6. Education and lifelong curiosity

Good education, for The Alternative, starts and ends with the students, regardless of age. Whether in kindergarten, primary and lower secondary school, upper secondary school, university or continuing education, the student is at the center of The Alternative’s education policy.

The Alternative wants to to break with industrial society’s way of thinking about teaching and education, where everyone has to learn the same thing at the same time and in the same way. In the 21st century, we should no longer have to learn in step. Rather, learning, self-insight and professional development is a personal process. We learn differently, at different times and at different speeds. The Alternative’s ambition for education and lifelong curiosity is driven by a wish to equip our children, youth and adults professionally and personally, so that they are prepared and ready to face the future.

Our educational institutions and training environments should build on this recognition. This would be a major change in itself. We need both a far more flexible way of thinking about teaching and pedagogy, and a far more nuanced concept of professional qualifications and competence.

It is no longer enough to have knowledge unto itself. You must also be able to translate your knowledge and insight to create value for others. Therefore, the ability to analyze and create meaning, the ability to work together, the ability to communicate clearly and concisely, and to resolve conflicts and adapt if the work situation requires it, is crucial. The same applies to the ability to create tangible, positive results to which others attribute value.

With the challenges that we as a society are facing, we need all the creativity, entrepreneurial energy, critical analytical thinking, system understanding, cooperation and power to act that we individually and collectively can muster.

The Alternative wants our educational institutions and environments to take into account that learning, self-insight and professional development are personal processes for the individual in relation to, and in dynamic with others. We therefore want an increased focus on well-being, happiness and a sense of security for all students in our educational systems.

We want our children and youth, through their school and educational training, to acquire both deep professional qualifications and broad personal skills.

We want the student’s educational environment to be characterized by a high culture of motivation, clear technical feedback, a good balance between theory and practice, and dynamic relations with relevant external, local and global partners.

The individual key issues in The Alternative’s education policy are thereby as follows: 

  1. Focus on the students
  2. Theory and practice go hand in hand in practical training
  3. Entrepreneurship, innovation and a focus on sustainability at all levels
  4. Revitalization of the skilled crafts tradition
  5. Support to vulnerable youth

6.1. Focus on the student

A good educational environment is among other things, characterized by a high culture of motivation, clear technical feedback, and a good balance between theory and practice. Here the student is met and respected for the person he or she is, with the expectation that the student makes an effort in everything he or she does. Last but not least, it is an educational environment where the student both happily attends and feels comfortable participating.

The quality of instruction, guidance and evaluation, of course, plays a crucial role in creating a meaningful and dynamic classroom.

Good teaching depends on good teachers. The Alternative therefore wants to strengthen teachers’ and trainers’ professional competences and skills in the management and facilitation of learning. Efficient and considerate classroom teaching requires specific managerial, pedagogical and social-psychological understanding.

Improving the evaluation culture

The Alternative proposes a reform of the grading system, where the 12-point scale is supplemented with more personalized evaluation and technical feedback. In both primary and lower secondary school, and upper secondary education, the preparation of the current curriculum is a step in the right direction. But we must also move towards a more individualized system of evaluation in higher education, where the focus is as much on the student’s professional and personal development potential as it is on specific academic achievements.

Strengthening teacher leadership

All teachers and educators working in primary and secondary schools, higher education and adult education should, through their training, be taught in leadership, facilitation processes, communication, group dynamics, conflict resolution and other management tools. In this way, they will acquire the necessary tools to be able to optimize their teaching and use classroom dynamics to bring out the best in each individual.

6.2. Theory and practice go hand in hand in practical training

The Alternative believes that it is time that we create a more solid bridge of knowledge and experience between an individual’s education and the surrounding world.

The Alternative would like a portion of the assignments that students work with to involve external partners – that is to say, businesses, institutions, communities or associations that are relevant to the vocation in which the student is working.

The aim would be to ensure that the student experiences a direct and natural link between theoretical knowledge and the practical experience one gets by solving a given task in close cooperation with external partners. At the same time, the close cooperation between educational institutions and external partners would help to inspire and revitalize the academic and professional environment at the educational institutions. This practical training method would enhance both the creativity, idea development and level of understanding of the student markedly.

All educational institutions must formulate an external networking strategy

All educational institutions, from primary and secondary schools to higher education, should formulate a proper networking strategy. This means that the institution must decide which environments, businesses, institutions, research environments, think tanks and individuals are relevant to the subject knowledge of the given place – not just locally, but also nationally and internationally.

Such a deliberate network- and collaboration strategy would help to ensure that the necessary bridge of knowledge and experience is built between individual educational institutions and the professional, cultural, social and political surroundings. Together with these identified key actors, it would develop collaborative projects for the benefit of the students’ and the institutional partners’ professional development.

6.3. Entrepreneurship, innovation and a focus on sustainability at all levels

The Alternative believes that the 21st century is the century of entrepreneurs, both out of inclination and out of necessity. Out of inclination because we attach value to an entrepreneurial culture in and of itself, but also out of necessity because so many of the jobs that we took for granted in the last century, either disappear or move to other parts of the world.

The jobs of the future are going to be about finding solutions to social and environmental challenges, so that we all work for the transformation of society and simultaneously, create new jobs and working methods that can embrace the challenges we face.

If we want a more entrepreneurial, self-dependent culture that can work for a more sustainable future, we require an entrepreneurial educational culture with a broad focus on social and environmental challenges. The Alternative wants an educational culture where students move from the notion that you take an education to get a job after graduation, to taking an education because you want to create a job.

Entrepreneurship, innovation and sustainability as interdisciplinary subjects in primary and secondary education

Entrepreneurship, innovation and sustainability are complex, involving both craftsmanship, a certain way of thinking and a way of approaching life. Therefore, the topic should be introduced as a continuous and compulsory interdisciplinary course in primary and lower secondary school, which can later be followed up in upper secondary school and higher education.

