Retention of Vocational Students in the Danish VET System

Today, 40% of a youth cohort embark on a vocational education and training (VET) course. However, about half of these young people do not complete the vocational course which they start and in Denmark, quite a large proportion (approx. 20-25%) of a youth cohort do not complete vocational education and training at all.

In the global economy, an educated labour force is decisive to securing the future of the Danish welfare society. In this context, the Danish government has decided that by 2015 95% of a youth cohort will have completed a higher secondary education programme (either VET or general education). For the young people themselves, it is extremely important for their future lives that they successfully handle the opportunities and risks inherent in the transition from elementary schooling to the labour market.

The research project "Retention of Vocational Students in the Danish VET System" examines the susceptible factors that may contribute to reducing the rate of drop-out from vocational education and training courses.

To establish the necessary knowledge, a consortium has been formed, consisting of researchers who are highly experienced in the use of quantitative research methods within the field of education as well as researchers possessing strong competencies within educational, didactic and institutional research. The study thus combined quantitative and qualitative methods in a hitherto unseen project design.

Quantitative analyses are carried out of the rates of drop-out from vocational education and training courses, corrected for the students’ social background, skills acquired at elementary school etc. as well as course types and other background variables, for example the composition of teaching staff at the vocational colleges.

Schools with low, medium and high drop-out rates are singled out for qualitative studies of college-related or student-related factors which may explain demonstrable differences in drop-out rates.

The PISA-Longitudinal database is used to establish the drop-out risk of different types of students, looking at data from tests, surveys and registers. From the PISA-Longitudinal database, a group of VET students at risk of dropping out is identified. A number of interviews are conducted with the group over a period of time with a view to identifying factors which impact the likelihood of students dropping out or completing their courses.

The qualitative part of the project also studies the colleges’ organisation and learning environments with a view to identifying elements which may affect the retention of students.

Subsequently, a quasi experiment will be conducted to test the hypotheses developed as a result of the project.