Presentation of the Danish Production Schools at the EU conference on Early School Leavers March 1 and 2, 2012 in Brussels.

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1 Presentation of the Danish Production Schools at the EU conference on Early School Leavers March 1 and 2, 2012 in Brussels. By Gert Møller, principal of Korsør Production School and vice-chairman in the National Association of Danish Production Schools and Verner Ljung, senior consultant in the National Association of Danish Production Schools 1 Fundamental characteristics and place in the national education system We represent a school form which fundamental characteristics are individually tailored courses based on practical work and production - a school form where learning takes place in a binding working community in a range of the different workshops which you will find in all production schools. Talking about early school leavers, we can choose to look at the youths as the problem, or we can look at ourselves as schools and change our environment and circumstances so that young people may find it worth staying with us. So our basic attitude is this: The problem is not the young people. We therefore undertake the responsibility of organizing a place where you can learn in a different way. In different contexts we have been described as schools that are not schools. And we are actually a kind of crossbreed within education situated in the cross-field between interests and possibilities of social policy, education policy and labor market policy. And it must be like that because our schools simply cannot solve their task without playing all instruments. The first Danish production schools were born in the late '70s. The first schools were pilot projects. But since 1985 we have had our own legislation. There are currently 80 schools around the country with a total capacity of around 8,000 places. All production schools are established as independent foundations. The initiative to establish a production school must come from the municipality in order to underline the local involvement. The majority of the financing (approx. 90 %) comes from public grants, mainly from the state, but also some contributions from the municipality. Today our school form is an important part of the Danish political strategy that 95% of all young people should complete a youth education program. The Danish education system can be described as a complex road system, where most young people take the motorway or the main road. Production schools are part of this road system - a side road or a secondary road - but the ultimate goal is the same - young people should have increased their professional, personal and social skills. Danish Production Schools Side 1

2 2 Target group The target group for our work are young people under 25 who are not immediately able to complete a regular youth education in the ordinary way. In order to be admitted, the young person must go to an interview at the local Youth Guidance Center, which then assesses whether she or he belongs to the legal target group. But who are they? At these schools, we meet the young people who cannot at least not yet - complete a secondary education in the mainstream education system. They may have dropped out of a vocational education They may have different somatic or mental diagnoses They may have been in conflict with the police They may have no self-esteem They may not have finished the obligatory 9 years in basic school They have not the skills expected by the ordinary education system They cannot just enter the labour market of today and not at all that of tomorrow So we are talking about a wide range of young people from youths with major social problems and youths with hardly any education to relatively well-functioning young people. This mixture of young people is important in order to avoid being turned into or looked upon as ghettos or institutions for the failures. And equally important this mixture contributes to creating a learning environment that may lead to success for those who would otherwise fail. 3 Education - both the answer and the problem All agree that the best advice to young people is education and education again. So education is the answer, but it is also the problem! If we have to get all young people or at least 95 percent then we must go by multiple routes. The road which has proven effective for the majority of young people is not effective for all. The question is not whether our students should learn more, they should. The question is how to learn it. The group of young people must learn professionally, socially and personally, but - mind you - learn it in a different way than the way they have been accustomed to. Danish Production Schools Side 2

3 But how do you make a successful school for young people, many of which in practice have learned to despise both the school and themselves as learners? We cannot resort to the usual teachers, to classrooms, the usual lessons and tests etc. And when "school education" is not the agenda, it radically changes - not only the ways in which young people go in and participate - but also what participation means for their learning. It may also be expressed as follows: You can be taught without learning anything. You can learn something without being taught. We say: you can learn through practical work and production. 4 A school which is not a school. Let us try to give you a portrait of such a school which is not a school. Try to imagine a school where you are faced with real life production that has to be sold and used. A school where teaching has a practical basis. Where there are no as if situations. We know very well that the target is not production in itself. On the other hand - if production is not maintained as the target, the whole thing doesn t function as learning method. Imagine a school with range of different workshops covering professional disciplines such as metal, wood, kitchen, IT, music, construction, etc.... The kitchen preparing meals for everyone in the school every day - out of the house, too - the metal workshop producing real goods for sale and co-operating with local metal-companies, the music workshop making public performances etc. A school with a coherent youth environment. A school where you take part in a variety of common activities that other young people do. Night computer cafés, school camps, international exchanges. Parties. And maybe you fall in love with a girl in the kitchen. A school where teaching is based on individual learning and tailored to just you. Where you are attached to one workshop and one teacher. The workshops are small working communities, ensuring proximity and security for you. A school where you may be admitted every day all year around. A school providing a secure integration of you as a newcomer. Where you can actively participate in the production from day 1. And where the more experienced students can be a role model for you. A school where you are not asked for all kinds of information about your background Danish Production Schools Side 3

