Improving completion rates in upper secondary education

Hanne  Shapiro

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Improving completion rates in upper secondary education

Danish Technological Institute has identified and analysed ten trends and drivers of change in relation to completion of upper secondary education.

The Danish Government aims to increase completion rates of upper secondary education to 95%. Currently, too many students drop out of upper secondary education. The challenge mainly concerns vocational education and training but the drop-out rate from general upper secondary education is also high. The Region of Southern Denmark wished to address these challenges and improve the completion rates in upper secondary education. As a part of this work, Danish Technological Institute was contracted to conduct a literature review of existing research and knowledge on factors that impact completion rates.

In the project, which ran from March 2009 to May 2009, Danish Technological Institute identified 10 factors which have an impact on whether youngsters enrol in and complete upper secondary education:

  • Adequate skills. Students need to be equipped with the right set of professional, interpersonal and personal skills to complete the education.
  • Guidance. Young people need to receive good and useful guidance in primary school, and extra attention should be given to disadvantaged youths. Guidance centres are responsible obliged to give special attention to disadvantaged youths. However, research indicates that more action is needed. In particular, a challenge is the cooperation between schools, the municipalities, jobcentres and guidance centres.
  • More choice and complexity in the education system makes the choice of upper secondary education more confusing.
  • Boys are lagging behind girls in educational attainment and the educational programmes are still very gender segregated.
  • Shortage of apprenticeship companies. Students in vocational education and training are more likely to drop out if they do not succeed in finding a company for their apprenticeship.
  • Quality of teaching. Students in vocational education and training complain about the quality and level of teaching.
  • Ageing teachers. Many teachers are close to pension age and this implies that new teachers should be educated and recruited as quickly as possible.
  • Psychical teaching environment. The well-being of students and a good physical teaching environment are essential for retaining students in education.
  • More focus on retaining students in education. The Danish government has initiated a range of measures to improve the completion rates of upper secondary education and make the Danish education system more inclusive.

As part of the project, Danish Technological Institute also conducted a synthesis on future skills needs in Southern Denmark.