At the end of compulsory education in Norway, all students have the right to upper secondary education. Particularly in vocational education and training (VET), the rate of non-completion is alarmingly high. Previous research on non-completion mechanisms generally discern between mechanisms related to institutional, educational, social or individual factors. Not getting an apprenticeship, or being forced to refrain from choosing the desired education, may increase the probability of quitting. Poor grades, low self-efficacy and low interest for subjects and the curriculum, lowers school motivation and contributes to non-completion in the next round. A lack of social relations, loneliness and bullying contributes to poor well-being and evasion strategies. Mental health, illness and other individual problems also contribute to young people giving up on their education. We know that many students in VET programmes bear one or several of these characteristics. When the risk of non-completion is apparent; what can contribute to a higher degree of completion?
The Safety-VET study aims at investigate factors of importance for completion of VET. The study departs from the fact that many VET students have a high probability of non-completion. One aspect that has been of particular focus throughout the study has been the importance of social relations. The combination of high educational and social support from the teacher does contribute to higher achievement also at VET where the academic demands are lower. Parental educational interest, encouragement and aspirations impacts on the students' aspirations and their achievement. Peers' motivation for school, aspirations or truancy can form a positive or negative social capital for VET students; pushing forward or dragging down. Female VET students in female dominated class rooms describe their class as dominated by conflicts and struggles for power, freeze-out and derogatory language - often labelled relational bullying. These are among the findings of two of the sub projects.
As a contrast to the VET students' challenges from the above mentioned risk factors, their stories about their school biographies are characterized by how they overcame hindrances, almost resembling survival stories at times. They sometimes describe very negative teacher relations, feelings of detachment and loneliness, how their parents or others meet them with negative reactions to their choice of VET, how diagnoses like ADHA or reading difficulties have impacted on them, and difficulties related to educational transitions. To counter challenges like these, they display strong convictions about their educational choice, family members that inspire them vocationally, important contacts that give them opportunities in the labour market, and strong inner motivation. In particular, their motivation for completion and learning is strengthened by authentic work place training. These placements allow them to learn and develop an identity as an adult and competent worker, which is necessary to break with the negative, demotivated learner identity of the past.
One subproject targeted a group with particular challenges; youth with previous experience of child welfare care and placements. The level of education among young adults with previous child welfare experience is particularly low. Less than 10% of these young people have higher education exams, and for 70% of the males from lower social backgrounds, compulsory education (9 years) is their highest completed level of education. This group reports lower school well-being, and a lack of friends and professional and social support from teachers to a higher degree than other students, and they more often have poor achievement levels from previous schooling. Young adults with child care experience also have a much higher probability to quit school during their upper secondary education. By the transition to their third year, as much as 60 % of them have already opted out. The difference in non-completion rates was particularly noteworthy in the transition between year 2 and year 3, and particularly in VET programs. This indicates that acquisition of a training position is challenging. Child welfare youths still have a higher probability for quitting without VET qualifications also compared to other youths with similar school achievement levels, social background and gender. This is at conflict with the Norwegian educational system's goal of equity in education. The VET system does not play the role of educational safety-net that it could, and should.
The study underlines the centrality of good social relations for school motivation among youth. Child welfare youths are often moved out of their family and neighbourhood, and loose social relations to peers, teachers and contacts who facilitates training contracts. Work based learning should be used increasingly as a measure against non-completion, starting at the compulsory school level.
The Norwegian vocational education and training (VET) system is characterized by a relatively high drop out rate. In official education policies VET aims at building high quality competence and serving social inclusion objectives simultaneously; two goals in possible conflict. The main objective of the proposed project is to generate knowledge about factors of importance for attainment in and completion of upper secondary VET among student groups with a potential risk of non-completion or drop out. This w ill be achieved by the implementation of four projects; A. Factors of importance for attainment, completion and qualification in groups of students in VET with a potential risk of non-completion or drop out. B-1. Gender segregated VET in an international comparative context. B-2. Processes of 'success' in gender segregated VET study programmes. C. VET students that receive or have received child welfare measures - aspirations, transition and completion.
The sub projects will complement and inform each ot her methodologically, theoretically and substantially. At the centre of the project are two excellent longitudinal data sets on young people's educational transitions; a three wave longitudinal survey data set of young people's educational transitions in secondary education (LUNO) and a longitudinal register data set on youth in child welfare (LCW). These data sets will be expanded with educational register data (NUDB) and LUNO will be used as a recruitment base for educational life story interviews of yo uth in gender segregated VET.
The proposed project will be hosted by NOVA, and is a cooperation between Group for youth research and Group for children and child welfare research. It will be carried out in collaboration with an international comparative project on youth in gender segregated VET based on the Swiss longitudinal study (TREE) at the University of Basel, Switzerland. An international advisory group will be appointed.