NOU 2015: 8

The School of the Future — Renewal of subjects and competences

To table of content

2 Competences in the school of the future

Figure 2.1 Illustration Chapter 2

Figure 2.1 Illustration Chapter 2

The Committee was asked to assess the competences pupils will need in the future society, working life and their own private lives in a 20-30 year perspective. These future competences needs will form the point of departure for assessing how the subject content of school should be renewed.

In this chapter the Committee assesses and gives rationales for which areas of competence should be emphasised in the school of the future. The rationales the Committee finds important are the content of the objects clause, key trends in societal development and knowledge from various research fields. The second part of the chapter provides definitions of the competences, and some aspects of these are discussed in depth due to their importance for the school of the future.

Several trends suggest a society characterised by complexity, greater diversity and a more rapid pace of change. The societal trends the Committee finds most important have been pointed out in various international and domestic reports and research work.1 The societal features reflect to a large extent the local, national and global communities the pupils are part of, as well as the working life they will join later in life.

The Committee recommends that the following four areas of competence should be given emphasis in the subject content of school in a perspective stretching from 20 to 30 years:

  • subject-specific competence

  • competence in learning

  • competence in communicating, interacting and participating

  • competence in exploring and creating

The Committee point out that pupil's development of competence in key subjects and disciplines will also continue to be important in the school of the future. Pupils will need to acquire new knowledge and develop what they already know and can do, and school should therefore develop their competence in learning. Pupils’ ability to learn to communicate, interact and participate is becoming more and more important, both for the society and each individual, and will be an important part of creating a good learning environment in school. School should also contribute to teaching pupils to explore and create. This is important if pupils are to be able to contribute in working life and society and are to contribute to exploring and finding solutions to new challenges.

In sum, these areas of competence will reflect the school’s societal mission. As illustrated in Figure 2.2, each competence area is important on its own in a school for the future, but they are also interconnected and will be developed in collaboration with each other. The Committee attaches importance to how pupils should develop competence through their work with the school subjects, and Chapter 3 assesses how today’s school subjects may be renewed so that the competence areas will influence the education more than is the case today.

Figure 2.2 The four competence areas

Figure 2.2 The four competence areas

2.1 The competence concept in school

In school, competence refers to goals for pupils’ learning and development. The use of the competence concept puts focus on what pupils should learn, and which competence they should develop through their education. Pupils’ development of competence is a process stretching across the entire educational pathway. Knowledge is decisive in a school aiming to develop pupil competence, but the competence concept reinforces the fact that the pupils must learn how to use the knowledge and skills they acquire.

The Committee recommends continuing with the competence concept in today’s school, but wants to put more focus on defining competence broadly, see Box 2.1. This means that when the pupils develop competence, they will develop their thinking and practical skills, and they will also develop socially and emotionally. Competence also means being able to reflect on and assess what a situation or task requires, what is ethically acceptable and understanding what the consequence of an action are. The need for the broad competence concept is found in the complexity of the challenges the pupils will encounter in school and later in life, and this idea is also supported by research on learning and development and the school’s societal responsibilities.2

Textbox 2.1 Definition of competence

Competence means being able to master challenges and solve tasks in various contexts, and comprises cognitive, practical, social and emotional learning and development, including attitudes, values and ethical assessments. Competence can be learnt and developed and is expressed through what a person does in different activities and situations.

Knowledge, skills, attitudes and ethical assessments are requirements for and parts of developing competence. To demonstrate competence, pupils must often apply various knowledge, skills and attitudes together.

2.1.1 Subject-specific and cross-curricular competence

The report distinguishes between subject-specific and cross-curricular competences. Subject-specific competences are connected to the science subjects and other subject/knowledge areas the school subjects build on. Cross-curricular competences are relevant for many subjects and areas of knowledge. The Committee finds that both subject-specific and cross-curricular competences should be integrated in the school subjects, and that pupils’ learning occurs through working with the subjects. It is important to bear in mind that learning a subject requires cross-curricular competences, and that the relationships between what is subject-specific and what is cross-curricular will change over time when a school subject is renewed and developed. These concepts are necessary analytical tools for the development and implementation of subject curricula so we can assess how they contribute together to renewing and changing the content of a subject.

