unit 1 of 5
Norway: Vocational streams
framework of the scheme
The Reform 94 represents
an ambitious endeavour to strengthen the integration of vocational and
general education within a comprehensive, upper secondary school system
and to revitalise the apprenticeship system. The reform takes account
of national changes in the labour market and the increasing appreciation
of education as a strategic means of improving international competitiveness.
unit 2 of 5
Norway: Vocational streams
features of the scheme
The reform has three
(#) the introduction
of a statutory right for three years of education for all;
(#) advancing curriculum
The statutory right to three years of additional education on top of ten
years of compulsory schooling is legislated in a 'youth guarantee' of work
or education for all. The applicants are entitled to attend one of their
first three priority choices. For the 16-19 year olds, not in education
or employment, an administrative follow-up service has been established.
The capacity of upper secondary schools is designed to be large enough
also to ensure adults an opportunity to obtain upper secondary education.
With the exeption of the inclusion of commercial subjects in the in the
general streams leading to matriculation examinations, alterations were
small in these streams. The main model for vocational education is two
years in school and two years in apprenticeship. The number of foundation
courses has been sharply reduced from more than 100 to 13. In the second
and third year of education respectively 106 and 210 vocational specialisations
are offered. There is a discussion about reducing the number of Advanced
Courses. Matriculation requirements are defined as a minimum level of achievement
in specific subjects. The general subjects in the vocational streams include
Norwegian, English, civics, modern history, mathematics and natural science,
and constitute building blocks for matriculation.
With the active support of labour organisations, Reform 94 heralded a new
era for apprenticeship training. The reform has as a premise a vast expansion
of apprenticeship places and a qualitative upgrading of the system. The
government subsidises the enterprise-training equivalent to the student
cost of school-based training. Half the time spent on the two years apprenticeship
is reckoned as 'training', the other half as production, which are paid
for. The remuneration of apprentices will on average be half the starting
salary of a skilled worker for the 'production year'. This may increase
the attraction of training. Loans obtained for higher education make a
heavy impact on the economy of young graduates, often receiving lower salary
than young tradesmen. In recent years the labour market in Norway has changed
to the benefit of the sellers of labour, which may generate younger job
unit 3 of 5
Norway: Vocational streams
/ Map / Index
concepts underlying the scheme
General and vocational
education is rooted in traditions with distinctive learning cultures.
The differences must be recognised in the curriculum bridge-building process.
Key concepts must be reconsidered and redefined. The curriculum reform
has been guided by a manifesto designated the 'core curriculum'.
This document outlines the basic principles respecting contents and methods
in education and training at all levels except college and university studies.
The ultimate aim of education is described as the development of an 'integrated
human being' that accommodates qualities of a spiritual, creative, working,
liberally-educated, social and environmentally aware human being.
'Activity competence' (“handlingskompetanse”) was launched as a key concept
in the Commission Report which the Reform 94 is based on. This concept
was subdivided into subject knowledge, learning ability, social skills
and method competence. Although 'activity competence' was not adopted
in the curriculum development, some elements may be interpreted in this
direction: the emphasis on 'self-reliant learning', mandatory project work,
the broad conception of knowledge, subjects defined by learning objectives
rather than by subject matter etc. The conceptual framework of 'activity
competence' may prove to be a productive point of departure for integrating
general and vocational education. The focus is neither on general
subject knowledge nor on specialised vocational skills. The concept of
competence is further developed in today's authoritative documents, profiling
the image of the "integrated human being".
For every subject, specific syllabus and training support material has
been prepared in accordance with several general principles:
(#) a wide concept
of knowledge stressing a diversity of competencies;
(#) coherent syllabuses,
i.e. the syllabuses being applicable regardless of the training site;
(#) the modularization
of content in order to accommodate special needs;
environment and computer technology as constituent parts of all syllabuses.
