23 SES 08 B, Effective Upper Secondary Education
The average European participation rate of 18-year-olds in education has risen from 71.2 to 79.2 per cent the last decade (Eurostat, 2012). The rate of Sweden has been between 93 and 96 during this period, a participation that can only be compared to Finland’s. The Swedish upper secondary school system has been integrated since the 1970s (cf. Opper, 1989; Lundahl, et al 2010) and since the 1990s it consists of three year programmes – vocational programmes or preparatory programmes for higher education studies. However, a number of young people have not attended these. The last decade, eight per cent have participated in the individual programme, which has included a myriad of educational arrangements’ for students who had not fulfilled the eligibility requirements for the regular programmes, or for various reasons did not attend a national programme.
The amount of students participating in the individual programme became a political issue and was publicly debated, and in 2008 pointed out as “the most unsuccessful contribution of all in the Swedish educational system” by the Minister of Education. Apart from the amount of students, the critique focused the high drop-out rates (28 %), and poor throughput: in the end less than a fourth who started the programme eventually completed a regular programme in upper secondary education. In 2011, a major reform of upper secondary education was carried out with the purpose of improving throughput in upper secondary education and raising the quality (Govt. bill 2008/09:199). The eligibility requirements from compulsory school to both VET programmes and academic programmes were raised and the individual programme was ‘abolished’. Instead five “introductory programmes” were established. These, as expressed in English, “should give students who are not eligible for a national programme an individually adapted education, which satisfies students’ different educational needs and provides clear educational routes. The introductory programmes should lead to establishment on the labour market and provide as good a foundation as possible for further education” (Skolverket, 2012, p. 33).
In a research project funded by the Swedish Research Council, we have studied the reorganizing of upper secondary education for students who do not fulfill the eligibility requirements for regular programmes. Theoretical framework has been organization theory as outlined by Czarniawska (2008) as a theory of action nets. The approach implies the studying of actions (doings and makings) in practices. Research questions in focus in this paper are: How are the five introductory programmes presented in the upper secondary ordinance - what are the motives and what categories of students are expressively aimed to attend the different introductory programmes? What patterns of local organizing of the five “clear educational routes” can be distinguished? What is the allocation of economic resources to the five programmes – does it differ among municipalities, and how? A final critical question is in regards to the development of the increased participation rate in Europe: what can be learnt from the Swedish reform of establishing stricter eligibility requirements to regular programmes and “clearer educational routes” for those outside regular programmes?
Eurostat (2012): 18-year-olds in education. Participation rates, all levels (%) http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/tgm/table.do?tab=table&init=1&language=en&pcode=tps00060&plugin=1 Government Bill 2008/09:199: Högre krav och kvalitet i den nya gymnasieskolan. [Higher demands and quality in the new upper secondary school. In Swedish], Fritzes, Stockholm. Lundahl, L., Erixon Arreman I., Lundström, U. & Rönnberg, L. (2010). Setting Things Right? Swedish Upper Secondary School Reform in a 40-Year Perspective. European Journal of Education, 45(1) pp. 45-59 Skolverket 2012: Upper Secondary School. www.skolverket.se Czarniawska, B. (2007): Shadowing and Other Techniques for Doing Fieldwork in Modern Societies. Malmö: Liber. Czarniawska, B. (2008): A Theory Of Organizing, Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. Opper, S (1989). Sweden: the ’integrated’ upper secondary school as main provider of vocational education. European Journal of Education, 24 (2), 1989, pp. 139-157.
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