways of preparing for work, apprenticeships while attending college for example.
Educational psychologists have found that in order to learn effectively a student needs to have a desire to succeed, to have an interest, a final goal to reach. If a pupil has no goal or interest in succeeding in a subject they will not learn effectively. Their time would be better used elsewhere, developing skills that would be relevant in their lives.
Some people are more hands on and have little use or desire for academic achievement. They may have a talent or skill that they wish to pursue. These students at present are forced to stay at school. Studying subjects that they have no interest or talent in. Teachers are forced to teach students that do not want to be taught. Fellow peers are forced to be disrupted and sidetracked by friends who have no desire or interest to learn. It would be beneficial to a if the student could achieve in another direction.
One of the arguments for maintaining compulsory school education for all until 16 are the social aspects. However, if the option was available to study for a trade at college they could still enjoy sports, social pursuits just as much as in school. The whole ethos of college is different than school; students are treated as adults, and are expected to be more responsible for their own work, hand in dates and assignments. This is an approach that would be a definite advantage for some students who are mature and ready for a more adult environment.
It is merely common sense to have options in place to ensure all students can achieve the skills that are relevant and appropriate to their needs and desires. We would not force an academic to train as a mechanic. So why force a potential skilled manual worker to waste their time studying subjects that do not interest them or have no use for them? It is a waste of time and resources. It is not good for the student, the teacher or fellow students. If alternatives are not provided we will continue to have high school drop outs that do not take up training of any kind.