Education policy: Mapping the landscape and scope

by Sandra Bohlinger (Volume editor) Thi Kim Anh Dang (Volume editor) Malgorzata Klatt (Volume editor)
©2016 Edited Collection 560 Pages


This book maps recent developments in the landscape of education policy in higher and vocational education, the returns of education, curriculum design and education reforms, driven by social, economic, political and cultural factors. Contributed by over twenty authors from five continents, this collection provides diverse, innovative and useful perspectives on the ways education policy is researched, implemented and enacted. It helps researchers, policy makers, students and practitioners to better understand processes of policy making, its theory, practice and outcomes. Despite national differences, many shared features and challenges emerge from this book as education systems face the common need to reinvent their existing systems and processes.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • List of contents
  • Foreword by Lyn Yates
  • On the notion of education policy: Mapping its landscape and scope
  • Part One: Education policy in higher education
  • Progress and prospects of the online revolution in higher education
  • More autonomy, more control, less funding: Trends and tensions in the system-level governance of Australian universities
  • Higher education privatisation in Kuwait: Global influences on national policy decisions
  • The Profession-Oriented Higher Education Project in Vietnam: When curricular knowledge is at stake
  • Challenges of governance in Korean higher education
  • Faculty development in Japanese universities
  • Assessment task design in the context of ‘conservative modernisation’
  • Understanding practices, informing policies: Voices from an English language teacher education innovation in Vietnam
  • Part Two: Education policy in general and Vocational Education and Training (VET)
  • Elite, democratic, economic: Three phases in the development of Australian senior secondary certificates
  • Separating the sheep and the goats – vocational programs in Victorian schools
  • Tertiarisation of Vocational Education and Training and its implications – problems and issues in Germany and France
  • Immigrant students’ educational pathways in Spain: Reflections on their engagement in vocational courses
  • Shifting problems and shifting policies to reduce student drop-out – the case of vocational education policy in Denmark
  • Part Three: Reforming education policy
  • Education reforms and youth transitions in Central Europe – the case of Poland
  • Policy borrowing and policy learning in the initial VET reforms of Lithuania after 1990
  • Echoes of Europeanisation? Education for development and international integration in Mongolia
  • Part Four: Education policy at the crossroads of labour markets and the economy
  • Occupational standards in the English-speaking world: A dysfunctional product for export?
  • The roles and purposes of qualifications, their relationship to the labour market and how this helps to shape educational pathways
  • Framing employability: A case from Australia
  • Validation of non-formal and informal learning in Europe: Research, policies, legitimacy and survival
  • Economics of education: From theory to practice
  • Authors’ Biographies

← 8 | 9 →

Foreword by Lyn Yates

Today education policy is a focus of unprecedented attention by governments and supra-national bodies, and also by researchers who seek to analyse this phenomenon. There is a widespread assumption of a causal relationship between education arrangements on the one hand and national economic flourishing or failure to thrive on the other. New global data mechanisms developed by the OECD and the many university rankings industries produce cycles of heightened national competitive anxieties about relative performance. Changing forms of work and distributions of work between countries produce repeated revisions of national vocational education policies as to what should be emphasized and how that education or training should be framed. Policy borrowing between countries or agencies is rife. New fashions are seen in how education should be managed, organized, made accountable, made efficient. In other words, this book, Education policy: Mapping its landscape and scope, is a very timely contribution indeed to the education and policy literatures!

The first thing that strikes one about this edited volume is its impressive scope. The range of chapters really does illustrate something of the enormous range of academic work now taking place in the education policy field – in their countries and objects of study, in the themes they take up, and in the theories and concepts they bring to bear on their questions. The book ranges across general, vocational and higher education, and charts and analyses developments taking place in Kuwait, Vietnam, Korea, Australia, Japan, Germany, Spain, France, Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Mongolia, and South Africa, as well as taking up the wider focus of Europe and of global movements.

This is a very broad scope indeed, and a number of things I think are notable and distinctive about the way this particular collection has been put together and the kind of contribution it makes to the education policy literature.