2.2 Competences for the future – rationales and considerations

2.2.1 School’s social responsibility

School’s social responsibility comprises goals for both society and each pupil. The objects clause states that pupils are to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes to master their lives and to be able to participate in working life and society. They must be allowed to experience and show the joy of creativity, engagement and the desire to explore.

The activities in school must reflect the objects clause. The Committee therefore attaches importance to how, in sum the competences recommended for the future must reflect school’s social responsibility. School’s social responsibility will also comprise more than the sum of the competence objectives in the subjects. School should, for example, support the identity development of the pupils and assume responsibility for the interpersonal relations and the social environment in school.3

2.2.2 Important trends in societal development

Today’s Norwegian society is characterised by stability and good living conditions. Compared to many other countries in the world, Norway has a well-functioning democratic system, comprehensive welfare programmes, a high level of education, competitive business and industry and high employment. This is an important point of departure for creating a school and a society where the pupils can realise their opportunities and live productive and safe lives.4 However, there are also inequality in Norway. School has an important duty to make it possible for all pupils to master their lives and participate in work and the social community. At the same time, Norway is also part of a world dominated by major challenges.

Globalisation is a dominate development trend, and it is probable that this development will increase and continue. People, ideas, capital, goods and services are being moved across national borders more than ever before, and contact and influence between people from different countries are on the rise. Norwegian economy and welfare depend on comprehensive financial, cultural and political cooperation, both with the European sphere and other regions of the world. Norway is part of the international migration picture, where the immigrant proportion of the population appears to be increasing. This contributes to a growth in ethnic, religious and cultural diversity in the Norwegian society.5 Urbanisation is a developing feature in Norway that impacts where people live and the type of work they have, and also impacts our attitudes and the way we choose to live.6 Cultural diversity and multilingualism enrich society and create new resources. We also see that cultural complexity in society creates tensions that may lead to conflicts between groups.

Common challenges, such as climate change and the conflict level in the world impact society locally, regionally and globally, and require solutions that must be found together where one of the aims is to promote social responsibility. In the future, climate change will increasingly impact nature, the environment and people’s living conditions. It has been estimated that migration due to climate change will increase towards 2050.7 Some of the aims of a democratic society are that its inhabitants are willing to support key social values and principles and that the various groups in society participate in organisational life and elections, and are involved in their society. Societal changes arising because of globalisation, increased diversity and individualisation make it important to concentrate on democratic participation and what it means to co-exist in society.8

Society is changing at an increasingly rapid pace, and this means that knowledge has to be renewed on a continuous basis. Investment in human knowledge and competence is the most important underpinning for future welfare and economy, and it is highly important that the individual has the opportunity to realise him/herself. Research, innovation and technological development are important contributors to Norwegian business and industry’s competitiveness and are important when dealing with national and international societal challenges. Today a large proportion of Norway's income stems from oil and gas-related industries. Due to climate emissions and the fact that in the long run oil and gas reserves are non-renewable resources, it is important to stimulate innovation and the development of business and industry in other fields.

Technological development creates new forms of communication, collaboration and cooperation in working life and society at large. Today’s working life has high demands for competence, education and the ability to restructure and cooperate across professional and vocational fields. It is probable that the number of jobs that demand complex problem-solving and communication will increase in the coming years, whereas a number of monotonous and manual jobs will be taken over by technological solutions.9 Demographic changes will impact working life in the future. For example, the workforce will probably have to cope with heavier demands on their provider responsibilities.10

Societal development is placing greater demands on each individual. Access to information is extremely comprehensive, and the information that is available to each individual through media and other channels is often complex and stems from different types of sources. It will therefore be important for pupils to be able to process complex information and assess information critically. Each of us must make considered and deliberate decisions in many fields, for example, personal health, social relationships, sustainable consumption and personal finances. When society in many fields is characterised by individualisation, this may provide great freedom to make individual choices, but this may also demand more of each individual.11

In sum, the trends offer a picture of a future society that will typically feature rapid changes, development of technology and knowledge, diversity, complexity, major social challenges and opportunities for development.