4 A school where you receive money as payment for active work at the school and at the workshop A school where you are treated as a responsible person and are expected to be responsible yourself. A school where the teachers in the workshops are trained craftsmen and work together with you. Where the teachers are totally dedicated to their work and willing to walk the extra mile for you. Try to put all these things together and mix it - then you will have the outlines of a production school! 5 Documentation of informally acquired professional skills, results and special education possibilities. It is important that young people are recognized for what they've learned - even when it is done through learning professionally through participation in practical work and production. It is especially important because our young students are not particularly accustomed to being recognized at all. It is important because evidence of what they have learned can be used in cooperation with other educational institutions and with the business community. It is important because it gives us direction as schools: that our activity must lead to strengthening of the young people's skills or competencies. Our schools have spent many years fighting for official recognition of the informal or nonformal but real professional skills acquired by the students in our schools. We have now finally succeeded. From now on it will be an official demand to our schools to document the individual student s development of professional competencies in the workshop via a production school certificate, which the student will have at the end of the stay at our schools. As for results, our schools are usually measured by where the youths go when they leave, whether they continue an education or get a job or end up as unemployed etc. Here about the current results just this: About 80 % continue in education, work or another activity after production school. The remaining 20 % drop out or end up as unemployed. For many young people we function as the other way to real competencies. For some of them it is a short pit stop and then back on one of the main roads. For others it is the road to a full education, where we as production schools also have some special opportunities. Danish Production Schools Side 4

5 We are talking about other ways to keep our young people going - ensuring their inclusion in a framework where learning continues to take place in a different way. If we as production school, in consultation with a vocational school, determines that a young student at our school cannot complete a vocational education along the main road, we can carry out the education at our school - a so-called Production School-based Vocational Education - most of this education taking place in one of our workshops, and only with certain school periods taking place at the vocational schools and with some possibilities of internships in private or public companies. But - mind you - the young person is measured with the same folding rule as an ordinary student, thus giving our student a full education at the same level as an ordinary vocational education. And for a group of young people who cannot - or at least not yet - carry out a conventional vocational education, we have another possibility in the so-called Basic Vocational Education that provides an initial training that is tailored to the individual's abilities and opportunities - alternating between internships in companies and school courses - usually of 2 years duration. Several of these youths may continue later in a regular vocational education. 6 Recommendations In order to reduce early school leavers our message is this: Educational institutions such as the production schools with characteristics as learning through practical work and production, individually-tailored training and documentation of non-formally acquired real professional skills should be recognized - not just as part of compensatory policies, but as an equal part of national youth education programs. 1 A large group of young people need to learn in a different way. We recommend learning through practical work and production ( learning by doing ), but it means real production and sale of goods and services. 2. There is no need to lower the professional level; on the contrary. But when the team-based teaching with defined goals and an academic approach has not worked, you will have do it in another way. We recommend individually tailored courses, with no pre-set targets, but with a clear aim to strengthen the professional, personal and social skills as much as possible. 3. As already stated: Danish Production Schools Side 5

6 You can be taught without learning anything. And you can learn something without being taught. We say: You can learn through work. We recommend the recognition and validation of professional skills learned through practical work. 4. The aim is education - but both interests and possibilities from within social policy, employment policy and education policy should be thought together. We recommend collaboration across sectors at all levels - at the specific personal level, at institutional level, at municipal and ministerial level, at political level. 7 Further information Further information on Danish production schools: See folder of a Danish production school (Korsør Produktionshøjskole) at the following link: Or contact: ASSOCIATION OF DANISH PRODUCTION SCHOOLS Verner Ljung, senior consultant Algade 22 B, DK-4220 Korsør, Denmark Tel.: (++45) or mobile phone (++45) The secretariat of the association has the following address: PSF, Dæmningen 33, 3.tv., DK-7100 Vejle, Denmark Tel.: (++45) The Association of Danish Production Schools (Produktionsskoleforeningen PSF) is a nationwide organization for 80 Danish production schools. The Association takes care of the education-political interests of the schools, provides consultancy services to the schools, runs various development projects and publish internal and external information about the production school concept. Read more about the PSF and the production school concept here: Danish Production Schools Side 6

7 Danish Production Schools Side 7

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