National Reforms in School Education

Democracy and citizenship, sustainable development, and public health and wellbeing.

The Norwegian Parliament decided (2016) on a revision of all subject curricula. The revision involves Primary, Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary Education, including both general and vocational strands in Upper Secondary Education.

One of the aims of the revision is to reduce the content of the curricula, to better allow for students’ in-depth learning and understanding. Existing subjects will be kept, but the content will be changed. Priority is to be given to three interdisciplinary themes: democracy and citizenship, sustainable development, and public health and wellbeing. These three transversal themes shall be reflected in all subjects where applicable. Critical thinking and reflection will be emphasized, and practical and aesthetic subjects will be given more weight;  Source.

In this post, I have listed some of the parts that I think are most important. I truly believe that this reform has the potential to transform what goes on in Norwegian classrooms. It is now up to every school leader and teacher to make sure that this is the transformation we need in our school to help each and every student meet their potential.

Core curriculum – values and principles for primary and secondary education

The core curriculum of the curriculum elaborates on the core values in the objectives clause in the Education Act and the overriding principles for primary and secondary education and training. It comprises this introduction, a summary of the objects clause and three chapters: 1. Core values of the education and training, 2. Principles for education and all-round development and 3. Principles for the school’s practice.

The core curriculum applies to primary and secondary education and training in Norway. The core curriculum describes the fundamental approach that shall direct the pedagogical practice in all lower and secondary education and training.

Here are the headlines in the report.

Competence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills to master
challenges and solve tasks in familiar and unfamiliar contexts and situations.
Competence includes understanding and the ability to reflect and think critically.

This understanding of the competence concept must underpin the school’s work with the subject curricula and the assessment of the pupils’ competence in the subjects. The competence goals in the subjects must be considered together, both in and across the subjects. The competence goals must also be understood in light of the objectives clause and the other sections of the curriculum.

Knowledge means being familiar with and understanding facts, concepts, theories, ideas and relationships in various subject fields and topic areas. Skills are used to master actions or procedures in order to carry out tasks or solve problems, and comprise, for example, motor, practical, cognitive, social, creative and linguistic skills. The competence concept also includes understanding and the ability to reflect and think critically in subjects, which is vital for understanding theoretical reasoning and for carrying out practical tasks. Reflection and critical thinking are part of developing attitudes and ethical judgment.

The school must provide room for in-depth learning so that the students develop an understanding of key elements and relationships in a subject, and so they can learn to apply subject knowledge and skills in familiar and unfamiliar contexts. In their work in the subjects, the pupils shall be given tasks and participate in varied activities with increasing complexity. In-depth learning implies applying knowledge and skills in different ways so that over time the pupils will be able to master various types of challenges in the subject, individually and in interaction with others.

Core values of education and training.

Critical thinking and ethical awareness

The teaching and training shall give the students an understanding of critical and scientific thinking. Critical and scientific thinking means applying reason in an inquisitive and systematic way when working with specific practical challenges, phenomena, expressions, and forms of knowledge. The teaching and training must create an understanding that the methodologies for examining the real world must be adapted to what we want to study, and that the choice of methodology influences what we see. If new insight is to emerge, established ideas must be scrutinized and criticized by using theories, methods, arguments, experiences, and evidence. The students must be able to assess different sources of knowledge and think critically about how knowledge is developed. They must also be able to understand that their own experiences, points of view and convictions may be incomplete or erroneous. Critical reflection requires knowledge, but there is also room for uncertainty and unpredictability. The teaching and training must, therefore, seek a balance between respect for established knowledge and the explorative and creative thinking required to develop new knowledge.

The joy of creating, engagement and the urge to explore

Children and young people are curious and want to discover and create. The teaching and training must give the students rich opportunities to become engaged and develop the urge to explore. The ability to ask questions, explore and experiment is important for in-depth learning. The school must respect and nurture different ways of exploring and creating. The students must learn and develop through sensory perceptions and thinking, aesthetic forms of expressions and practical activities. For the youngest children in school, playing is necessary for well-being and development, but in education as a whole, play provides opportunities for creative and meaningful learning.

Creative abilities contribute to enriching society. Collaboration inspires innovation and entrepreneurship so that new ideas can be transformed into action. Students who learn about and through creative activities develop the ability to express themselves in different ways and to solve problems and ask new questions.

Democracy and participation

The teaching and training shall promote belief in democratic values and in democracy as a form of government. It shall give the students an understanding of the basic rules of democracy and the importance of protecting them. Participating in society means respecting and endorsing fundamental democratic values, such as mutual respect, tolerance, individual freedom of faith and speech, and free elections. Democratic values shall be promoted through active participation throughout the entire learning path.

The school shall promote democratic values and attitudes that can counteract prejudice and discrimination. Students shall learn in school to respect the fact that people are different and learn to solve conflicts peacefully.

A democratic society is based on the idea that all citizens have equal rights and opportunities to participate in the decision-making processes. Protecting the minority is an important principle in a democratic state governed by law and in a democratic society.  A democratic state also protects indigenous peoples and minorities.

The school must be a venue where children and young people experience democracy in practice. The students must experience that they are heard in the day-to-day affairs in school, that they have genuine influence and that they can have an impact on matters that concern them. They must gain experience and practice different forms of democratic participation in the day-to-day work with their subjects, and through such bodies as student councils and advisory bodies. The dialogue between teacher and students, and between the school and the home, must be based on mutual respect. When the voices of the students are heard in school, they will experience how they can make their own considered decisions. Such experiences have a value in the here and now, and prepare the pupils for becoming responsible citizens in society

Sustainable development

Sustainable development as an interdisciplinary topic in school shall help the students to understand basic dilemmas and developments in society, and how they can be dealt with. Sustainable development refers to protecting life on earth and providing for the needs of people who live here now without destroying the possibilities for future generations to fill their needs. Sustainable development is based on the understanding that social, economic and environmental conditions are interconnected. Our lifestyles and resource consumption have local, regional and global consequences.

In working with this topic the students shall develop competence which enables them to
make responsible choices and to act ethically and with environmental awareness. The
students must learn to understand that all individual activities and choices are significant. This topic includes issues relating to the environment and climate, poverty and distribution of resources, conflicts, health, equality, demographics, and education. The students shall learn about the different aspects of sustainable development.
Technology has a substantial impact on humans beings, the environment, and society.

Technological competence and knowledge about the links between technology and the
social, economic and environmental aspects of sustainable development are thus key
discussion points here. While technological development may help to solve problems, it
may also create new ones. Knowledge about technology implies understanding which
dilemmas may arise due to the use of technology, and how these can be dealt with.

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