Qualification and social inclusion in upper secondary VET – Longitudinal studies on gendered education and marginalized groups

Reseacher Kristinn Hegna, Oslo and Akershus university college of applied science

In an international comparative perspective, the Norwegian educational system can be characterized as universalist, with its comprehensive education and focus on inclusion, gender equality and reduction of social inequalities (Verdier 2008). Accordingly, the Norwegian VET system can be described as guided by two, possibly conflicting, goals, resting on two separate understandings of the purpose of vocational training (Hegna et al. forthcoming).

On the one hand, VET is central to the sustainability, innovation and economic development of society, and VET’s foremost aim is to qualify competent and skilled workers (Ministry of Education and Research 2008). On the other hand, VET is seen as a safety net for low achievers, de-motivated students or “theory tired” students where completing a vocational education represents the ticket to social inclusion and subsequent employment (Ministry of Education and Research 2006).

Is the Norwegian VET system able to achieve its goal of skills formation and social inclusion, i.e. completion of VET by groups at risk of non-completion? This important question forms the backdrop of Safety-VET - Qualification and social inclusion in upper secondary VET.

The presentation will address the question of completion of vocational education in two groups at risk of non-completion of vocational education. The first is VET students characterized by well-established risk factors for non-completion; male gender, poor prior achievement, low motivation or hindrances in the form of reading difficulties/ADHD. After two years of school-based learning, the male VET students must find an apprenticeship position, and manage to complete their trade certificate. Do they manage? What characterizes the educational trajectories of those who do manage?

The other group which will be adressed is youths in VET that have received child welfare support at one time of their life. Many of these students are in dire need of completing an education to be able to provide for themselves from the age of 18. What is the share of these youths that complete their upper secondary education, and are VET better suited to support the processes of success in education?

The analyses are based on qualitative and quantitative data.