First, although this book includes discussions of policy developments across the education sectors, at the heart of it is a particular interest in the relationship between education, labour markets and individual careers. As a result of this focus, in this book it is vocational education purposes and effects that are particularly scrutinized, whether as a separate VET sector, or in the lenses being brought to general and higher education. In this sense the collection overturns a common emphasis. In education policy work, the scale and impact of general education, or the prestige and ‘knowledge economy’ effects of higher education, often dominate the attention of both politicians and academics. In this collection, questions about the vocational are at the heart of the agenda. ← 9 | 10 →

Many readers of this book will be likely to read selectively, and treat this book as a reference source for the particular countries or sectors on which they themselves are working. But if we take the collection as a whole, a second distinctive feature here (from my perspective in Australia at least) is that in terms of national focus, the collection de-prioritises the US/UK/China focus that is already so well travelled in many writings and asks us to see the education policy questions through a more diverse range of national settings. Courtesy of the location of its editors, Sandra Bohlinger, Thi Kim Anh Dan and Malgorzata Klatt, the book does pay particular attention to Europe, Vietnam and Australia. But it offers a diversity that extends well beyond that. It is a collection that provides national examples without an implicit dominating national norm, and again this is a very interesting foundation for considering the big policy questions from which the authors begin.

Reading the table of contents and the authors’ brief biographies also suggests other features that are tacit yet important elements of the policy analyses presented here. In the past, ‘comparative’ collections and journals frequently offered country studies either written by and within the concerns and agendas of a particular country (‘methodological nationalism’ as it is now commonly called), or, conversely, offered a perspective on an exotic or colonial context from within the frameworks of a dominant ‘Western’ narrative or theoretical framework of the researcher (whether American, German, French or British). The sign that we are now in a different kind of global era is evident in the brief bio notes on the contributors here. The majority of these writers have extensive lived experience in more than one national context. They often have deep knowledge both of the country where they were born and its traditions and concerns, and of another country where they may have studied at university, or moved to work in academia. They are able to see what is changing as policies and as policy frameworks in both places, and are more sensitised to the absences.

Finally, this volume has been initiated by and edited by three younger scholars (three women – not a common feature of the education policy field!) who are all people whom I personally admire. They have included in their volume a sprinkling of excellent chapters by very well established names in this field, but to some extent it is also a collection of newer voices in the field offering fresh and vigorous perspectives on work they first began to develop in their doctorates and are now taking into their research careers. In this case it may signal the beginning of new networks and conversations and questions, ones for which this collection provides an important set of starting points.

Lyn Yates

July 2016

← 10 | 11 →

Sandra Bohlinger, Thi Kim Anh Dang & Malgorzata Klatt

On the notion of education policy: Mapping its landscape and scope

1.  On the notion of education policy

Education policy is a complex policy field that falls on the borderlines between education, economic policy and social policy. According to Callewaert (2006, 767), policy is “a set of guidelines within a ‘governing text”’. At the same time, policy is a product and a process that ‘is still being made, and re-made as it is being implemented’ (Bowe et al. 1992, 14).

Policy is closely linked with the notion of power, which in turn can be defined as ‘a relation between people, and is expressed in simple symbolic notation’ (Dahl 1957, 201).

In the diverse constructions of policy, Jones (2013, 3ff.; see also Ball 1994; Bell & Stevenson 2006, 17f.) identifies four types of key themes in the field of education policy: policy as text, policy as values-laden actions, policy as process and policy as discourse.

Policy as text is based on the assumption that ‘policy directly determines practices’ (Jones 2013, 3). This understanding of policy focuses on the way in which policy texts are developed and implemented, i.e. ‘how the policy is written and read’ (Bell & Stevenson 2006, 17).

Policy as the operationalisation of values and values-laden actions. This understanding of policy is based on the question of what education is about, whom it is for and who makes decisions about it. From this perspective, policy is part of its context.

