Proposal for renewal and improvement of school subjects

Published under: Solberg's Government

Publisher Ministry of Education and Research

The government is seeking renewal of the subjects taught in schools to enable pupils to achieve more in-depth learning and better understanding. Greater focus will also be placed on the schools’ broad education and qualification mission within the framework of the school day.

These are the main proposals set out in the white paper on the renewal of the Knowledge Promotion Reform, Fag – Fordypning – Forståelse [Subjects – In-depth learning – Understanding], presented by the Minister of Education and Research Torbjørn Røe Isaksen on 13 April 2016.

“What pupils learn in school is of major importance to our collective future, and we believe the time is ripe to update the subject matter. This will be a long-term renewal effort that builds on the Knowledge Promotion Reform, thus ensuring continuity for teachers and pupils alike,” explains the minister. The measures set out in the white paper are based on Official Norwegian Report 2014:7 Elevenes læring i fremtidens skole [Pupils’ Learning in the School of the Future] and Official Norwegian Report 2015:8 The School of the Future, both authored by the government-appointed Ludvigsen Committee.

More time for in-depth learning

The Committee pointed out that new subject matter and work methods are being introduced into national subject curricula without anything else being removed. This has led to curriculum overload. The government is proposing to renew the curricula, while retaining the subjects taught today.  

“Pupils must have enough time to work in depth if they are to learn something thoroughly. The scope of today’s subject curricula is too broad. Teachers have to move on to new topics quickly before pupils have had time to grasp a topic fully. We therefore need fewer and more clearly articulated competence objectives,” says Mr Røe Isaksen.

One of the aims of renewing the subject curricula is to make them a better support tool for teachers in their teaching and assessment of pupils.

Democracy, sustainable development and wellbeing

The government recommends giving priority to three interdisciplinary topics when renewing the school subjects: democracy and citizenship, sustainable development, and public health and wellbeing. These are all topics of importance for social development.

“Democratic development is at the core of the schools’ social mission and is a clearly relevant topic in several disciplines. Sustainable development is to encompass both environmental challenges and technological change. In addition, schools must better equip pupils for life in a society where many young people experience different types of pressures,” says Mr Røe Isaksen.

The interdisciplinary topics will be highlighted within the framework of the relevant school subjects, and will not be introduced at the expense of existing subjects.

Sector involvement

While many agree that it is time to revamp and slim down the subject curricula, there will be disagreement about what should be cut.

“We have established the framework, but it is up to professionals in the field and the school sector to make the specific professional assessments. We will get things underway quickly, but we will use the time we need. The sector will take active part in the renewal effort and will be given adequate time to prepare itself for the changes to come,” says the Minister of Education and Research.

A strategy on activities for and involvement in the renewal of the school subjects will therefore be drawn up in collaboration with organisations representing municipalities, counties, school leaders and teachers. The aim is to ensure a constructive process and predictability.

Revised Core Curriculum

The government’s proposal for renewing school content extends to the Core Curriculum as well. This curriculum builds on the objects clause of the Education Act, and describes how schools are to foster pupils’ formative development, as well as the values, cultural aspects and knowledge-related aspects that form the basis for primary and secondary education.

“There is strong indication that too little use is being made of the Core Curriculum when working with the subject curricula at the local level. This weakens the schools’ formative mission. We are therefore proposing a revised Core Curriculum that will more explicitly articulate the schools’ overriding responsibility for developing pupils’ social competence,” states Mr Røe Isaksen.