Dually oriented qualifications in Finland
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Issue Dual qualification on upper secondary level in Finland means for the student studying both at  general upper secondary schools and vocational institutions by alternating between them in order to pass the national Matriculation Examination (ME) of general upper secondary schools and to obtain a vocational qualification.
    The issues that initiated dual qualifications (DQs) are the same for youth education and polytechnics experiments in general. On the one hand the excess of general upper secondary students with respect to higher education (HE) opportunities created pressure for structural renewal and on the other hand high cultural and status barriers between vocational and general upper secondary education resisted the change. Before the curriculum reform of vocational education in 1995, the vocational upper secondary lines were the blind alleys of the Finnish education system.
    During the experiments, the dual qualfications have mostly had the role of giving the vocational students formal eligibility to HE limited to those having passed the ME. Since the experiments were established, the regulations concerning entrance qualifications to HE have been altered. While eligiblity to HE has been given to all students having completed vocational three year upper secondary education or the ME since 1999, the role of HE institutions, universities and polytechnics (AMKs), in deciding their entrance demands and what kind of qualifications they prefer has been enhanced. The shift in regulations has made competences that DQs provide a much more central issue even though the traditional status of the ME probably continues to attract students (and HE institutions) despite the extinction of its former role as a key through the gates of HE. (M.V. 15/09/99)
Schemes of dually oriented qualifications (DQs) at upper secondary level can be found all over Europe. They have two features in common: combining vocational and general education at curriculum level and providing the option for students to enter skilled employment or higher education. 
    The Finnish pattern of DQs is unique in that students from either vocational or general education background follow personal study programmes which are based on courses at both general and vocational schools. In most other countries, DQs are offered as fully organised programmes or pathways in mostly vocational-technical institutions. (S.M. 29/9/99) 
Measure The DQs are provided in interinstitutional cooperation between general upper secondary and vocational institutions locally. In practice the schools relate their time schedules and modularisation of curricula to each other so that  students may carry out their studies by alternating between schools on a weekly or modular basis. Mostly the provision of general upper secondary studies to vocational students is focused on the obligatory subjects demanded in order to pass the ME. These subjects are mother tongue, second domestic language, one foreign language and either mathematics or humanities and sciences. Decisions of provision for DQs are made locally because the decision making power has been transferred from the central administration to communities.
    In the school law reform of 1999, two central aspects of the experiments were adopted to the national education system. The organizers of upper secondary education are demanded to cooperate regionally and students have the right to include studies from other schools as a part of their personal study programmes. Futhermore, a proposition for the development plan for education and university research for the period 1999-2004 pays attention to the need of adopting flexibility in the national core curricula of general upper secondary and vocational institutes so as to enhance opportunities for building personal study programmes. In addition, development of the ME to become more responsive to vocational contents has been considered. The proportion of students choosing DQ (2-6% of those at upper secondary education) may appear quite limited while the share of those continuing their studies after compulsory education is high in Finland (over 90%). However, the number of DQ students has been rising and many communities have reported plans to extend its provision. (M.V. 15/9/99)
The Finnish pattern of personal study programmes for DQs is matched by collaborative efforts between schools to interrelate general and vocational courses and identify core subjects. This approach requires a high degree of flexibility and responsibility on the part of the schools involved. It may set an example within European-wide endeavours of enhancing the role of individual schools in the education process. Also, the stimulus students get in this scheme for developing competences of self-directed learning is worth noting. However, the extent to which curricular integration of vocational and general education can be achieved by means of these local schemes may be limited.
    Altogether, the 'grass-roots' programmes of DQs are essential for raising the attractiveness of vocational education whereas formal regulations of access to higher education via vocational strands may achieve little on their own. (S.M. 29/9/99)
Impact Students´ two central  reasons for choosing DQ are an orientation to a specific vocational career and consideration of future study and career opportunities. From the perspective of HE, the DQs are in the interest of  higher vocational education institutions (AMKs) wishing to have students who are both theoretically and practically/vocationally capable. Possibility to participate in the ME makes initial vocational education look more attractive due to the traditional status it has. It promotes possibilities to participate in more demanding courses for instance in language studies and thus it may also address more competent students. From the society´s point of view, faster lines to working life appear tempting when the Finnish society is facing a diminishing size of age cohorts.
    Four major problems are related to DQs concerning students. Firstly, focusing  the provision of general subjects on obligatory subjects demanded in the ME, it does not actually give students wide background for studies in many fields at universities. Secondly, delivery of general subjects through general upper secondary schools means disintegration of general and vocational content. Thirdly, organisatory aspects demand  consideration because they make studying for DQ partly heavier than ordinary studying.  Also the provision of DQs is occasional and they are not available in all communities.
    The future role of DQs depends on  administrative decisions made. The dual qualifications could have a positive role as an intermediating way if they were developed in close cooperation with HE institutions regionally considering the critical points mentioned above, especially ME´s responsiveness to vocational contents and development of cooperation. The study results show that participation in DQ programmes has given vocational students confidence in their ability to survive in education and clarified their vocational aims. These are important results from the perspective of motivation to HE, further education and life long learning and they underline the value of developing DQs. (M.V. 15/9/99) 
As in several other European countries, the higher vocational (rather than academic) institutions both attract and profit from DQ holders (e.g. De, En, NL, Sc). There seems to be little emphasis in the Finnish context on promoting direct entry for DQ students to the labour market. Instead, they may take up occupational careers after finishing tertiary education (contrary to the envisaged "faster line to working life"). 
    As in other countries, DQs in Finland are part of major reform initiatives at secondary and tertiary level (see DK, NO, SE) involving far-reaching changes in the structure of courses and qualifications (see AT, En, NL). Indeed, linkages between DQ pathways and HE courses are critical in facilitating progression. The experience with 'bridging courses' (see NL) may be worth considering.  (S.M. 29/9/99) 
Reference Contextualized descriptions and analyses of the youth education experiments are available in  the interim and final report of the Leonardo Project Post -16 Strategies, including Numminen & Virolainen 1996a, Virolainen 1996a, Virolainen et. al.1998a. Recent results of the youth education experiments are presented in Finnish  in Numminen & al. 1999a and Virolainen 1999a.  A national case study on the DQs in Finland has been prepared by Virolainen 1999a for the Leonardo project DUOQUAL.  A case study discussing  the example of DQs located in the city of Lahti is available in Vuorinen & Mäkinen 1999a. (M.V. 15/9/99)  A comparative analysis of DQs  across Europe, including the Finnish scheme, is available online as major result of the Leonardo projects INTEQUAL/ DUOQUAL, edited by Manning 1998a. Details of the national schemes referred to above are included in this online base. (S.M. 29/9/99) 
Author Maarit Virolainen Sabine Manning

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