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Reference Experimental reform in Finland
What works well in this scheme? The Finnish scheme of dual qualification (DQ) has been developed in the context of the youth education experiment started in 1992.  Completing a DQ in this scheme means completing general upper secondary studies leading to the Matriculation examination (ME) and vocational studies parallely by alternating between institutions. 2-6% of students at upper secondary education choose this opportunity. It has different roles concerning the students of general upper secondary schools and vocational schools. For general upper secondary students it allows vocationally oriented studies alongside general studies and provides vocational qualification to enter skilled occupation. For vocational students it allows enhancing general subject studies as part of their qualifications (leading to skilled occupation), with the studies being provided by general upper secondary schools, for example by allowing more demanding studies in languages or mathematics. 
    Since 1992 and the beginning of the youth education experiment, and at the first place, the DQ scheme has had a role as a way to receive formally demanded qualifications to HE. This role has been diminishing due to the changes in regulations concerning the students´ right to access HE in 1999. At present every vocational student having passed a three year vocational qualification has the formal right to enter HE. (The students of general upper secondary line still have to pass the national ME of general upper secondary schools.) Despite these changes, the DQ provision enhances educational mobility between the two different lines within the Finnish educational system  and offers an opportunity to enhance skills to HE for those students who have a clear interest in a specific vocational field. Furthermore it provides flexibility concerning study times. Also it provides entrance level skills for the labour market and skilled occupation at an earlier age as compared to the old fashioned route of taking the ME first and the vocational qualification only after this. 
What are the problems with this scheme? Based on the traditional appreciation of the ME and general studies, the Finnish DQ scheme does not actually promote developing new methods of teaching/learning. It enhances the attraction of vocational education by giving room to the status and standards of the ME in initial vocational education. While the provision of general studies preparing for the ME is mostly limited to the four obligatory subjects (mother tongue, second domestic language, one foreign language and either mathematics or humanities and sciences), the competence to higher education is limited and it does not give the students a wide background to studies in many fields at universities. Also delivery of general subjects through general upper secondary schools means disintegration of general and vocational content. Development of the ME to become more responsive to vocational demands might balance the one-sided generalisation. Because of the problems of organisation, studying for a DQ may mean longer studying/working days to students. It is presently at best an option for the capable and motivated students who have already a clear picture of their vocational orientation.
    The provision of a DQ is occasional and dependant on the interest of the local authorities and schools. The provision is not equal in the sense that it is not nationwide and organised as a clear part of the educational structure related as an opportunity to be attached to every vocational qualification. Its future depends heavily on what the HE institutions decide on their entrance level qualifications. Thus it may be thought to depend on the local cooperation between HE institutions and upper secondary institutions.
What can be learned from other schemes? The DUOQUAL project has provided tools for constructively analysing the Finnish scheme not only through the discussion and products of the project itself (workshops, case studies, topic studies, e-mail exchange) and by putting the Finnish scheme in the European context in the comparative Survey provided on the projects´ www-pages, but also by disseminating the results of the project INTEQUAL. 
    The discussion on the integrated learning processes and the differentiation of  possible levels for integrating general and vocational education presented in the conclusionary report of INTEQUAL (see figure 1 in Brown & Manning 1998, p. 46) has been helpful in recognising the features specific for the Finnish scheme and its model for integration. It highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the Finnish scheme. While the Finnish model of DQ heavily relies on the individual learning programmes and on local patterns of combining vocational and academic education, the organisation of inter-institutional cooperation between schools of different traditions sets limits for integrating vocational and academic subjects in individual programmes. The modularised curriculum that should flexibly serve students of different groups cannot be too much vocationally differentiated and specified on those parts which are common to all students. This leads to the fact that vocational students aiming at the ME may loose the vocational context of their general subject studies while pursuing enhanced qualifications for entering higher education. The contradiction is built in the logic of the educational system and cannot be overcome without seriously re-estimating the role and purpose of general upper secondary education. There is also the question whether the ME is for the purpose of higher education only or whether it may have a more explicitly accepted role as vocationally preparatory education as well. The national curriculum of general upper secondary schools and the ME guarantee the quality of students´educational skills but they are not very sensitive to the vocational application of knowledge. The results of the project INTEQUAL (see table 1 in Brown & Manning 1998, p. 47) help to understand these contradictions built in organising national vocational & academic curricula and the different qualities looked for as outcomes of education. 
    In addition to the conceptual framework mentioned above, the common analytical framework for case studies adopted in the projects INTEQUAL and DUOQUAL has been fruitful for analysing the Finnish scheme. The analytical framework brings up factors of choices after schooling and allows considering their possible effects. For example, in Finland, the high youth unemployment rate explains partly why so little respect has been paid to the DQ students´ entry to the labour market. During and even after the depression of the 1990´s, in Finland, it has been official social policy, in order to integrate youth into society, to encourage them to participate in education while there are no opportunities for employment. The “faster line to working life” may appear more attractive to administration when employment further improves and the younger age-cohorts should be available at labour market due to the diminishing size of generations. Questions related to working life relevance of qualications probably become more acute then.
   Furthermore, the out-of-school-system factors effecting the construction of vocational qualifications described by Vicenik (in Vicenik & al. 1999) underline the importance of national context and the limits of comparison and fast propositions made on the basis of a limited number of indicators. Also his models describing the integration of general and vocational education at different levels of education opens perspectives for discussing the institutional aspects of integration and continue the work started in INTEQUAL considering the possible levels of integration.
    The scheme discussed in the Greek case study is an interesting example of integration of vocational and academic studies especially at curriculum level. The Portuguese-Greek topic study on future skill demands is strong in its emphasis on the labour market perspective, which has not been so thoroughly discussed otherwise in the project. The youth education reform in Denmark in a DQ-related project (see review in FINNBASE) has been interesting in its model of providing several parallel developmental lines as open possibilities. Also, the conceptual framework of general qualifications provided in the Danish-Italian topic study is worth noting. The latest results of the Norwegian reform ´94 were interesting as the Norwegian reform had been compared to the Finnish experimental reform of upper secondary education in the project Post-16 Strategies. The project EURO-BAC, coordinated by the Austrian partner (see DQ Folder), and its example of building standards for examination comprising subject-oriented and general knowledge and skills was interesting from the perspective of the limits the Finnish ME has set for developing the DQ on the basis of inter-institutional cooperation. The GNVQ´s (see DQ Survey) might provide examples of adopting  a variety of learning styles for the completion of qualifications in the Finnish scheme.
Further reading > Analysis of scheme > topic study  > National conclusions
Author Maarit Virolainen (December 1999)

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