Policy as process. From this perspective, policy is a ‘cycle of decisions’ (Ham and Hill 1984) that helps with analysing ‘how actors and dynamics within implementation affect education policy outcomes’ (Jones 2013, 8; see also Sabatier 1986).

Policy as discourse. Here, policy is understood as ‘mobilising specific ‘discourses’ within or across its various texts and processes’ (Jones 2013, 10; see also Ball & Exley 2010). In this approach, the focus is on the policy contexts, and the language of policy texts which are being traced back to their sources ← 11 | 12 → in spoken language or social life. Here, policy is seen as ‘representing and refracting reality’ (Jones 2013, 10).

Still today, there is no unified view on what politics and policy are and that takes account of all these facets (Bohlinger 2015). Against this background, it seems that political science has turned away from describing the ‘true nature’ of what policy and politics are. Instead, policy analysis has emerged and at its core is the question of ‘what governments do, why they do it, and what difference it makes’ (Dye 1978, 3). This involves adopting a system-theoretical perspective to analyse policy in terms of three dimensions: institutional (polity), substantive (policy) and processual (politics) (Hartwich, 1985; Windhoff-Héritier, 1987).

From this perspective:

Polity refers to the forms or formal dimension of political life, i.e. state structures, measures of compliance and conditions underlying political action, as well as the relevant norms and institutions. Polity is the prerequisite for policy and the result of and the prerequisite for social change.

Policy refers to the content of political decisions (policy areas), i.e. causes, aims and effects of political activities. The analysis of such policy areas (e.g. health, education, and social policy) is conducted from the perspective of the actors involved.

Politics refers to the processes involved in representing and mediating between social, institutional and individual interests and resolving conflicts arising from them.

Today, political science has developed numerous categories for policy analysis which are essentially intended to explain governance and the possibilities, logics and instruments associated with it (e.g. Lowi 1972; Howlett & Ramesh 1993; for overviews see Bohlinger 2015; Jones 2013).

Against this background, it is a central concern of this volume to understand the process of policy making in the field of education. Bell and Stevenson (2006, 19) have described the process of policy making as ‘fuzzy, messy and complex’ since it is based on ‘compromise, negotiation, dispute and struggle’. This volume seeks to shed light on these processes. It analyses challenges stemming from the need to design, implement, govern and reform political processes that are related to educational issues. It deals with the effects and heterogeneity of educational pathways such as general, vocational, academic and adult education. The contributions address three core questions: How are education systems affected by social, economic and political changes over their time span? How do they respond to these developments? What is the best way to structure, govern and reform an ← 12 | 13 → education system in times of global competition, political insecurities and pressure to deliver labour-market ready qualifications?

Mapping the landscape and scope of education policy

This international volume brings together contributions from multiple research disciplines and addresses four themes in education policy:

Education policy in higher education

Education policy in general and Vocational Education and Training

Reforming education policy

Education policy at the crossroads of labour markets and the economy.

Education policy in higher education ← 27 | 28 →

Globalisation has been increasingly central to the development of the higher education sector worldwide, though taking different forms and influencing higher education reforms in different countries in different ways. Part One of this book, ‘Education policy in higher education’, discusses issues intimate to the contemporary state of higher education governance across a number of countries, including Australia, Korea, Japan, Kuwait and Vietnam, within this globalising context. The collection of eight chapters in this section maps the terrain of higher education policy in the context of reduced public funding for higher education in some countries, of higher education policy borrowing in others, and of the influence of various economic, political and social factors on higher education governance. The chapters together tackle various aspects of education policy in higher education, such as the mode of teaching and learning, curriculum knowledge, university autonomy, and assessment practice, among others. Together, they also take into account the perspectives of diverse stakeholders, from policy actors, deans and academics, to university students.

