Still hidden stereotypes?

The article “Academic work on a back burner: habituating Students in the upper-secondary school towards marginality and a life in the precariat” published by Marianne Dovemark & Dennis Beach in 2015 deals with data from the Individual Programme (IP) for Upper-secondary Pupils in Sweden. Swedish pupils are usually separated into University Preparation Programmes and Vocational Programmes. If they do not fulfil in the requirements of these programmes, they become part of the IP. That is done because students are constructed and labelled as having theoretical or practical skills. According to these skills, the teachers put different demands on students. This seems quite against the basic idea of the Swedish education act which postulates equal access to education (regardless of geographical and socioeconomic background). Reasons for participating in the IP are often related to the circumstances in early childhood. Some other reasons are learning and motivational difficulties, illness and poor relationships to teachers. The authors found out that there is a gender imbalance in the IP-Group as less then 30% of the pupils were female.


Could this observation confirm that there still is a hidden stereotype that boys  have predominantly practical skills? As a consequence, they would be more often assigned to the IP than girls. The authors conclude that the impact of IPs do not reflect the official aim of helping students to qualify for a national programme. The reader gets the impression that the IP is in fact a “rest- category”, which includes all the pupils who do not fit in other programmes. Groups with lower educational level can be systematically disadvantaged by slower learning environments, which leaves them behind of those children who have higher skills and are in upper groups. In combination with learning difficulties and less support from home there is the big danger that the pupils get stucked in this programme and loose motivation. It should be a main task of the teachers to motivate and to show them their possibilities and that it is not impossible to reach their goals.


Lena Kunert (writer), Julia Korhonen, Anna Majava, Pinja Fernström, Lisa Bennet

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