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Af Ida Juul og Vibe Aarkrog, DEL, oversat af
Lisbeth Østergaard, Teknologisk Institut



The Danish system of vocational education and training (VET) has been reformed at regular intervals with a view to adapting it to the ever changing demands made on young people by the labour market and society in general. Reforms are initiated when the gap between the original intentions of the education programme and real life becomes too wide. In this way, reforms may be seen as a way of solving a number of problems related to educational policy. The many reforms, and not least how often they are initiated, also reflect the increasing importance of education in our society.

The latest VET reform is no exception. The reform was initiated in recognition of the need for adaptation of, in particular, the structure of the VET system to enable the system to live up to the objectives of the government for general and vocational upper secondary education.

The criticism of the VET system has mainly been centred round the following main points:

  • The percentage of students passing exams is too low
  • Not enough students complete courses during the official duration of the study programme
  • Not enough students choose to commence further education after having completed vocational education and training

Students are forced to choose a trade or craft at the time they start in the education programme

Seen in this light, it is no wonder that the reform work has emphasised making the period of study more effective and making vocational training and education more attractive to young people. The education authorities want to attract academically minded students as well as practically oriented students. The VET system must help to bring down the number of young people who do not receive a qualifying education, and thus help to promote the Danish Ministry of Education’s aim that 95% of a youth cohort must complete a qualifying education. At the same time, the VET system must be made attractive to academically minded students by strengthening the academically qualifying elements of the education. In other words, the VET system must become more open.

Clearly, the high degree of flexibility and the opportunities for the individual being able to plan his or her own education and training will lead to a radical clash with earlier times’ curriculum planning and didactics. It is also clear that this is a matter of visions that will take both time as well as unsuccessful attempts, before the final structure can be established.

The new VET system represents a challenge to traditional thinking at several fronts.

One of the most important challenges appears to be the coincident intentions of meeting the wishes and expectations that students have to learning a specific craft and making the education broad enough to introduce students to the total occupational area and giving them the opportunity to re-evaluate their educational choices.

Through the selected articles, the purpose of this anthology is to put into perspective and discuss particular problems that have arisen out of the new VET system. In the article “Eleverne skal i fokus – tanker bag en reform” (“Students in focus – thoughts behind a reform”) by Ida Juul, Chief Inspector of Schools Roland Østerlund and Special Consultant John T. Larsen are interviewed about the thoughts that the Danish Ministry of Education had about the reform. The interview underlines that the reform, among other things, must be seen in connection with the government’s efforts to fulfil the intentions of “Education for All”. The reform should also be seen as an attempt to break down the barriers between academic and practical qualifications and thus to counteract earlier times’ “labelling” of students by, for instance, strengthening the qualifying modules of the education, and by giving the students the opportunity to re-evaluate their educational choices. Furthermore, it is emphasised that the reform’s desire to strengthen the students’ influence on their own learning and the composition of the specific elements of the education and training does not equal individualisation of learning. It expresses a desire to enhance the students’ independence, motivation, and sense of responsibility. Qualifications that are sorely needed in the labour market.

The next article “Kontinuitet og brud i erhvervsuddannelsernes udvikling” (“Continuity and breaks in the development of vocational education and training”) by Ida Juul discusses the reform in a historical perspective. The article shows how vocational education and training has developed from being mainly practically oriented to becoming increasingly school-based, and the consequences this has had for the relationship between school/ company and between general educational subjects/specialist subjects.

At the same time, the article illustrates how the VET system reflects changes in context of the society and educational policy objectives. The purpose is to illustrate the educational policy dilemmas that have characterised the different reforms in the area of vocational education and training.

The teachers unquestionably play a central role in the success of the reform. In the article “Reformen og lærerne” (“The reform and the teachers”) by Vibe Aarkrog, two teachers give their opinion about the broad education, opportunities for re-evaluating choices, the contact teacher arrangement, etc. The article points to the prospect of students being able to familiarise themselves with subjects that are not part of the concrete education and training which the students have either chosen or will choose. The teachers, however, also point to a number of barriers that make it difficult to realise the intentions of the reform. One of the barriers is the students’ (and educational counsellors’) inherent tendency to think in terms of crafts instead of job functions. Another difficulty is, on the one hand, wanting to meet the need for flexibility and making new choices; and, on the other hand, making sure that the students have both the theoretical as well as professional background for completing individual learning modules. The teachers also point to project-organised workshop-based learning and an educational practice emphasising the students’ responsibility for their “own learning” as possible ways of realising the many intentions of the reform. Finally, the article also discusses the many and new demands that are placed on the teacher, seen, for instance, in the light of the contact teacher role. As mentioned above, the educational portfolio (or logbook) and the contact teacher arrangement are two important innovations in the VET system. In the article “Nye veje i erhvervsuddannelserne” (“New roads in vocational education and training”) the authors Brian Kjær Andreasen and Lone Krog argument that the educational portfolio, among other things, will come to play a central role in the students’ ability to reflect. This is not least important because the ability to reflect has importance for the students being able to exploit the options built into the new VET system. The authors also emphasise that the ability to reflect is not only of relevance for the individual student’s ability to compose his or her own education. It is also a relevant qualification in relation to subsequent choice of profession and/or further education. Furthermore, it is pointed out that as part of the vocational education and training reform, the educational portfolio has a public as well as a private sphere. Thus, it is meant as a space for reflection but also a tool for educational planning. 

This gives rise to a number of dilemmas that the contact teacher should be aware of.

The concept “flexibility” plays a central role in the new VET system. The fact that the concept plays such a central role is because the reform’s intention is not just to make efficient existing education and training by reducing the dropout rate and new choices that do not give credits. The vocational education and training reform must also, as emphasised in the article “Valgkompetence” (“Competence to make choices”) by Lene Larsen, be seen as part of the realisation of the government’s objective “Education for All”. In this connection the concept flexibility refers to the fact that instead of a strategy building on the creation of special education offers directed at students with special learning difficulties, authorities instead want to make allowances for the differences within the existing VET system. The individual student must therefore be given the opportunity to choose an education option that matches his or hers qualifications and needs. Competence to make choices is therefore an important competence when the individual student chooses his or her own educational course of action and in relation to the many choices the individual faces in modern society. Starting with a specific case, the article illustrates that for some students it can be difficult to choose an education, and how a student’s life story may influence the specific choice situation. 


Denne side indgår i publikationen "Tanker om eud-reformen" som indhold som kapitel 7 af 7
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