Gavin Moodie’s chapter opens this section by providing a critical analysis of the progress and prospects of the contemporary online teaching and learning revolution in higher education. The promotion of technology in education, the author maintains, is often intended to improve the efficacy of education whilst cutting its costs. The chapter frames the issues of online and face-to-face learning modes from an historical perspective, by examining key developments in teaching and learning, from the advent of printing, the blackboard, and classroom teaching, to the now online Learning Management System. Against that background, the author examines pedagogy, i.e., different forms and aspects of learning and teaching, to gain more insight into how certain technologies, but not others, are ← 13 | 14 → incorporated into higher education, and why some new developments in higher education transform its structure and processes and other do not. By looking back in order to look forward, the chapter argues that unless the technology and pedagogy of mediated education improve or are better understood, face-to-face education is likely to continue to be the dominant mode of formal education.

Part of the debate about the economics of higher education goes further than the debate on the mode of teaching reforms. It extends to the role of governments in regulating higher education governance reforms in a globalising context. This is featured in a number of chapters in this section. The chapter by Peter Woelert discusses the trends and tensions in the system-level governance of Australian universities. The author provides a critical analysis of university autonomy and governmental control in Australia, which to him resonate with the trends of New Public Management (NPM)-influenced university reforms originating from the Anglosphere. Reflecting NPM ideas and principles, these reforms were driven to increase the efficiency and accountability, and hence autonomy, of these public institutions and their operations, primarily focusing on ‘value for money’. The chapter points out that in the case of Australia, the reforms are characterised by what he calls “governmentally prescribed and controlled performance-based governance” in various areas including research, and reduced public funding for universities. This goes alongside with an increase in universities’ managerial and financial autonomy whilst there is a decrease in the other dimensions of university autonomy: policy, governance and intervention. The paper highlights the tension created by the coexistence of increasing managerial autonomy constrained by increasing performance-based control. Together with the Commonwealth Government’s reduction of funding for universities, this has constrained universities in what they could do. The chapter argues that the current developments with regard to system-led governance of Australian universities seem to go against the conventional interest of universities in terms of the traditional sense of academic autonomy and with regard to several dimensions of university autonomy.

The chapter by Ahoud Al-Asfour continues by discussing the trend of higher education privatisation in Kuwait, exploring how global processes influence the production of national policies in higher education in this Gulf state. Whilst it may be common elsewhere that the adoption of privatisation policies is due to a lack of public funding, that is not the case in Kuwait, one of the wealthiest nations in the world. Through the chapter, the author reveals that globalisation has influenced national policy-making for the higher education sector through ‘soft governance’ tools, such as networking, consultations and advisory groups. Based on empirical research using interviews with Kuwaiti policy actors from public ← 14 | 15 → and private sectors within the higher education (HE) system, the study identifies four major external forces shaping the privatisation of Kuwait’s HE system. The first shaping force refers to the internationalisation of Western-trained Kuwaiti policy actors, being open to global experiences and practices, and establishing networks that promote certain ideologies for HE. The second is the influence of the regional trend of proliferating privatisation of HE across the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council. The third is the nation’s membership in international organisations and its endorsement of international agreements, such as the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS). Finally, it is Kuwait’s increasing need for global recognition of its education that has been found to steer its HE reform by adopting a privatisation strategy. The author argues that the impact of policy borrowing or policy transfer on HE policy decision making in an increasingly globalising environment explains the distinct adoption of a privatisation trend in Kuwait.

In her chapter titled ‘The profession-oriented curriculum in Vietnamese higher education’, Thi Kim Quy Nguyen investigates a recent reform in HE curriculum in Vietnam. This reform is characterised by the adoption of profession-oriented higher education (POHE) curriculum, fitting within a project funded by the Dutch government. Unlike the case of Kuwait as discussed in Alasfour’s chapter, Nguyen argues that the adoption of POHE curriculum policies in Vietnam was intended to promote a quality HE system to enable future Vietnamese generations to be innovative in contributing to the country’s economic growth and competitiveness. In examining curricular knowledge as the basis for POHE curriculum policies, the author proposes a social realist approach to understanding curricular knowledge underlying Vietnam’s POHE agenda. From the findings, the author argues that POHE curriculum is underpinned by instrumental and constructivist assumptions about knowledge, shifting the power away from the academics and professional specialists towards other stakeholders in the business sectors – and going against the intended goals of the reform agenda. The chapter presents a critical analysis of the POHE curriculum policies whilst providing a rich discussion of different curricular knowledge traditions.

