Shifting problems and shifting policies to reduce student drop-out: the case of vocational education policy in Denmark

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Education policy generally places a premium on raising the level of education attained by the young generation ultimately heading towards the labour market. While the rate of enrolment in post-compulsory education has risen in most countries, so too has the rate of drop-out, in particular from vocational programmes. Consequently, lowering the drop-out rate is high on a policy maker’s agenda. This chapter examines the education policies designed to reduce the prevalence of drop-out in Denmark’s vocational system. First, the chapter reviews the international research on the phenomenon of drop-out, as well as the policies that have been implemented in pursuit of improving student retention. The review identifies two pervasive ways in which the drop-out problem has been framed in both policy and research. The first locates the drop-out problem with individual students, while the second locates the problem with the educational system. This study of Danish vocational education policy examines both (i) how student attrition has been framed in different periods, and (ii) the solutions that have been prescribed in accordance with shifting conceptualisations of early school leaving. The author’s inquiry finds that the rate of student drop-out has been a cause for ongoing concern among policy makers for more than a century, and that the framing of the problem has shifted considerably over time. The problem has variously been placed with the individual apprentice, the basic structure of vocational education, the organisation of curricula, and an under-supply of opportunities for authentic training placements. This analysis finds that policies designed to reduce drop-out seem to be going in circles. Some possible explanations for inconsistencies in policy are discussed in the conclusion
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEducation Policy : Mapping the landscape and scope
EditorsSandra Bohlinger , Thi Kim Anh Dang , Malgorzata Klatt
Number of pages28
Place of PublicationFrankfurt am Main
PublisherPeter Lang
Publication date18 Aug 2016
Pages325 - 353
ISBN (Print)9783631693711
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2016

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