The Norwegian Education Mirror, 2019
Completion in upper secondary education
3 in 4 students complete and pass upper secondary education or training within five years. This is the highest figure since records began. Completion rates are higher on general study programmes than on vocational study programmes. At the same time 14.4 per cent of young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are not and have not been enrolled in upper secondary education or training. Lower secondary grades are the single most important factor for predicting whether a student will complete upper secondary. The more important completing upper secondary becomes in society, the more serious the situation for those who fail to complete. There is an ever decreasing number of jobs that do not require formal qualifications, and competition for those jobs is becoming increasingly tough. Without completing and passing upper secondary, young people therefore risk facing considerable problems achieving stable participation in the labour force.
Students who have immigrated to Norway are less likely than other students to complete upper secondary, while Norwegian-born students with immigrant backgrounds are almost on a par with students without immigrant backgrounds. One group which faces particular challenges in terms of completing upper secondary is students who have recently immigrated to Norway
Completion within five years
More students are completing upper secondary education or training. 75.3 per cent of students who started Level Vg1 in autumn 2013 have completed and passed upper secondary education or training. This is the highest figure since records began 19 years ago and an increase of 0.2 percentage points on the previous year. This is partly due to improved transitions between levels and the fact that more students are able to find apprenticeships. Completion rates are still higher on general study programmes than on vocational study programmes. This is in part due to the fact that students who enrol on general study programmes have better lower secondary grades on average than those who opt for a vocational programme. There are also significant differences between the different vocational study programmes.
Completion rates have risen by 13 percentage points since the 2006 cohort.
All counties have seen an increase in the number of students completing and passing in the cohorts between 2006 and 2013. Oslo recorded the lowest increase but still retains the third highest completion rate in the country.
Highest completion and pass rates on general study programmes
The proportion of students who complete and pass stands at more than 84 per cent on all of the three general study programmes, while there are greater variations on the vocational study programmes. The lowest and highest completion rates on vocational study programmes are Restaurant Management and Food Processing at 44.3 per cent and Electrical and Electronic Engineering at 67.2 per cent.
80.6 per cent of girls complete upper secondary education or training within five years. 70.5 per cent of boys complete within five years of enrolling at Level Vg1.
More students completing after ten years
Looking at completion rates ten years after starting Level Vg1, the proportion of students who have obtained a vocational qualification or general university and college admissions certification has risen by 9.5 percentage points. 70.6 per cent of students enrolling in 2008 had completed within five years and 80.2 per cent within ten years. On vocational study programmes the proportion of students who have completed their studies is 13.6 percentage points higher after ten years than after five years. On general study programmes the increase was 5.5 percentage points. One reason why vocational programmes have seen the biggest increase in completion rates after ten years is that many of the programmes use a model with two years of classroom tuition and two years of apprenticeship rather than three years of classroom tuition as is the case with general study programmes. The process of finding an apprenticeship and starting workplace training can also be somewhat less predictable than on a three-year classroom-based programme, and delays can occur compared with the projected time frame.
Strong correlation between lower secondary grades and completion rates
Lower secondary grades are the single most important factor for predicting who will not complete upper secondary. Lower secondary grades are again linked to family background in that children of parents with higher qualifications obtain better average grades in lower secondary than children of parents without higher qualifications.
The main pattern is that students with similar grades in terms of average point scores complete upper secondary to the same degree irrespective of whether they enrol on a general or a vocational study programme. The fact that completion rates are higher on general study programmes than on vocational study programmes has to do with there being more students with a high average point score enrolling in general study programmes than in vocational study programmes.
Improved progression between levels
Almost all school leavers move straight on to upper secondary education or training. It is primarily in the transitions between the upper secondary levels that students drop out or switch programmes.
In the past five years the proportion of students who move straight from Level Vg1 to Level Vg2 rose from 84.5 per cent to 87.5 per cent. This increase was the same for both general study programmes and vocational programmes. 91.1 per cent of students on the general study programmes progressed from Level Vg1 to Level Vg2 in autumn 2018. On vocational programmes the figure was 83.5 per cent. The same percentage of students progressed from Vg1 to Vg2 in 2018 as in 2017.
