IRDF grant: Why is the number of young people who choose vocational education and training programmes declining?

Professor Klaus Nielsen from the Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences at Aarhus BSS has received an IRFD grant of DKK 3.2 million from the fund earmarked for stronger research environments for vocational education. Klaus Nielsen's research is centred on: How does the Danish Elementary School shape how Pupils Come to Understand Vocational Education?

Professor Klaus Nielsen Photo: Private

In the future, Denmark is likely to have a shortage of skilled workers, and this shortage may stunt economic growth and significantly affect the welfare state. In recent years, the number of pupils who choose a vocational education and training programme as their upper secondary education has decreased significantly from 38.3 per cent in 2011 to 23.1 per cent in 2021.

"We can see that many pupils in 6th-7th grade consider taking a vocational education and training programme. However, once these pupils reach 8th-9th grade, they often choose to continue their education at an upper secondary school. We want to investigate why pupils change their mind about their choice of education," says Professor Klaus Nielsen.

The aim of this research project is to investigate one of the possible causes of the decline in applicants for vocational education and training in Denmark - namely the dominant perceptions of vocational education and training that circulate in primary and lower secondary schools. Research into educational transitions and young people's choice of upper secondary education in Denmark tends to focus on the formal aspects of school guidance, such as bridge-building, guidance and internships. However, only limited knowledge is available about how the informal school culture affects pupils’ choices for upper secondary education.

Three different primary and lower secondary schools will be selected for the project. One primary and lower secondary school located in a rural area, one in a medium-sized provincial town and one in a larger city in Denmark. Primary and lower secondary schools from different parts of the country were chosen as the number of pupils who choose vocational education and training programmes varies depending on the region. Data collection will consist of qualitative methods such as interviews, participant observations and questionnaires.

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Further information

Professor Klaus Nielsen
Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences
Aarhus BSS

Tel.: +45 87 16 58 32

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