Article i 'Tidsskrift for arbejdsliv' 3 2006, page 53-68.
The article focuses on the about 20% of
young people who never complete upper
secondary education in Denmark, in
spite of the official goal that about 95%
should reach that educational level. Statistical
information and existing research show
that this proportion has not changed much in the last 20 years. Special measures have
been employed, with some success, but at
the same time the curriculum in grammar
schools and vocational education has become
It is known from previous research that of the background factors that have been tested, the factor most likely to predict lacking upper secondary education is limited education of parents. However 65% of children, whose parents do not have upper secondary education, do complete this level, and even 30% of children who have accumulated all examined risk factors manage to complete upper secondary education. Thus the mechanisms of success and failure in upper secondary education cannot be reduced to such factors and need to be explored in qualitative research.
The article is based on a study of a network
of 13 different educational institutions
who deal with young people who
have not succeeded in the ordinary school
system, and it focuses on 60 life stories.
The study revealed that severe problems
in the school performance usually had a
background in different combinations of
dysfunctional family life and learning disabilities.
Behind every “failure” there was
a long story of interconnected problems in
the family and in school, but it also turned
out that in most of the cases time, attention
and professional guidance could help the
young person to start successfully in education
or work. Most commonly the turning
point came when the young person could
be guided towards practical tasks that gave
the experience of success and gradually led
to more positive self-esteem.
On the theoretical level the article accepts, with scholars as Giddens and Beck, that late modern demands on identity development can be explained along the lines of self-orientation. However, a considerable minority of young people are confronted these demands without having the conditions to successfully deal with them, so their development can rather be described as self-disorientation. In late modern societies and especially in welfare societies as Denmark, reproduction of social inequalities largely works through such disorientation. Pedagogues in special measures for dropouts have developed several ways to combat this disorientation, but neither leading theoreticians nor politicians are really facing this challenge.