In the past five years the proportion of students who progressed from Level Vg2 to Level Vg3 rose from 81.7 per cent to 86.4 per cent. The increase during this period mainly took place on vocational study programmes. 95.7 per cent of students on the general study programmes progressed from Level Vg2 to Level Vg3 in autumn 2018. On vocational programmes the figure was 75.0 per cent.
Some students also discontinue their studies during the academic year. 3.4 per cent of upper secondary students dropped out during the 2018-19 academic year. The drop-out rate is far higher on vocational study programmes than on general study programmes. A total of 5.8 per cent of students on vocational programmes and 2.0 per cent of students on general programmes drop out during the academic year.
More students move straight from Vg2 to apprenticeships
The most common transition for students on vocational Vg2 programmes is to workplace training. The percentage of students who go from Level Vg2 into workplace training has risen considerably in recent years. Almost 45 per cent of the students are undergoing workplace training after Level Vg2 of a vocational study programme. This is an increase of 10 percentage points in the past five years. 21.4 per cent of students at Level Vg2 of a vocational programme switched to Supplementary Studies or another general study programme.
Students unable to find apprenticeships are invited to complete Level Vg3 in school within one year. 1.2 per cent of vocational students moved from Level Vg2 to alternative school-based training at Level Vg3.
There has been a marked decline in vocational students leaving upper secondary training after Level Vg2. The figure fell by 5 percentage points between 2013 and 2018 – from 22.8 per cent to 17.7 per cent.
4 in 5 apprentices obtain their trade certificate within five years
In order to obtain a trade or journeyman’s certificate, apprentices must complete their training period and pass the apprenticeship/journeyman's examination. Many of those who obtain trade or journeyman’s certificates spend more than two years completing their training period and passing the examination. Around half of all apprentices in the 2013 cohort had completed their apprenticeship or journeyman's examination within two years of starting their apprenticeships. After three years the figure rises to 77.5 per cent before levelling off. 84.5 per cent had obtained a trade or journeyman’s certificate within five years.
There may be several reasons why the proportion of apprentices obtaining their certificates increases from two to three years. In some trades and training models the workplace training period lasts longer than two years, amongst other things. For example, the Electrical and Electronic Engineering programme, which involves a number of long pathways, has the lowest completion rate after two years but the highest after five years. Others take longer to obtain their certificates due to temporary interruptions, switching trades, delaying the apprenticeship or journeyman’s exam or failing the exam at the first attempt.
Status of those who have yet to complete
Although many of those who enrolled at Level Vg1 in 2013 have not completed within five years, many of them have still completed parts of their upper secondary education or training.
Some have completed all levels of their chosen programme but are missing grades or passes in a few subjects. Some remain in upper secondary education or training, and others still have completed a lower-level qualification. Some young people who have dropped out of upper secondary education or training are involved in other activities and initiatives with the Follow-up Service.
Many of those who have not completed and passed obtain a partial qualification after five years
5.6 per cent of all students have completed but not passed upper secondary education or training. They may be students who have completed Level Vg3 but are missing grades in one or more subjects or apprentices who have completed their training period but failed their apprenticeship examination. Media and Communication has the highest proportion students who have completed but not passed at 8.5 per cent. Many of these students and apprentices will complete and pass at a later stage.
Some students are pursuing planned pathways that will give them a qualification at a lower level than a complete vocational or general qualification. They are often students with a statement of special needs who are not required to achieve all the competence aims described in the curriculum. The completion statistics do not record these students as having “completed and passed” despite the fact that they may have completed their planned pathway. This is because they do not complete with a full vocational or general qualification. Students may study for a planned basic qualification on both general and vocational study programmes. The trainee scheme is an example of a pathway where the candidate is not seeking to achieve all of the competence aims but follows a reduced timetable instead.
The “discontinued” category counts students who dropped out of education or training before Level Vg3 or before completing their training period. A total of 11.1 per cent of these students still have “discontinued” status after five years. Design, Arts and Crafts is the programme with the highest drop-out rate at 28.0 per cent.
