05 SES 11 A, Urban Education & Children and Youth at Risk
Parallel Paper Session
The paper takes a close look at young people’s transitions between lower secondary and upper secondary education in Denmark. In the Danish context there is a political focus on the need to reform the educational system, to renew the particular characteristics of the Nordic traditions and establish more flexibility within the system. The paper intends to address these issues on the basis of systematic readings of recent research
The Danish system involves comprehensive schools covering both primary and lower secondary education. At the age of 16/17 years the students need to choose between two types of upper secondary education: General education which qualifies for access to higher education and vocational education which qualifies for access to the labour market.
In Scandinavia in general there is a strong tradition for comprehensive schools at the level of lower secondary education which means that students are not divided into different academic levels. This is in contrast to other educational systems which entails a stronger focus on assessing the pupils every year and on the basis of this assigning them to a suitable grade.
At a policy level a rather ambitious goal has been set. 95 % of Danish pupils are expected to take a course of further education/ upper secondary education by 2015 after they have left compulsory education.
This is a very ambitious goal and according to research, it has proven to be a difficult one to attain.
Several important strategies have been used so far in working towards this goal:
- A focus on prevention of dropout within the upper secondary schools
- Educational guidance before and during the transition
- The use of educational plans as tools for students, parents and councillors
- Specialised programs during the last years of lower secondary schools which involves a strong focus on practical skills and workplace training
There are some signs that these different instruments are not sufficient and there seem to be a need to establish more flexible and differentiated pathways for students with different motivations, abilities and needs within the educational system. The paper asks the following research question:
- What kind of empirical evidence can be identified concerning the reasons why the goal of 95 % of Danish pupils attending a course of further education/ upper secondary education is so difficult to attain?
- What do we know so far about the results of the different strategies that have been put into effect and does research point to the need for further initiatives?
Substantial work has been done in order to prevent drop out, e.g. by attempting to identify groups and individuals that are at risk. The paper will argue that the ambitious goal will not be reached without reforming the educational system, preferably in a way that makes it possible to maintain key features of the present comprehensive system.
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