Should Denmark allow fewer young people to graduate upper secondary school?

Should Denmark allow fewer young people to graduate upper secondary school?
Upper secondary school (gymnasium) graduates in Holstebro in May 2019. Photo: Morten Stricker/Midtjyske Medier/Ritzau Scanpix
A Danish union has called for the country’s educational system to produce fewer graduates of upper secondary school, which would in turn reduce the number of people able to enter university.

People who complete upper secondary school – known as studenter in Danish – are generally qualified to enter university degree programmes, having completed their studies at a gymnasium or equivalent Danish educational institution, similar to sixth form in the United Kingdom or senior high school in the US.

But too many young people are allowed to reach this level of education, resulting in an unbalanced workforce, according to Dansk Metal, a trade union representing industries including mechanics, transport, electronics and IT.

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The union’s position is supported by other Danish industrial representative organizations including Fagbevægelsens Hovedorganisation, FOA and HK, newspaper Berlingske reports on Monday.

Dansk Metal has argued that 3,000 students fewer should be enrolled annually at upper secondary schools in Denmark.

That would be done by introducing a limit on the number of students who can be admitted, the organization said.

“It’s time for somebody to say out loud that too many people go to gymnasium [upper secondary school, ed.] and that we need to do something as a society,” Kasper Palm, Dansk Metal’s union secretary, told Berlingske.

A government-enforced limit on the area would result in a higher number of people learning skilled trades and fewer unemployed new graduates of higher education, Dansk Metal says.

It would also make it easier for the government to fulfil its promise to lower the retirement age for people in physically demanding jobs, according to the union.

Since the early 1990s, the number of people in Denmark with vocational qualifications as their highest level of education has decreased from 40 to 24 percent.

Palm compared upper secondary school limits to those already in place for popular vocations.

“We don’t have to train 1,000 zookeepers per year if we don’t need them. We should do the same thing with upper secondary schools,” he said to Berlingske.

“Given that society is paying for educational programmes, it’s not unfair to say that society should decide how many people should take them,” he added.

Minister for Education Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil did not wish to comment on the matter, Berlingske writes.

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