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Sweden - Strengthening vocational skills: introducing a reformed upper secondary school

ReferNet Sweden

Thousands of Swedish teenagers have these past months not only started their upper secondary studies but also marked the beginning of a new reform. Adopted in 2010 the reform aims at increasing throughput and better adapting education programmes to requirements in different sectors and occupational areas. For students in IVET programmes changes include new admission requirements, study pathways and the introduction of a vocational diploma.

A thorough reform of the upper secondary school, including IVET programmes, is now being implemented in Sweden, better preparing graduates for an occupation or for further academic studies. New vocational programmes will strengthen students’ skills in the preparation for working life. As a consequence more time is to be dedicated to vocational subjects, and vocational programmes will no longer automatically provide the subjects and credits needed for entrance to university. Nevertheless all pupils attending VET programmes are to be given the possibility to study the required subjects within the scope of the programme or by taking additional credits within the upper secondary school or via adult education.

Throughput are to be strengthened and allow for more students to leave upper secondary school with pass grades. Admission requirements to vocational programmes have been reinforced. Previously, pass grades in Swedish, English and Mathematics were needed to access upper secondary school. Now, in addition, pass grades in five more subjects are required for admission. Five different introduction programmes have been designed for pupils that do not meet these entry requirements.

The reform also stresses the importance of equivalence and transparency as an answer to the past years’ increased diversification of study programmes. The wide range of courses and specifically designed programmes made it difficult for students, parents and other stakeholders to get an overview and to understand and asses the output of the different study pathways. Therefore, with a few exceptions, only national programmes and orientations will be allowed. Furthermore IVET national councils will support the Swedish National Agency for Education in the development of steering documents and curricula that are relevant for labour market needs. They also play an active role in quality assurance.

Lastly within the 12 IVET programmes two different pathways will be possible: apprenticeship or school-based learning. In the case of apprenticeship more than 50 % of the studies should consist of work-based learning. In both cases the programmes will lead to a final vocational diploma.