02 SES 01, VETNET Opening Session: Reflecting Trends and Challenges in Nordic VET-systems
VETNET Opening Session
The Nordic countries are seen as representing a common model of education related to the universal welfare state. The core of this Nordic model of education is the comprehensive, free and unified public school system. While this egalitarian model has been realised for the nine-year compulsory school, no common model of upper secondary vocational education (VET) exist. Though these countries share the ideals of social inclusion and equal educational opportunities for all, they include two opposite models of VET. Sweden has realised the unified Gymnasium for all, comprising academic and vocational programmes that offer all students eligibility for higher education. Denmark has maintained a selective upper secondary school education and a VET-system based on the apprenticeship model. Finland and Norway represent mixed systems that combine elements from these system.
By comparing VET-systems in the Nordic countries, we have found that they represent different solutions to common basic trade-offs for VET. The unified Swedish system has given priority to secure equal access for all young people to higher education, but it has weak connections to the labour market. It is not very inclusive for young people opting for the labour market, and it does not offer direct access to employment. The Danish apprenticeship system provides effective transitions to the labour market, but does not offer general eligibility for higher education. This can be seen as a trade-off for VET between social equality in education and social inclusion in education. Both aims are part of the ideal of the Nordic model, but are difficult to realise at the same time. It is hard to promote social integration and inclusion of weak learners in VET and, at the same time, to increase the esteem of VET for ambitious youths and for the training companies. However, the Nordic VET-systems offer examples of reforms and innovations that try to overcome these trade-offs.
One type of reforms include initiatives to improve the linkages from VET to the labour market. Of special interest are the new intermediary institutions between education and work, and new types of partnerships between vocational schools and training companies. This includes the Norwegian training offices, the Finnish skills demonstrations, the Swedish Health and Technical Colleges, and the Danish Training Centres. Another type of reforms include initiatives to improve the linkages between VET and higher education, especially the introduction of new hybrid programmes that combine work-based training placement with eligibility for higher education. This includes the YSK (TAF) programmes in Norway and the EUX programmes in Denmark. The presentation discusses the institutional embeddedness of these initiatives and the opportunities for policy learning across different VET-systems. The presentation draws on four case-based, empirical studies of the evolution of four Nordic VET-systems resulting in 12 research reports http://nord-vet.dk/.
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