Dong Kim’s chapter continues with critical analysis of the challenges in the area of governance that academic deans face in the contemporary higher education context in Korea. In consonance with Peter Woelert’s observation of the trends and tensions relating to NPM-influenced university reforms in the Australian context, Kim’s chapter identifies many points of conflict between the Korean Ministry of Education (MOE) and universities, between universities and academics, and among academics, within the current reforms in the Korean higher education ← 15 | 16 → sector, as perceived by academic deans and professors. In Korea, the reform agenda emphasises changing university governance along the lines of NPM, as in Australia. The chapter starts with an historical overview of the development of significant higher education policies introduced by successive Korean governments, and then presents an interpretation of policies from the perspectives of academic deans as recorded in interviews. The study concludes that the identified techniques of governance associated with NPM, such as corporatisation, marketisation, diversification of funding, enhancement of competition and performance regime, may increase the efficiency and economic accountability of some universities. However, the study reveals that this mode of governance, which Kim calls “steering at a distance” by the MOE, may explain Korean academics’ perceptions of being less appreciated whilst losing more of their professional autonomy.

The chapter by Fumiko Konno centres on the model of ‘Faculty Development’ in Japanese universities. Faculty Development (FD) may be known in other countries as ‘academic development’, ‘staff development’, ‘professional development’, or ‘educational development’. Initially, FD was adopted as part of ‘voluntary education reform’ by a number of individual academics in Japan in the 1980s to improve their quality of teaching in higher education. According to Konno, at that time the FD concept originated from research on university teaching and education improvement initiatives from the United States (US) and European universities. Subsequently, since 2005, government policy has officially made FD compulsory across Japanese universities through the provision of a series of standards for the establishment of graduate schools, universities, and junior colleges. The author argues that once it was made compulsory, the concept of FD has triggered much debate regarding its definitions at the policy and practice levels, including misconceptions about the concept itself. The author argues that simply improving instruction, which is the narrow definition of FD, is not likely to enhance the quality of education at the institutional level. With the current revisiting of the concept in the US and European context, and through analysis of the development of FD in Japan, the author calls for the broadening and rethinking of the concept, and better awareness on the part of academics of FD, so that FD can become more supportive of academics at every stage of their career whilst contributing to improving the quality of education.

In the next chapter in this section, Silvia McCormack continues with an investigation into the ways in which the current economic ideology within the Australian higher education system has shaped the assessment practice within a mid-sized Australian university. In line with the discussion in Peter Woelert’s chapter about Australian higher education governance, McCormack’s chapter reveals how the ← 16 | 17 → efficiency measures that universities take in connection with their operations, in responding to reduced public funding from the Commonwealth government, impact upon student assessment task design. Based on interviews with academics and university administrators, her study finds that assessment tasks were designed mainly for pragmatic reasons, such as allocated workload hours for assessment, tutoring budgets and class size, rather than for pedagogical reasons to promote deep learning opportunities for students. The chapter identifies the contradiction between government policy, university strategic plans and curriculum initiatives to highlight the value of ‘authentic’ and real life assessment experiences versus the efficiency measures typical of the ‘conservative modernisation’ trend which go against the achievement of the assessment goals.

