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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Teaching and learning in vocational and technical upper secondary education


6.Upper secondary and post-secondary non-tertiary Education

6.5Teaching and learning in vocational and technical upper secondary education

Last update: 27 November 2023

Curriculum, Subjects, Number of Hours


Most vocational and technical upper secondary schools operate according to a unit-credit system where the educational content of each subject is divided into several defined course units which last for one semester. Each course unit represents a fixed number of hours of instruction per week during one semester. At the end of every semester, the pupil decides on courses for the following semester according to certain rules and in accordance with his or her own study plans and results. Thus, each pupil is given his or her own personal timetable. Pupils in each course form a group for that course unit only, and classes or forms in the traditional sense of the word do not exist. Those schools that have traditional classes or forms operate around the form or the class as a unit and organise their education by discipline. 

The Upper Secondary School Act of 2008 allows for a greater flexibility and freedom for schools to formulate descriptions of their branches of study.

In vocational education at the upper secondary level, study shall be both theoretical and practical and shall form as cohesive a whole as possible to enable pupils to better understand the connection between its theoretical and practical aspects. The content and educational objectives of individual branches of study are defined in the National Curriculum Guide. 

The subjects included in vocational branches of study can be divided as follows: general academic subjects, theoretical vocational subjects and practical vocational subjects. Emphasis shall be placed on having the content of study reflect the current needs of the employment sector concerning the professional qualifications of workers. 

All vocational trainees must take a certain number of credits in general academic subjects; i.e. Icelandic, modern languages, social studies and mathematics. Physical education is also compulsory. One credit is generally the equivalent of two lessons of instruction per week for one semester. The number of theoretical vocational subjects and practical vocational subjects varies in different branches, as does the extent of practical training. Teaching methods in academic subjects in vocational education are based on lectures, individual tutoring.

Study Methods and Materials

Teachers may choose the teaching methods they use. Methods to stimulate student participation are recommended. Teachers can also choose the study aids used.