For example, students in primary and secondary education should, at each grade level, either individually or in groups, develop their own business ideas or sustainable projects that benefit the local community. The business idea or sustainable project should be taken from “concept to reality” and finally, the result should be presented to an external expert panel of local professionals. Depending on the choice of topic, the panel could consist of entrepreneurs, business people, or people from organizations or public institutions. The panel would assess the project’s sustainability potential, both economically, socially and environmentally.

Entrepreneurial incubators

There should be entrepreneurial incubators at all levels of education after primary and lower secondary school. That is to say, good physical working environments where students can develop their business and project ideas parallel to other educational activities.

These entrepreneurial incubators should be assigned staff to provide students with the necessary technical discussion when it comes to idea generation, the development of a business plan, economy, organization- and team building, networking strategies, and communication and sales. The entrepreneurial incubators should be characterized by a consistent focus on sustainability, so that students’ business ideas live up to the triple bottom line: economically, socially and environmentally.

6.4. Revitalization of the skilled crafts tradition

It is an independent key issue for The Alternative to get professional pride and societal status back into the skilled crafts.

Unfortunately, a certain snobbery currently exists when it comes to higher education. The general attitude is that the longer the education is, the better it is.

The thing is, however, that society needs both bright minds and skillful hands. Especially now, as the demand for quality products, technical ingenuity and environmentally sound ways of thinking will continue to grow into the future. All this is something that was previously associated with Danish craft and design: solid craftsmanship, an understanding of the working of materials and the ability to create constructions, furniture and design at the highest level. These traditions, skills and knowledge must not be lost, but rather further developed so that they also have a beneficial impact on the technical developments across various subject areas. Denmark should once again be a proud skilled crafts and design nation, open to future opportunities and challenges.

The Alternative will therefore revitalize and make visible good craftsmanship. We must focus on the technical possibilities inherent in taking an education in the skilled trades, and we must be better to emphasize the completely essential role of craftsmanship in society.

Young people must be able to both see and feel that they are entering a dynamic industry with a strong professional identity, high social impact and excellent career opportunities. For this to become a reality, there is a need for a conscious change of culture in many of the vocational and skilled trades schools.

Postgraduate education with a focus on sustainability for all trades

It should be possible in all the trades to upgrade one’s skills to focus on sustainable construction, production, design and product development. Supplementary education can, for example, be developed in cooperation between the skilled trades schools, the design and architecture schools, the Technical University of Denmark and the IT University of Copenhagen, with the aim of achieving a national boost in education and skills for all the skilled trades targeted at a sustainable transformation of society.

Nationwide campaign for good craftsmanship and the craftsman’s life

The Alternative would like a nationwide information and attitude campaign in cooperation with the skilled crafts schools, the sector’s specialist press and Danmarks Radio. There should be a campaign where known and unknown artisans, through their own life story and the businesses they have worked for or helped to create, showcase good craftsmanship and its importance for society. The campaign will initially target primary and lower secondary school graduates.

6.5. Support to vulnerable youth

Too many young people today find it difficult to continue in education after lower secondary school. Some are declared “not training ready”, while others come in with an upper secondary education, but fail to complete their course of study.

At vocational schools, for example, the dropout rate is over 45%. That means that almost every other person accepted into this training, does not manage to complete it. The schools believe that the reasons for dropping out are predominantly about the lack of personal and social skills.

When so many youth withdraw from upper secondary education because of a lack of personal and social skills, it provides an opportunity to examine the school system that should be qualifying young people to find and maintain employment or education. Primary and lower secondary school has to be better at supplementing academic training with social and personal training that can contribute to forming the students.

The Formation Toolbox

Primary and lower secondary school must at an early stage identify those students who do not have the social and personal skills that are necessary to complete an education. An interrupted education later in life can be avoided if, for example, guidance counsellors identify those students with special needs across the student cohort. It would thus be possible to intervene early with training and guidance, possibly in cooperation with local upper secondary schools, where the students could get engaged in collaboration with their regular schooling. This could also be done through project work or internships, where students meet and develop the personal and social skills needed in the workplace, during education and in society.

Better pedagogy in primary and lower secondary schools, in vocational schools and in the skilled crafts schools

The Alternative believes that all teachers and trainers that are going to work in primary and secondary schools and in higher education should, through training, strengthen their skills in leadership, facilitation processes, communication, group dynamics and conflict resolution. They would thus have the tools necessary to optimize individual and group learning, so that students achieve more active and engaging everyday lives and schooling. Opposite vocational schools and skilled crafts education, we will require, moreover, systematic and targeted work on developing pedagogical tools to reduce the all-too-high dropout rate.

Strengthening the informal education market

When Danish youth leave the education system after primary and lower secondary school, they often end up in the informal education market. This could be at production schools, day folk schools, with private actors, in local job training or in upper secondary full-time education. Altogether, up to 300 informal learning organizations in Denmark form the framework for 20,000 youth’s everyday life. These learning organizations all have in common the need to qualify young people to get back into education and work.

The Alternative will work for an upgrade of the informal education market, where youth come in closer contact with local education programs and businesses that are responsible for carrying youth forward. The local education programmes and businesses must help to formulate what youth need to learn in order to maintain education and work. The informal learning organizations must, in this respect, become experts in cultivating precisely the skills of young people. The relevant skills will be taught through internships, project partnerships and other initiatives where young people can meet the professional and personal requirements that exist in secondary education and in the workplace.

The learning that youth receive at the informal learning organizations will be documented so that the youth always have documentation on what they have learned. This will strengthen youth’s ownership of the learning process, and the young person will have the opportunity to show what he or she knows and can do.