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Iceland: VET attractiveness challenge for policy makers

About half of the students in Iceland’s upper secondary schools believe that vocational education and training (VET) would be a more suitable option than general education.

One of the most comprehensive youth welfare studies, Youth in Iceland – upper secondary schools, has shown that around half of the surveyed upper secondary learners (49%), regardless of their current study programme, think that vocational studies would suit them better than general education. This seems illogical, given that 85% of those who enter upper secondary education (age 15) select general education (matriculation programmes), while  VET enrolment is only 13% (Statistics Iceland, 2018). Most learners would like their studies to have more electives. More specifically, around 66% of upper secondary, general education learners would be interested in taking more VET courses, which may suggest that an even greater proportion of students are interested in finding out whether VET could be more suitable for them.

Considering the apparent contradiction in these different numbers, it seems clear that there is a mismatch between the actual choice of study line and the desired one. It might be worth investigating if this is the result of lack of opportunities, social pressures from parents in favour of general education, or student counselling. Policy makers now face a double challenge: identify and eliminate the factors that damage VET attractiveness, so increasing VET enrolment, and integrate VET courses into general upper secondary curricula to satisfy learner demand.

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