Case Studies - The Visnes project (Norway)
The Norwegian system of upper secondary education offers everybody a chance to study, whether you leave compulsory school with pass or fail in your subjects and in your exams. If you have a physical or mental handicap it does not matter, as long as you have finished compulsory school you are entitled to a place in upper secondary education.
This does not mean that all students study in the same way when they enter upper secondary school, and also that students are put in different categories when they apply. There might be a number of reasons for attending an “alternative” school, a school that will equip you with certain skills in a very different way. Haugaland upper secondary school has several alternatives for students that need adapted learning programs, and our department at Visnes is one of these alternatives.
2. Institutional implementation
The department at Visnes, which gives an adapted way of teaching and learning, has of course developed over the years. The reason for offering this alternative in the first place was that we have students that come to our school with different needs than the majority. They come from
Others are students that do not function well in ordinary classes due to problems with learning in lower secondary school, behavioural problems, or who are “fed up“ coping with too much theory in ordinary classes. They need specially adapted and practical training in order to succeed and to stay on in education.
We offer these students a possibility to follow a practical course at Visnes – a small place where there used to be a Coppermine earlier - mainly based on practical work in building and construction and mechanics, and where we also try to teach them some Norwegian, mathematics and social studies, especially related to their work life.
To make the students more attractive for the companies in our vicinity, we give them training so they can get a forklift certificate, basic course in HES, basic mechanical work, “hot work”, working with different methods of welding, torch cutting, cargo loading, basic construction work, scaffolding etc
On the average we have had 20 students at Visnes each year since 2003. When students start they have 4 days a week with practical work and 1 day a week with theory, at Visnes. Later on they spend 2-3 days at Visnes, combined with a signed agreement with a company 2-3 days each week, where they learn practical skills in a trade where they might get an apprenticeship sometime in the future. The companies are paid to take on the students and to follow them up, but of course the teachers also follow the students up on a regular basis when they are at work for the companies.
The aim of this alternative teaching is to give the students a combination of very practical training in carpentry and mechanics at the workshops at Visnes, and a work contract with a local firm, where they are treated as ordinary workers and tutored by specially selected workers in the companies, in order to get to learn practical skills.
The ultimate aim is to have the companies take them on as apprentices as they get to know them well and see that they are capable and good workers.
c. The outcome
Over the 10 years that we have developed this practical-based pedagogy at Visnes, we have succeeded to prevent most of these students from dropping out of our school. Quite a few of these students have also managed to get an ordinary apprenticeship contract during their stay at Visnes.
Around ⅔ of the students leave Visnes after a two-year period to continue either to take a full apprenticeship or to work. The last third is more difficult to account for. Some of them move to other parts of the country. To be honest we also have to admit that we do not manage to “rescue” all the students and a few end up in crime.
To conclude, keeping the students in the education system, where they are tutored and get necessary qualifications, also very often mean that they stay out of problems with drugs and crime, and are able to find jobs and support themselves.
Based on the results we have achieved at Visnes, we surely estimate that Visnes is a very good way of running an alternative education for students who most likely would not succeed in the ordinary system. Adapted learning is stated by the Norwegian Department of Education as a right that all students have. Visnes is one way of accommodating this directive.