14 per cent of young people between the ages of 16 and 25 are not and have not been enrolled in upper secondary education or training
14.4 per cent of young people in the 16–25 age group have neither enrolled in nor completed upper secondary education or training. The figure varies from 21.1 per cent in Finnmark county to 11.4 per cent in Sogn og Fjordane. Nationally the percentage of young persons in this age group who have not completed or are not enrolled in upper secondary education or training has fallen from 17.1 to 14.4 per cent in the last five years.
The overall percentage of young people who are not in education, employment or training increases between the ages of 16 to 25.
Of the 14.4 per cent who are not and have not been enrolled in upper secondary education or training, around half are in employment and half not in employment. The likelihood of being in employment increases with age amongst those who are not and have not been enrolled in upper secondary education or training.
The Follow-up Service – for young people not in education, employment or training
The Follow-up Service is a programme run by county councils for young people who are entitled to upper secondary education or training but who are not in education, employment or training. The Follow-up Service is tasked with helping young people who drop out of or never enrol in upper secondary education or training.
6.6 per cent of all young people aged 16–21 are registered with the Follow-up Service. This is a slight decline on 2017. As completion rates increase, fewer young people are needing help from the service. The number of young people registered with the service fell from 20,200 in 2012 to 15,000 in 2019. It appears that the young people currently receiving assistance from the Follow-up Service need a longer period of help and guidance before they become involved in a suitable activity, which in turn impacts how many of them are active.
Completion rates amongst students from immigrant backgrounds
Many students from immigrant backgrounds do very well in the Norwegian education system. Yet the statistics show that immigrants are slightly less likely than other young people to complete upper secondary education or training. There are significant variations in terms of ability and past experience amongst pupils and students from immigrant backgrounds when they enter the Norwegian education system. Some were born in Norway and speak Norwegian and one or more other languages. Others arrived as refugees late in the educational trajectory and with limited schooling (Ministry of Justice and Public Security, 2015).
New research has found that descendants of immigrants are often overrepresented in both the positive and the negative ends of the statistics on employment and education. Descendants of immigrants are much more likely to enrol in higher education than those from a majority background, but a greater percentage also drop out of upper secondary. The ideal of higher education is greatly valued, and descendants often find that their parents strongly expect them to pursue an education that results in a well-paid job. Researchers have identified these expectations as one of the reasons why descendants of immigrants have higher ambitions for higher education and work despite obtaining lower grades on average at school. Interviews from the study also show that descendants enrolled on vocational study programmes often have ambitions to pursue higher education (Midtbøen, 2019).
The OECD has pointed out that Norwegian-born children of immigrant parents do better at school in Norway than in many other countries. (OECD, 2015). However, there is a wider gap between children who have themselves immigrated and children of immigrants in Norway than in countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands.
Young people with an immigrant background are slightly less likely to complete their studies than other students.
57.9 per cent of immigrants who enrolled in upper secondary in autumn 2013 completed their studies within five years. Amongst Norwegian-born students with immigrant parents the figure was 74.4 per cent. As for students who have themselves immigrated, 67.0 per cent of girls and 49.8 per cent of boys completed within five years.
Girls from immigrant backgrounds are more likely to complete upper secondary than boys from immigrant backgrounds
Girls are more likely to complete upper secondary than boys amongst immigrants, too. 80.7 per cent of Norwegian-born girls with immigrant parents completed upper secondary. This is almost the same completion rate as for girls without immigrant backgrounds, where the figure is 82.0 per cent. 68.2 per cent of Norwegian-born boys with immigrant parents completed upper secondary within five years. Amongst other boys the figure was 73.1 per cent.
Apprenticeship places for applicants from immigrant backgrounds
Applicants from immigrant backgrounds appear to find it more difficult to obtain apprenticeships than other applicants. This could be one reason why students from immigrant backgrounds are less likely to complete upper secondary vocational training.
