The organisation of VET at upper-secondary level and the connections between VET and working life varies considerably between the European countries (c.f. Olofsson 2005). How to raise the quality of VET and develop a closer collaboration between VET and professional life is however a common issue (Lasonen & Young 1998). This paper concerns such matters in the highly school-based Swedish VET context. In Sweden, VET is integrated in a comprehensive system of upper-secondary education, which since the 1980s includes almost all 16-19 year olds. A reform in the early 1990s meant that vocational educational programs were stronger integrated within a decentralized and goal oriented organization (Lundahl 1998). Vocational as well as academic programs should give eligibility to higher education. Education should be flexible and prepare for broad sections of the labour market, rather than for specific professions. Fifteen weeks of the 3-year education were devoted to work place training. Branches should have a real influence on the content of education. The working places receiving trainees were given a training responsibility and have professional supervisors. This necessitated cooperation between schools and places of work. According to several evaluations, this has however turned out to be problematic, and a number of efforts have aimed at furthering cooperation between school and work. This paper emanates from one of them, the RUSA project (Regional Developement - Collaboration School/ Labour market). The study aims at shedding light on the opinions of actors in upper secondary schools, related branches and teacher education on the collaboration between school and work. It is expected to highlight what is going on at the realization arena related to the formal arena which was set by the upper-secondary school reform in the early 1990s.
Aim. The aim of the paper is to investigate the relations and cooperation between actors in upper secondary schools and working life from school actors´ point of view. The research questions are: Do working life actors have any real influence on the contents of upper secondary education? What are the school actors visions for the future?
Theorethical framework. The study is based on curriculum and profession theories. Many of the changes connected to the reform may be described as weakened classification and framing where boundaries between subjects, teachers and pupils have been less distinct (Bernstein 1996). The decentralized and goal oriented organization requires changed roles of school actors. Reflection has become a catchword and the rhetoric of the reflective teacher is also one about the professional teacher (Englund 1997, Hargreaves 2000)..
Methodology: 108 vocational studies teachers and 9 principals in three vocational programs answered a structured questionnaire allowing for comments. The survey will be completed with a small number of interviews
Conclusions: The answers are heterogenous, reflecting different traditions. Almost no systematic work to promote closer collaboration with labour market in the investigated programs is indicated, lack of time being a common alleged reason. The reform ambition to give these a real influence has merely caused a few ripples on the surface. However school actors wish to create a deeper collaboration with the branches
A majority of respondents have continuously worked with a clear goal towards a set profession. New areas and work assignments have gradually been introduced and new competencies have been demanded in line with the rhetoric of extended professionalism (Hargreaves 2000). The identities as vocational teachers have become less distinct. They may also use alliance strategies and approach the teachers in academic subjects who still possess certain privileges.
Finally, the reform intention of weaker boundaries between academic and vocational subjects and training tends to be counteracted by the implementation and framework of training at the work place