In the last chapter of this section, Thi Kim Anh Dang focuses on an English language teacher education program at a leading Vietnamese university to explore higher education policies in practice. Teacher education (TE) in Vietnam in general has been largely framed by the unified national curricular framework, as can also be deduced from Thi Kim Quy Nguyen’s chapter. This, however, is not the case in this study. Dang’s chapter argues that the contemporary English language TE in Vietnam is a site of contradiction between state control and the country’s vigorously growing market economy influenced by globalisation. Drawing on interviews with 20 pre-service teachers within the TE program and policy documents, the study points out that within this Vietnamese context, especially at this leading university, which enjoys a high level of autonomy in shaping its curriculum, a complex network of socio-cultural-economic-political factors and multiple local, national and global actors govern the practices at the chalkface of these pre-service teachers. The findings, the author maintains, could provide valuable implications for policymakers in higher education in general, and in TE specifically, to make them aware of the complex influential networks that lie beyond the institutional level, thus enabling the TE and HE system to keep up with the rapidly changing economy in Vietnam.

Education policy in general and Vocational Education and Training (VET) ← 223 | 224 →

Part Two, ‘Education policy in general and Vocational Education and Training’, focuses on the developments of education policy in senior secondary schools as well as in the vocational sector. The section spans findings from Australia, Denmark, France, Germany and Spain, pointing out that general, vocational and higher education pathways face similar challenges, which are all related to forming ← 17 | 18 → and governing education policy that allows for providing qualifications that are relevant to the labour market.

At the core of the contributions are school-to-work transitions and the role and reputation of vocational education and training. The section opens with two chapters which are based on an historical analysis of policy reform in Australian secondary schools. They reveal the complex political and economic nature of general education. The chapter ‘Elite, democratic, economic: Three phases in the development of Australian senior secondary certificates’, by Glenn Savage, analyses the evolution of senior secondary certificates in historical perspective in the Australian states of Queensland and Victoria. Once exclusively designed for university preparation, senior secondary certificates are now assumed to serve multiple purposes. Though both states have undergone many reforms with respect to the certification systems, the driving forces behind the reforms are very similar in both states. Starting from the mid-19th century, the author identifies three phases in the evolution of senior certificates: elite, democratic and economic. The first phase is imprinted by direct and stable university control over senior secondary certification. The second phase is characterised by major social and political developments resulting in multiple pathways and certificates such as the Tertiary Orientation Program, the Vocational Orientation Program and the Technical Year 12 in technical schools. However, an alternative view of this shift emphasised the constrictiveness and inequitability of this highly differentiated system. The driving forces behind this phase were the emergence of mass secondary education and a democratic turn in education resulting in a search for alternative pathways in education for increasing numbers of age cohorts. The third phase is a result of an economic turn in the 1980s and is linked with what the author calls ‘an ideological shift to the right’. The abolition of technical schools in the 1980s, together with the upcoming economic rationalisation of education and threats of unemployment, led to an intensified political debate in the 1990s. At its core was the problem that the education system had failed to provide the labour market with relevant skills and qualifications. By the end of the 1990s, the ‘new economic language in education’ (referring to output, human capital, power etc.) had reached the education system and resulted in an expansion of VET subjects and pathways in Australia’s senior secondary education landscape. Today, a new national phase of senior certificates is evolving: it is aiming at a re-emergence of national certificates and is fusing with the ongoing third phase.

In the contribution ‘Separating the sheep and the goats – vocational programs in Victorian schools’, John Polesel examines the establishment and demise of ← 18 | 19 → technical schools in the Australian state of Victoria, including the ideas of evolution of senior secondary school purposes and resulting changing curricula.

The contribution starts with the establishment of State Secondary Schools at the beginning of the twentieth century when the Commonwealth and State governments were in need of young persons with scientific and technological competencies. The contribution covers two periods in history, one at the beginning of the twentieth century when high schools and technical schools emerged, and one in the late 1980s when technical schools were abolished and new comprehensive senior secondary school certificates emerged. Still today, vocational and applied learning have a poor reputation and a low status in the hierarchy of the education system. It remains difficult for developing schools and curricula to find a balance between (narrow) vocational and (broader) generic competencies. In this view, schools have a responsibility to not only provide labour-market-relevant skills, but also to form responsible citizens who have all the relevant knowledge and skills to understand and participate in society.