Of the 36,000 apprenticeship applicants entitled to upper secondary education and training in 2017 and 2018, 3,800 were immigrants and 970 Norwegian-born with two immigrant parents. The proportion who obtained an apprenticeship contract was considerably lower amongst applicants from immigrant backgrounds than amongst other applicants, and there was little difference between Norwegian-born applicants with foreign-born parents and immigrant applicants. However, an immigrant background appears to have more of an impact on boys’ chances of finding an apprenticeship than is the case for girls. It is also especially amongst boys that the proportion of applicants who obtain an apprenticeship contract differs little when you compare Norwegian-born applicants with foreign-born parents and immigrant applicants.
There are generally more boys than girls applying for apprenticeships. More than 7 in 10 apprenticeship applicants are boys.
Immigrant background is more significant in male dominated subjects
The study programmes differ in terms of how significant an immigrant background appears to be to the chances of finding an apprenticeship. Immigrant background appears to be more significant in vocations where there is a large proportion of boys. If we compare applicants with immigrant backgrounds and other applicants, there is a disparity of more than 20 percentage points in the proportion of applicants who obtained an apprenticeship contract in Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Technical and Industrial Production, and Building and Construction, while there is only a 2 percentage point discrepancy in Design, Arts and Crafts. Past studies also show that it is particularly in the male dominated vocations that applicants with immigrant backgrounds are less likely than other applicants to find an apprenticeship (Lødding, 1998; Lødding, 2001; Helland og Støren, 2004).
Grades and absenteeism partly explain the disparity between applicants from immigrant backgrounds and other applicants
Applicants from immigrant backgrounds have lower grades and higher levels of absenteeism on average than other applicants. The biggest differences in grades and absenteeism are found amongst boys, and boys generally receive lower grades than girls. However, low grades and frequent absences still do not appear to provide the full explanation as to why young people with immigrant backgrounds are less likely than others to find apprenticeships. The proportion of applicants who obtain an apprenticeship contract is also consistently lower amongst applicants with immigrant backgrounds when we compare applicants with the same average point scores and levels of absenteeism.
Language skills and networks can help explain the difficulties finding apprenticeships faced by immigrants
A lack of language skills is often cited as a key reason why applicants with immigrant backgrounds fail to secure apprenticeships (NOU 2010:7; Jeon, 2019). If Norwegian language skills and familiarity with Norwegian culture were significant, one might expect those who were born in Norway or have lived here for a long time to be more likely to find apprenticeships than those who have themselves immigrated. However, for boys the figures do not show any material difference between Norwegian-born applicants with immigrant parents and young people who have themselves immigrated, and there is no systematic correlation between length of residence and the proportion who obtain an apprenticeship.
Applicants with immigrant backgrounds are on average at a disadvantage compared with other applicants when it comes to factors that impact the likelihood of finding an apprenticeship, such as grades, absenteeism, and the parents’ level of education. At the same time it is reasonable to assume that applicants with immigrant backgrounds are less likely to have networks that can help them in the application process (Jeon, 2019). The combination of poorer school performance and a lack of networks can probably make it more difficult for this group to find apprenticeships.
Discrimination could be part of the reason why applicants from immigrant backgrounds are less likely to find apprenticeships
Applicants from immigrant backgrounds may also encounter discrimination in the application process. Research from Switzerland and Germany has found that equally qualified applicants with foreign-sounding names have to submit more applications on average than other applicants in order to get an interview for an apprenticeship (Jeon, 2019). A Norwegian study of jobseekers made similar findings (Midtbøen and Rogstad, 2012). Past instances of discrimination can also make it less motivating for young people with immigrant backgrounds to actively approach relevant training establishments (Jeon, 2019; Lødding 1998). It is important that applicants are motivated and proactive in order to make a good impression during the application process (The Education Mirror, 2018).
Pupils who arrive in Norway near the end of lower secondary school
Research and past analyses show that one group that has been particularly vulnerable in the education system is students over the age of 16 who arrive in Norway near the end of lower secondary school and do not have qualifications equivalent to Norwegian compulsory education (Rambøll, 2013; Thorshaug, 2014).