unit 4 of 5
Norway: Vocational streams
implications of the scheme
A series of measures
has been adopted in order to support curriculum change. A Pupil's
Guide has been prepared to help students participate actively in the preparation,
implementation and evaluation of their courses with the aim of fostering
self-reliant learning. A comprehensive in-service training programme has
been implemented. Specific aspects of the implementation of Reform 94 has
been evaluated. In 1999 the final evaluation reports of this programme
were released, and a White Paper dealing with results and further actions
unit 5 of 5
Norway: Vocational streams
of the scheme's effect
The recruitment to
vocational streams increased the first years after introduction of Reform
94. The gender bias, however, has not changed very much. But more women
become trainees. There were difficulties in providing a sufficient number
of apprenticeship places. If students do not obtain apprenticeship placements,
the county educational authorities are responsible for offering an Advance
Course II in school. There is good reason for concern about the quality
and attractiveness of this option, as seen beneath (62% of this group passed
trade certificate,1998). The problem is not solved, but improved. In 1996
approximately 6.000 applicants did not obtain apprenticeship places, in
October 1999 only 770 trainees had their work place training at school,
a radical improvement.
For some years there has been a sharp increase both in numbers of apprenticeship
placements and the percent passing the tests. In 1995 the number of journeyman/trade
tests was 15.448 including 7.088 tests taken up by adults who had not participated
in ordinary vocational education. 85,5% passed the tests. In 1998 the number
of tests were 38.000. Passing rate total was 92%: 23.263 adults (93%),
13.145 apprentices /workplace trained (92%), 1.589 trainees /trained at
school (62 %).
In 1998 about 70% of vocational students (with rights /R94 + 4 years) had
completed a 3 or 2 + 2 year course. In "Engineering and Mechanical Trades"
and "Hotel and Food-Processing Trades" only 60% had completed. Near 30%
were outside the system. The follow-up service covered 7,8 % of the age
group (1998). In general streams close to 93% of the students completed
their studies on time or according to schedule. A few vocational streams
showed good progression, too. There is a decrease in applicants, and heavy
drop-out rates in streams traditionally attended by students not academically
oriented. In 1999 there has been a decrease from 1998, both in trainees
and students applying for Advanced Course II.
In 1996 more than 2.000 students from vocational streams opted for the
Advanced Course II, General Subjects Supplement in order to fulfil the
matriculation requirements. The number of students choosing these options
has increased, 6042 applied for this kind of courses in 1999.
The impact of the Reform 94 on the learning environment and learning processes
is difficult to assess. The national case study has tried to identify
various elements that influence educational practice. Of particular
interest is the national curriculum and assessment standards on the one
hand, and on the other hand the professional role of the managers and teachers
- and the understanding and practice of students' 'self-reliant learning'.
The evaluation reports points to the “Content Reform” (curriculum change)
as special problematic. Other findings corroborate this, and the White
Paper admits that it is a lot more to do in this respect.
Timetables, subject syllabuses and subject teachers are dominant frame
factors in Norwegian school organisations. The general subjects may reinforce
the academic traditions. The inclusion of all young people in upper secondary
education may force schools to reconsider established teaching practices
in order to cope with the wide range and differentiation of learning needs.
More collaboration between vocational and general subject teachers is required.
The potential of school libraries with new access to ICT networks and to
Internet information resources - in fostering students' self-reliant learning
- is very promising. The strengthening of the relationships between schools
and enterprises may open new and untraditional avenues for learning.
Of particular relevance and importance is the introduction of new systems
for assessment as portfolios of evidence. Such systems have received
support from politicians and the public at large, although they met opposition
from teacher unions. The White Paper points to different measures to be
taken for improvement of the "everyday work in the classrooms" in
order to change more in line with the intentions of the reform. That also
includes the assessment system.
Two new vocational streams or foundation courses have been decided to establish:
one in "Sale and Service" and one for "Media and Communication".
Adult education and training is under a separate law. The notion of "Life
Long Learning" is heralded as a right for everybody, connected to "The
Competence Reform" for adults (the implementation started in1999). The
number of adult applicants and participants to upper secondary schools
has decreased, but more grown-ups attend courses specially designed for
adults. And more adults sit for trade tests.
The Reform 94 has also implications for teacher training. A major reform
of Vocational Teacher Education is starting from the autumn of 2000. This
is a step-wise reform and will diminish the differences in training of
teachers of vocational and general subjects. The Reform 94 has had
a declared political ambition to strengthening vocational education within
a comprehensive education system and thereby promote parity of esteem of
vocational and general education. To what extent the reform will
succeed - and blur or erase the distinction between general and vocational
education still remains to be seen.