VET in the Nordic countries and Progression to Higher education
The opportunity to progress from upper secondary vocational education (VET) to higher education (HE) is important for the attractiveness of the VET route in relation to general upper secondary education. VET´s parity of esteem has been a concern for national and European education policies since 1990s, due to diminishing age cohorts and a need to create more effective educational pathways (Lasonen & Young 1998). Access from VET to HE is also related to general competences built on the upper secondary level, individual lifelong-learning opportunities and career perspectives, and can promote social equality. Egalitarian policies and universal citizen´s rights unite Nordic countries societally, but their VET systems are diverse. Also, their higher education systems have been built paying attention to their particular combinations of provision and division of general and vocational education on upper secondary level. The aim of this presentation is to explore differences in how Nordic VET systems provide access to higher education. It compares the progression routes from VET to HE which Finland, Denmark, Norway and Sweden offer on the basis of the comparative data collected in the project Nord-VET (Jørgensen, 2014; Persson Thunqvist, D. & Hallqvist,2014;). The presentation utilizes the analysis of VET´s historical developments which have been completed in the project Nord-VET. First, the presentation reflects on the decisive historical turning points where the national education policies have formed the progression routes from VET to HE into their present form. Next, the patterns of participation in HE after completing VET are examined and compared. In Finland and Sweden, VET routes offer in principal universal access to higher education but Denmark and Norway have organized more diverse and selective routes from VET to HE. Denmark and Norway also allow for more differentiation between occupational fields than Finland and Sweden. While opportunity to progress to HE is important for VET´s esteem, the limited differences in levels of participation in HE after VET between Nordic countries seem to point out that the challenges for developing VET curriculum are not only bound to enabling progress to HE but more and more to enabling participation in further adult education and learning at work more generally. This seems important in particular due to changes in dominant forms of production and emerging hybrid job profiles. Also the expansion of HE system in itself has created new demands and challenges for the employability of VET graduates (see Virolainen & Stenström 2014).
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