For instance, the proportion of pupils who leave school without an average point score rose between 2015 and 2019, and in the 2018-19 academic year the figure was 5.3 per cent. Many of them are immigrants with a short period of residence who arrived in Norway towards the end of compulsory education or during the transition to upper secondary education or training (Statistikknotat 5/2018).
Most local authorities offer pupils arriving in Norway towards the end of Year 10 an additional year in lower secondary or a transfer to an adult basic education programme, although some recently arrived pupils have applied for upper secondary education or training without the language skills and/or academic skills needed to complete and pass upper secondary education or training. Others still do not participate in any mainstream education or training (Rambøll, 2018).
Most 18-year-olds who arrived in Norway in 2015 and 2016 have not enrolled in mainstream upper secondary education or training
In 2015 a total of 5,300 underage asylum seekers arrived in Norway during the “migrant crisis” – quadruple the number in the previous year. Many of them arrived at an age when they would either be nearing the end of lower secondary school or preparing to start upper secondary school.
By looking at the statistics on all pupils born in 2000 who have immigrated to Norway and then reducing that group to only those who have lived in Norway for less than four years, we get an indication of where this group of immigrants is in the education system.
If we look at the entire 2000 cohort of immigrants, we find that the proportion of students who have completed Vg1 varies considerably. Immigrants who have lived in Norway for between five and six years or longer are almost as likely to have completed Level Vg1 as Norwegian-born students with immigrant parents. The figure is 14 per cent amongst young people who have lived in Norway for less than two years. The figure is 64 per cent for those who have lived here for three to four years. In other words, the disparity is not between immigrants and other students but between immigrant students with long and short periods of residence respectively.
If we look at 18-year-olds who have lived in Norway for less than two years, we find that few have enrolled in mainstream upper secondary education or training. Only 14.2 per cent have completed Level Vg1, while 32 per cent are enrolled in upper secondary education or training. Only 7.8 per cent have been given an average point score, and those who have obtained an average of 30.2 points. 6 per cent are in work. 8 per cent are enrolled in induction programmes. 51 per cent are not in education, employment or training.
Weaknesses in the statistics mean that some young people registered as not being in education, employment or training may in fact be enrolled in adult basic education programmes.
Combination classes may be of benefit to students with a short period of residence
One group which has been particularly vulnerable due to existing legislation is students over the age of 16 who do not hold qualifications equivalent to Norwegian compulsory education (Rambøll 2013, Thorshaug 2014). Local authorities are generally responsible for providing primary and lower secondary education either within the mainstream framework or as part of the adult education system, yet recent arrivals with limited education are treated very differently in different parts of the country. Most pupils who arrive near the end of Year 10 are offered one additional year of lower secondary or a transfer to an adult basic education programme, but some also enrol in mainstream upper secondary education or training.
In 2016 the Education Act was amended to allow local authorities and county councils to offer additional lower secondary education to young people who are entitled to upper secondary education or training. This has led to a reorganisation of the provision for recently arrived pupils, and in the 2017-18 academic year a scheme for lower secondary education – so-called combination classes – was rolled out for students of upper secondary age entitled to upper secondary education and training in all counties (Rambøll, 2018).
41 upper secondary schools across the country were offering such combination classes.
The aim of the classes is to give recent arrivals tailored provision, which in turn is intended to enable more students to complete upper secondary education or training (Vestfold county council 2017, Fjæstad 2019, Rambøll 2018). Teachers and students in combination classes consider academic differentiation and bilingual tuition to be the most important success factors for ensuring subject comprehension and enabling the students to convey what they have learnt in Norwegian. Evaluations of the combination classes have identified a need for additional teaching expertise on basic education and on instructing minority language students. This is one of the main reasons why county councils and local authorities are working together on such provision, and it explains why many teachers from municipal adult education services teach combination classes.
There are considerable variations in how many students and which students are offered combination classes. This can be explained by a lack of universal and clear guidelines on whom the provision should be aimed at and how the target group should be defined. The consequence of county councils, local authorities and schools opting for different solutions is that their place of residence could decide whether or not a young person is offered combination classes.