2.2.3 Relevant research

The interim report describes various research fields which help to illuminate what is important for pupils to learn in school. Recent research on what creates conditions for learning is in focus here. Learning occurs in an interaction between cognitive, social and emotional aspects of pupil’s learning. Research supports the idea that a learning environment which is perceived as safe and is based on good relationships is decisive for supporting pupils’ academic, social and emotional learning and development. Furthermore, productive cooperation between the home and school is important for pupils’ learning and development.

Social and emotional competences which earlier were considered to be stable personal features can be developed and learned, and have impact on academic learning. The Committee underlines that when the teaching stimulates the pupils’ development of metacognition and self-regulation, this promotes learning in the subjects.12 As the ability to learn is so important in school, working life and society in general, metacognition and self-regulation will be important competences for the pupils to develop.

In a learning context the concept of self-regulated learning means that the pupils learn to take initiatives in their own learning processes and to work purposefully to learn in the subjects. Self-regulated learning occurs in collaboration with others. In the interim report the Committee also attaches importance to a psychological understanding of self-regulation, which means the ability to manage and take control of one’s own actions, emotions and thinking.13 Being able to work purposefully, resist distractions and adapt in collaboration with others are examples of self-regulation. Self-regulation and the ability to act reliably and responsibly are important for pupils’ learning in school and how they later cope with working life and their own lives.14

2.2.4 Competence needs

The Committee has considered key aspects of social developments, relevant research and the content of the objects clause. In sum this supports the idea that pupils in the Norwegian school will need to develop subject-specific competences and cross-curricular competences that are important in many subjects, such as the ability to learn, communicate, cooperate, participate, explore and create. A broad competence concept which involves thinking, practical skills and social and emotional learning and development should be reflected in the competences.

The pupils will need to develop competence in the disciplines of mathematics, natural science and technology, languages, social studies and ethics, as well as in practical and aesthetics subjects. This will give them the foundation from which to make further choices about their education and vocation. These disciplines are important for creating welfare and a good community to live in, and for ensuring innovation and competitiveness in Norwegian business and industry. Knowledge about society and the surrounding world will contribute to personal development, critical reflection and an informed well-functioning democracy.

The complexity of society, and the duties and challenges pupils will encounter, means that pupils must learn to use knowledge and skills in different ways. As knowledge is continuously renewed, pupils must be able to develop and refine what they learn in the subjects later in life. Learning the scientific methods of the subjects, the ways of thinking, concepts and principles may give pupils competence which will be relevant over time, and provide tools for understanding how specialised knowledge changes. Digital communication tools and other technologies will be involved in a high number of situations, so pupils need to develop digital competence as part of their subject competence.

To acquire new knowledge and deal with changes and restructuring in working life and other arenas, pupils need competence in learning. This means that they must develop awareness of what they actually can do and know, and how they can use it, and that they master relevant learning strategies. It is important for further learning and for the learning environment in school that pupils have a positive view on learning and their own mastering.

It is of great value socially, culturally and financially that school contribute to developing pupils’ competence in being exploring and creative. Society has a great need for innovation, research and competence to deal with complex duties and challenges. Thus the pupils need to learn creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving. It is also a very important value for society that there is competence in creating artistic and cultural expressions. The open and experimental approach to being creative in art and culture may enrich the individual’s life, and society as a whole.

If citizens are to find their way in a complex society and make informed choices in their lives, they will need the ability to make critical assessments and be good at problem-solving. Already during their primary and secondary education and training pupils need to practise asking exploratory questions, analysing and solving problems with others, in addition to developing and implementing ideas.

