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Open Youth Education (FUU) in Denmark
DK-01-C7 
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Issue The VET reform of 1989 was set up to provide answers to many of the needs of the Danish labour market. But to tackle the problems of increased social exclusion, particularly dropout problems in youth education, a new political focus was established in 1993 to come closer to the aim: that more than 95% of all young people shall complete a post-16 education leading to formal competencies, either giving access to higher education or to work. Since 1993 the overarching goal for educa-tional policy has been education and training for ALL young people, with the ambition to reduce the dropout rate to 5-10% from the 1993 rate of some 25%. Most of the 1993 “Education for All” action plan has now been implemented. The overall target of the plan was to create a more flexible, efficient and student-centred system of youth education up to 2000. The dropout rate has been reduced by 50% during the 1990´s. One interesting innovation in the plan was the so-called 'open youth education' which was established in 1994. (S.N. 28/10/99)  Denmark, like many other countries in Europe, has been looking for a solution to the problem of drop-out in upper secondary education, particularly in vocational education, where drop- out rates have been high in Denmark: in the early 1990s, nearly a quarter of Danish young people dropped out of their vocational programme. A reform of vocational education and training has succeeded in halving this rate. The Danish vocational education reform stemmed from a wish to create a better fit between education and the needs of working life, but other innovations have also been introduced, among them Open Youth Education. By way of comparison, in Finland a good 10 per cent of vocational students and 3-4 per cent of general upper secondary school students drop out of education. (U.N. 31/05/01)
Measure The Open Youth Education constitutes a two-year programme designed by the young person and consisting of modules from existing programmes and maybe combined with periods of work and travel abroad. The programme was established as an offer for those students who cannot or do not wish to complete an ordinary youth education. Approx. 1% of a youth cohort start on the programme. Depending on the composition of the programme, it may give access to tertiary education. Learners are required to take responsibility for their own learning processes. Self-direction and self-organisation are developed as key skills in a field where career paths often cannot be planned. The course must consist of at least three parts – including a minimum of 40 weeks at school. After completion a certificate is awarded. The programme is primarily organised as a general education course and is not leading to any formally recognised qualification as each individual specifies the content of the course to his or her wishes and needs. The programme is based on the tradition and values of the people´s high school, a strongly established tradition in Danish education. (S.N. 28/10/99)  The Open Youth Education programme caters for young people with low motivation for mainstream education. The study programmes are individually constructed by the students themselves and can include training, work and periods spent abroad, such as work and travel. 
The pedagogic or educational objectives of the programme, encouraging young people to themselves construct their study programmes and to take responsibility for their own learning, are important. Mainstream schooling, where every student receives the same education, has had little room for such flexibility. At the same time it is understandable that the programme has raised questions, such as those concerning the educational guidance needed for its successful delivery and the nature of the access to further and higher education that the students will acquire. (U.N. 31/05/01)
Impact The Open Youth Education has become popular among young people. The number of students are double the number expected in the 1993 Act on FUU. The programme was intended for the residual group, but at least 50% of participants today have other and stronger competencies than expected. Today the FUU is seen as an alternative to the ordinary competence conferring courses. The government and the social partners have a critical view on the FUU scheme: during the last five years a lot of resources and energy has been invested to create diversity and differentiation by creating new courses. The focus has been very much on building up alternative programmes attractive enough to motivate and engage the weaker groups of young people to stay on in education instead of innovating the existing programmes. Allowing greater freedom for the individual learner has turned out to be an attractive offer; consequently, the new VET Reform 2000 in Denmark is based on ideas from the FUU in the sense that individual pathways to learning combined with tutorial support will be an essential part of the new reform. A changed balance in the curriculum between requirements of the system and flexible and individual choice is clearly preferred by young people. The example set by the FUU scheme has thus had an impact on the ordinary VET programmes. (S.N. 28/10/99)  Once implemented, Denmark's Open Youth Education became a popular alternative among young people at the same time as the targets that the students set themselves were higher than had been expected. Accordingly, the outcome has been the introduction of individualised study programmes also to other sectors of VET in Denmark.
    It is interesting to compare the results with those of Finland. The Youth-Level Education Pilot project of 1991-2001 has allowed young people to construct their study programmes from a range of studies offered locally as general upper secondary schools and vocational schools have adjusted their education and training provision to enable young people to take courses in more than one educational establishment. The results parallel those of Denmark. 1) An unexpected number of students have done courses taught in other establishments: about a third of all students have diversified, deepened or broadened their study programmes by including studies in other establishments. 2) The young people set themselves ambitious targets. Vocational students have taken up the new opportunities to improve their eligibility for further and higher education. For example, vocational students have done general upper secondary school courses or taken the Matriculation Examination simultaneously with completing their vocational qualifications.
    While broadening one's competencies is important from the point of view of the young people themselves, the educational effects of expanded student choice must be seen as the most essential result: an opportunity to have a say in the construction of one's own study programme can lead to improved self-regulation and, more generally, to enhanced mastery of one's life and create, in the long term, foundations for lifelong learning. (U.N. 31/05/01)
Reference A description of the broad initiatives related to “Education for All”, including the Open Youth Education, is given in Nielsen (forthcoming CEDEFOP monograph on the Danish VET system). A comparative analysis of the Nordic countries´ very different approaches to integration of all young people is provided by Nielsen et al 1996a (Nordic Response to a pan-European Challenge). An evaluation of the FUU scheme is presented by PLS Consult 1999a (1. Delrapport Januar 1999); more detailed information is available  online. Broad information on all aspects of the FUU programme can be obtained from the FUU Secretariat in Copenhagen. (Kompagnistræde 20A, DK1208 København K, E-mail den-fri@fuu.dk). (S.N. 28/10/99)  Numminen et al. 2001 (U.N. 31/05/01)
Author Soeren P Nielsen Ulla Numminen

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