02 SES 02 A, A Consideration of the Future of VET: Learning from the Nordic Countries
The parity of esteem between vocational education and general education constitutes a significant challenge in many countries. Initial VET has generally lower status than academically oriented education (Billett, 2014; Young & Raffe, 1998) and is associated with lower-status occupations and lower-paid employment compared to higher education programs (Virolainen & Stenström, 2014). In Nordic countries, a common dilemma for initial VET at secondary level is to be inclusive and provide space to non-academic students, while at the same time providing equal access to higher education to all students independent of their social background. Denmark and Sweden represent two different solutions to the dilemma of achieving these two policy objectives. This paper focuses on these challenges and how this dilemma is handled in Denmark and Sweden. In the school-based VET-system in Sweden, all educational programs give automatic eligibility for higher education (until 2011). In practice, however, transitions from school to higher education have varied and are associated with many difficulties (Lundahl & Olofsson, 2014). Unlike Sweden, the dual VET-system in Denmark with a parallel apprenticeship system has proved effective to include non-academic students and secure employment in skilled occupational work (Helms Jørgensen, 2011).The weaker connections to higher education have on the other hand contributed to greater social selection and inequality in secondary education. However, if the gap between apprenticeship and higher education could be bridged, this weakness could also be reduced.
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