The need for creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving is not restricted to academic professions and professions with theoretically oriented job descriptions. Skilled workers will also need to make critical assessments as part of their practical work, and will need to find solutions and implement ideas in practice.

School is a society in miniature, where the pupils learn, interact and participate in and with various communities. Research indicates that strategies for cooperation, daring to speak up and to understand that one’s own participation means something to others, can be learnt and developed and should be given greater attention in school. In school, in working life and in various social arenas the pupils must be able to communicate, interact and participate. Trends such as increased diversity and individualisation create the need to understand democracy, to respect differences and to have positive attitudes to co-existence in a community.

Massive and complex access to information, digital communication technology and the large amount of written information in society result in the need for sound competence in reading and writing. Pupils must be able to understand various types of texts, collate information from different sources, assess the credibility of sources, have the ability to judge digital sources and be able to communicate according to various purposes and target groups. In the future, society will also place high demands on the individual’s ability to orient him/herself in society, cope with everyday life and make good decisions in his or her own life. Critical thinking, ethical assessment, mathematical competence and knowledge about the body and movement are examples of competences that are important for making choices about personal health, lifestyle, consumption and one’s own financial situation.

Pupils’ motivations, emotions, attitudes and collaborations with others have intrinsic value in school and for individual personal development. The importance of communication and participation is increasing in society, and the social and emotional competence of pupils impacts subject learning and their later life.15 The Committee argues that this makes it even more important than before that school should work systematically on supporting pupils’ social and emotional learning and development in the subjects. Practical skills have great value in school, in working life and in everyday life, and there is a potential in pupils’ learning to apply knowledge and skills practically in many subjects.

In the working life of the future there will probably be fewer jobs for those who have neither vocational training nor higher education. Therefore it will be important for each individual and society that pupils develop good competence, motivation and the will to learn in school, and that they complete and pass the education.

2.2.5 Four areas of competence

Bearing all this in mind, the Committee recommends that the following areas of competence will be important in the school subjects in the future:

  • subject-specific competence

  • being able to learn

  • being able to communicate, interact and participate

  • being able to explore and create

Textbox 2.2 Four areas of competence

  1. Subject-specific competence in

    • mathematics, natural science and technology

    • languages

    • social studies and ethics

    • practical and aesthetic subjects

  2. Being able to learn

    • metacognition and self-regulated learning

  3. Being able to communicate, interact and participate

    • competence in reading and writing and, verbal competence

    • collaboration, participation and democratic competence

  4. Being able to explore and create

    • creativity and innovation

    • critical thinking and problem-solving

Scientific methods and ways of thinking are dealt with as part of the disciplines in section 1 and section 4. Digital competence is dealt with in section 1, and also in section 3 and section 4.

Competence is developed in the subjects

The Committee finds that all the areas of competence are developed through the pupils’ work with their subjects, and that they accordingly should be included in the subject curricula. This applies to both the competences that are subject-specific, as the first competence area, and the other three areas of competence, which are more cross-curricular. Thus the subjects of the future will have competence objectives that have both subject-specific and cross-curricular competences.

Social and emotional competences as part of the areas of competence

The broad concept of competence used here means that social and emotional competences are key elements in all the areas of competence. In the interim report, the concept of social and emotional competences is defined as a person’s attitudes, behaviour, emotions and social skills, and relationships.16 Box 2.3 shows which social and emotional competences are important in each competence area.

Textbox 2.3 Social and emotional competences in the competence areas

The following aspects of the pupils’ social and emotional learning and development are found to be important:

Subject-specific competence: ethical assessment ability, engagement, attitudes to subjects and to one’s own learning in the subjects.

Being able to learn: Persistence, expectations for one’s own mastering and being able to plan, implement and evaluate one’s own learning processes.

