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Guidance System in Norway – Introduction

Career guidance services in Norway are education and labour market based, located within educational institutions, regional career centres, and in local employment centres. In the education sector school counsellors are available in lower and upper secondary schools, higher education institutions and further education institutions.

In the labour market administration NAV, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration, is statutorily responsible for the provision of guidance services. Career Guidance services are offered through local employment centres, which offers services to the unemployed/jobseekers, persons with disabilities and for immigrants and refugees.

Guidance counselling in the Norwegian school system – Terminology

Guidance for pupils in primary and secondary school is regulated by the Education Act (Opplæringsloven) and regulations hereto. The service consists of career information, guidance and counselling in connection with educational, vocational, and social pedagogic matters. In this document the term ‘guidance’ is used sometimes in this broad sense, sometimes it is narrowed and specified. The term ‘career guidance’ is used also, mainly referring to subjects related to education and work life.

Guidance and the school’s societal mandate

The guidance service in schools represent goals and tasks that can support the school’s societal mandate, as the mandate is described in the object clause for the primary and secondary education and training, the Core Curriculum, and the principles for the education. The school shall contribute to the pupils’ personal, social, and educational development and learning, qualify them for a good life, enable them to function on different arenas of society, and contribute to societal growth and development. Additionally, the Regulations to the Education Act links guidance to some central principles related to educational policies within the societal mandate. The guidance service shall contribute to social equity, to integ¬ration of ethnic minorities, and to ensure that the pupils complete the 13 years of education and training. The guidance service shall also promote a gender equity perspective through contributing to pupils receiving the help they need to exploit and develop their own resources, regardless of traditional gender roles.

Individual right to guidance

Pupils have an individual statutory right to receive necessary guidance. This right is stated in the Education Act § 9-2 and is related to two kinds of guidance (see below). The pupils’ right includes a right to necessary guidance regarding educational choices, vocational choices, career opportunities, and social matters. The Regulations to the Education Act chapter 22 elaborates on pupils’ right to guidance. The guidance should have a coherent perspective and see both educational, vocational, and social pedagogic matters in connection with each other. The regulations stress that the guidance should be organized as a gradual and long term process that takes care of the pupil’s interests and needs over time. The pupil has a right to individual guidance, but the guidance can also be given in different forms of groups. The pupil’s wishes and needs will determine what form of guidance can be used. Pupils in private schools have the same rights according to the Private Education Act (Privatskoleloven) §3-11 and regulations hereto, chapter seven.

Two kinds of guidance

According to §22-2 and §22-3 in the Regulation to the Education Act pupils have an individual right to receive two kinds of guidance: social pedagogic guidance and educational and vocational guidance.

Social pedagogic guidance is addressed in the Regulations to the Education Act § 22-2. The purpose of social pedagogic guidance is to help the individual pupil to adapt well to the school environment and to help the pupils with personal, social, and emotional problems that may have impact on the pupil’s learning and social relations at school. The help may consist of revealing problems and their size, determining what matters the school can address and whether there’s a need for help from institutions outside the school system. The pupil can also be given help to find the right organizations or institutions for seeking help and be put in contact with these. This field has strong links to the field of learning environment and fields of work connected to both the special service for educational and psychological counselling service (PP-tjenesten) and the school health service.

The right to educational and vocational guidance is addressed in the Regulations to the Education Act § 22-3. It underlines that pupils have a right to counselling and guidance regarding their choice of education and vocation, information about educational pathways in Norway and internationally, knowledge about the labour market both nationally and internationally, and to be given training in using different counselling tools. Educational and vocational guidance shall help the pupils developing awareness of their own values, interests, and personal resources; increase their self-awareness, knowledge and ability to make their own choices regarding education and vocation; and support the pupil’s ability to assess consequences of choices and to prevent wrong choices.

Access and quality

In § 22-1 in the Regulation to the Education Act it is stressed that guidance shall be available to the pupils at each individual school. What this availability implies is decided by the school owner.

According to the Education Act § 13-10, section one, it is the school owner’s responsibility that the rights and obligations of the Education Act and its regulations are fulfilled. This includes the pupil’s right to guidance. The school owner is required to have a system for evaluating whether the requirements of the Education Act and regulations are fulfilled (Education Act § 13-10, section two). This includes the pupil’s right to both kinds of guidance.

The regulations to the Education Act states in § 22-4, section two, that the school is expected to work systematically to ensure that the guidance service is satisfactory for the pupils. There shall be internal cooperation within the school concerning the guidance service and external cooperation between school and parents, help institutions outside school, educational institutions, local work life, and more.

§ 22-4 states that the guidance be delivered by personnel with relevant competencies for the two kinds of guidance. Guidance counsellors are expected to be up to date on educational options and labour market needs. The school owner decides what relevant competences are as the Education Act has no formal competence requirements to guidance counsellors. The requirements regarding teachers’ competences do not apply to guidance counsellors as guidance is not teaching, according to the Education Act § 10.1. The Directorate for Education and Training has developed a set of recommended competence requirements for guidance counsellors, but the school owner decides on its own whether to follow these recommendations or not. Consequences of the guideline initiative are yet to be evaluated.

The follow-up service

The Follow-up service (Oppfølgingstjenesten) is a body subordinate to the county school authorities, and acts as a safety net. The service is obliged to follow up all early school leavers and other young people between the ages of 16 and 21, who are neither in the education system, nor at work. The Follow-up service was established under a major upper secondary education reform, Reform 94. The 1994 reform aimed to strengthen access to and the quality and relevance of the educational system, as well as to increase its effectiveness and cost-efficiency. The follow-up service was established in an effort to meet the challenges related to high drop-out rates in upper secondary education. The aim of the service is to provide the necessary information, guidance and practical assistance to direct the individuals into an activity leading to general matriculation, a formal vocational qualification or a partial qualification that can improve their access to the labour market.

Regional partnerships for career guidance

Regional partnerships for career guidance (pilot 2005, permanent 2008) were established as an initiative to increase guidance counsellors’ knowledge of the work life and to address drop-out from upper secondary education. The initiative seeks increased co-operation, co-ordination and communication of career guidance related issues between the main stakeholders on a regional level. The participants are the education sector, labour sector, and regional authorities.

The goals defined for the partnerships are, among others, to offer better and more coherent career guidance in a lifelong perspective, to improve access to guidance counselling services, to improve the countywide coordination of career guidance across all ages, and increase coordination and find solutions safeguarding different groups’ interests on a local and regional level. The partnerships should involve as many of the partners as possible in a binding cooperation and partnership.

Target groups for the partnerships can be (depending to some extent on the model chosen at county/regional level) school counsellors at lower and upper secondary level, advisers in the follow-up services and in adult education, as well as individuals (e.g. youths, adult learners, people from ethnic minorities), job seekers and education seekers.

Most of the 19 counties have established regional partnerships and, in most cases, career centres. The remaining counties either are on their way to establish such centres, or have chosen an even more decentralised model, still aiming to support lower secondary level in particular.

At county level the partnerships are established among The Norwegian Welfare and Labour Administration (Arbeids- og velferdsforvaltningen, NAV), the county administrations, the social partners, training offices (opplæringskontor), higher education institutions and other relevant public and private stakeholders. Which partners to involve is decided at county level. The partnership arrangement has been evaluated and is regarded a successful initiative. It is currently financed through the state budget.

Vox (the Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning) is national coordinator since 1.1.2011.