ERG SES C 08, Secondary Education
Introduction: The theme of my research project is Upper Secondary School dropout. More specifically, how to reduce or hinder dropout. Upper Secondary School dropout is a common phenomenon in Norway, and especially common in Finnmark, the northernmost county of Norway. Finnmark has the highest dropout rate of all counties in Norway, and only a bit more than half of the pupils finish high school within 5 years. Pupils attending different programmes-of-study drop out of school, but the absolute highest percentage is among boys who have started vocational programmes. Most of the research on Upper Secondary School dropout in Norway is large quantitative studies that focus on statistics; the number of pupils who have quit school, how many of the pupils return to school after some time, and how many of them manage to complete school within the five years they have the right to attend school. This paper, however, has a qualitative approach because a focus on the individual pupils and their experiences in school might give a clearer insight into the mechanisms of Upper Secondary School dropout.
Theoretical background: An earlier study (Bjøru, 2009), conducted by in-depth interviews with three pupils, investigated what measures the pupils found helpful in order to remain in school when they were close to dropping out. The study showed that none of the external measures that the school owner initiated (free breakfast, open gym, study workshops at the library, etc.) were important to the pupils. The three pupils highlighted normal school activities, what went on during regular school hours and in the classroom, as important; how the teacher planned activities, whether assessment situations were flexible, whether they felt that the teacher or other adults saw them and talked to them. In short, the actual classroom sessions and activities, as well as the relation between the pupil and teacher or other adults at the school were stressed as most important when they explained what measures helped them complete Upper Secondary School. From this conclusion, it is feasible to make the hypothesis that a focus on relations in the classroom and classroom activities are the most important measures in order to help pupils complete Upper Secondary School. In this paper, I plan to study classroom activities and relations in more detail and investigate whether the pupils find it important to stress the development of relational skills in school, and (if so) in what way relational skills may be a measure against dropout. Today, the term “relational competence” is often used in the general debate concerning school and education in Norway (see among others: Manger et. al. book Livet i skolen 1 from 2013 and Mellingsæter in the national newspaper Aftenposten, December 2, 2015). Social competence is sometimes referred to as the “sixth” basic skill (Roaldset in Bedre Skole, nr. 1, 2014, p. 58) and is an important aspect of education, and one of the areas of responsibility in Norwegian schools. This is also stressed through the Core curriculum and the principles given by the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (www.udir.no). Relational and social skills are as important to develop as academic- or subject skills, not only in order to secure a good learning environment during the pupils’ school days, but also to create a platform for a successful adult and working life. Do schools work to develop relational skills, and if so: how? Moreover, do the pupils find it important and useful that these skills are trained in school? And most importantly in this particular case: is a focus on relational skills in school also a measure against the high dropout rate amongst pupils?
Bjøru, Anne-Mette. 2009. Tiltak mot bortvalg. En kvalitativ undersøkelse blant elever som har vært nær ved å slutte på videregående skole. Alta: Masteroppgave i spesialpedagogikk ved Høgskolen i Finnmark. Title in English (my translation): Measures against dropout. A qualitative inquiry among pupils who have been close to dropping out from Upper Secondary School. Master thesis in Special Needs Education at Finnmark University College, Alta, Norway. Core Curriculum. English version. http://www.udir.no/globalassets/upload/larerplaner/generell_del/5/core_curriculum_english.pdf Manger, Terje et. al. 2013. Livet i skolen 1. Bergen: Fagbokforlaget. Title in English (my translation): Life in School 1 Mellingsæter, Hanne. 2015. ‘De har 99 års erfaring fra læreryrket. Slik vil de at Torbjørn Røe Isaksen skal endre norsk skole’ in Aftenposten, December 3, 2015. http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/De-har-99-ars-erfaring-fra-lareryrket-Slik-vil-de-at-Torbjorn-Roe-Isaksen-skal-endre-norsk-skole-8264440.html Title in English (my translation): ‘They have 99 years’ experience as teachers. This is how they would like Torbjørn Røe Isaksen to change Norwegian schools’ Roaldset, Dag. 2014. ‘Den sjette grunnleggende ferdighet: Sosiale ferdigheter’ I Bedre Skole, nr. 1, 2014, pp. 58-63. https://www.utdanningsforbundet.no/upload/Tidsskrifter/Bedre%20Skole/BS_1_2014/BS-0114-WEB_Roaldset.pdf Title in English (my translation): ‘The sixth basic skill: Social competence’ Udir.no. The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. Elevrelasjoner. http://www.udir.no/Laringsmiljo/Bedre-laringsmiljo/Elevrelasjoner/ Title in English (my translation): Pupil-relations. Udir.no. The Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. Sosial kompetanse. http://www.udir.no/Laringsmiljo/Bedre-laringsmiljo/Elevrelasjoner/Sosial-kompetanse/ Title in English (my translation): Social Competence.
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