Though the following chapter does not focus on Australia, Thomas Deissinger and Mariska Ott identify similar problems for France and Germany. Their contribution focuses on the shift towards an academisation of vocational qualifications (particularly in Germany) and – at the same time – the trend towards vocationalisation of academic qualifications (particularly in France). At the crossroads of these two opposed trends is the development of so-called hybrid qualifications, a type of qualifications that is meant to motivate more young people to choose a vocationally-oriented higher education track. This trend seems to be a paradigmatic case of governing education at the crossroads of labour market needs and the striving for higher education attainment rates. It reflects the wish to improve the reputation of vocational education and training and to open up pathways to higher education while at the same time satisfying the demand for academic education. Similarly to the findings for Australia (see above), the authors identify a paradox they describe as vocationalisation of the general and generalisation of the vocational. Again, at the core of this paradox is the challenge to design educational programmes that provide labour-market relevant skills and a sound basis for an individual’s personal, social and labour-market-oriented development.

The following two chapters, which evaluate the Spanish and Danish systems, illustrate the current challenges that each system faces as a result of changing political and economic circumstances. The contribution by Concepción Maiztegui-Oñate focuses on a new phenomenon known as ‘immigrant Spain’ which has transformed the demography of the country and forced the education policy reform to address the educational pathways of a large number of Spanish students ← 19 | 20 → of foreign origin. Against this background, many of the young immigrants have been incorporated into so-called social guarantee vocational programmes in which there is a clear over-representation of youths from immigrant families, most of them from the Maghreb, Latin America and Romania. The aim of these programmes is to provide basic vocational training and to improve students’ qualification levels and their life paths. The author points out the difficult role of (vocational) schools and institutions which, in parallel, have to save students from failure and offer assistance in the transition process. Though Spain has achieved clear progress in developing and implementing (education) policies to support its heterogeneous population and to integrate students with an immigrant background into the education and training system, and despite the fact that Spain has a common first language, there remains a challenge to recognise the knowledge and skills the students have acquired prior to their arrival in Spain.

The last contribution in this section deals with ‘drop-out’ in Danish VET and its prevention. Christian Helms Jorgensen describes shifting problems and shifting policies to reduce student drop-out in the Danish system of vocational education. Drop-out rates from upper-secondary education have much increased as a result of the longer and non-linear school-to-work transitions of young people in most Western countries. Though raising completion rates and thus preventing drop-out are high on the political agenda, it remains unclear what kind of problem drop-out is and how to reduce it. The author explains that drop-out is the result of the interaction of a number of factors and conditions which may be framed by two theoretical approaches: a person-centred approach (young people are disadvantaged because of their personal characteristics) and a systemic approach (drop-out is caused by a failure of the education system).

While drop-out has been on the political agenda for decades, the theoretical approaches to the phenomenon have shifted massively over the course of time. Once seen as a problem that involved an individual’s failure and a wrong vocational choice, it was then seen as a structural problem of education systems, of curricula that do not meet labour market needs and a lack of training placements. Though numerous policies have been developed to prevent drop-out, many of them are based on opposite framings. The inconsistency of policies is a result of unintended consequences and side effects. Consequently it seems necessary to take the complexity of drop-out more seriously, by focusing not only on the deficiencies of young people and low performing schools but rather to address some of the underlying social conditions and inequalities that contribute to drop-out. ← 20 | 21 →

Reforming education policy ← 351 | 352 →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (March)
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 560 pp., 19 b/w ill., 17 b/w tables

Biographical notes

Sandra Bohlinger (Volume editor) Thi Kim Anh Dang (Volume editor) Malgorzata Klatt (Volume editor)

Sandra Bohlinger is professor of education at Dresden University, Germany. Thi Kim Anh Dang is a lecturer at the Office of the Vice-Provost (Learning & Teaching) at Monash University, Australia. Malgorzata Klatt is a Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Vocational and Educational Policy at the University of Melbourne, Australia.


Title: Education policy: Mapping the landscape and scope