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The royal road of schooling in Sweden. The relationship between the natural science programme in upper secondary school and higher education

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Keywords: Upper Secondary Education; Higher Education; Fields of Study; Elite Education; Natural Science Education.

This article examines the connection between the natural science programme in upper secondary school in Sweden and higher education. The study focuses on the functional aspects of the natural science education programme. The theoretical background for this study is the seminal work of Pierre Bourdieu (1987; 1989) and Bourdieu and Saint Martin (1987). The study is based on official statistics as well as on a questionnaire and qualitative interviews with students enrolled in the science programme and students attending selected higher education programmes. The findings show that the natural science programme has different degrees of importance in various fields of study. The areas in higher education that lie closest to science also have the largest proportions of students with a scientific background. However, the programme also plays a crucial role for the social science and humanities fields of study. A detailed analysis reveals that there are close connections between the natural science programme at the secondary school level and the most prestigious higher education programmes in various fields of studies and that natural science education has strengthened its importance for higher education over time. It is also evident that the programme provides an actual preparation for higher studies and this functional dimension contributes significantly to making the programme the "royal road" of schooling in the Swedish educational system.

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