Being able to communicate, interact and participate: Being able to speak up and contribute, to take the community into consideration by regulating one’s own thoughts, emotions and actions, recognising that collaboration and participation are based on mutual dependency, and respecting and seeing the value of the points of view of others.

Being able to explore and create: Curiosity, persistence and being open to see things in new ways, and the ability to take initiatives.

Textbox 2.4 Mortensnes School: Social and emotional competences as the basis for better learning outcomes

Mortensnes School, located in the municipality of Tromsø in Troms County, is a primary school with pupils from Year 1 to Year 7.

Social and emotional competences promote a productive learning environment and are closely linked to pupils’ competence in learning in their subjects. The goal for the project the school has participated in has been that the development of the pupil’s social and emotional competence would enhance the learning environment and contribute to improving their learning in the subjects.

Working with social and emotional competences in subjects

The school has prepared definitions and learning objectives for the social and emotional competences. These learning objectives are divided into three development stages expressing the progression and learning process of the pupils in the areas of cooperation, responsibility, self-control, empathy and self-assertion.

Examples of progression in cooperation are I will raise my hand and wait to speak until permitted on the lowest development level, I will work with others even if we are not close friends on the middle development level, and I will participate actively when we are planning common activities on the top development level.

The pupils must train in these social competences in the same way they work on learning subject-specific competences. In Mortensnes School it has therefore been important that the pupils understand what to do to develop their social and emotional competences. The learning objectives are so concrete that they can be part of the pupils’ learning and work plans.

In all the period plans the pupils are assigned subject and social and emotional learning objectives. The pupils train and develop their competence when they work with the subjects.

Time for subject learning

The project has had much focus on the knowledge and attitudes of the adults in the school. If there is something the pupil is unable to do or understand, the teacher must ask herself/himself what can be done to help the pupil to progress. The school’s goal is that it should at all times be able to map, implement and evaluate necessary measures to enhance the pupils’ learning environment.

The staff at Mortensnes School point out that working with the social and emotional competences of the pupils is a good use of time because it gives better quality time and more time for subject learning. The teachers are now focused on how and what they do impacts learning outcomes. Good communication and a good learning environment are decisive for pupils’ learning. Succeeding in the work with social and emotional competences will give more opportunities to develop subject competence, particularly for pupils with low achievement.

Elaboration of the areas of competence

Box 2.2 shows how various competences the Committee finds crucial can be connected to the four competence areas. Several of the competences will be relevant for more than one competence area. For example, reading and writing competences are dealt with under the section on communicating, interacting and participating, and the rationale for this is that the purpose of reading and writing is generally to understand and communicate. Reading and writing also contribute to learning in the subjects, and are thus also related to competence in learning.

In sections 2.3–2.6 the competence areas are elaborated on through descriptions of the competences connected to these areas. Grounds are given as to why it is important to focus on these competences in school and how they may be defined. Moreover, aspects of the competences are described which the Committee wants to highlight as important for pupils in the future society and its working life. The competences will be relevant for several of the areas, but will only be described under one of them.

2.3 Subject-specific competence

Today’s school subjects are based on different science subjects and subject traditions. The Committee argues that in the future it will also be important for the pupils to develop competence in the most important disciplines found in today’s school. All the disciplines are important to give the pupils a foundation they may build on when making their choices of education and vocation. The disciplines also contribute to a liberal education by increasing knowledge, understanding and possibilities for participation in society.

What characterises the competence in science subjects and other disciplines will be developed on an ongoing basis, which should impact the content of the school subjects. See Chapter 3 for more details about subject renewal. Learning scientific methods and key concepts, principles and contexts can supply pupils with resources that are relevant over time. Technological development and digitalisation will lead to changes in the content and methods in the disciplines. The Committee finds that digital competence will be an integral part of what pupils should learn in the disciplines mentioned here.

2.3.1 Disciplines

The main disciplines in Norwegian school are

  • mathematics, natural science and technology

  • languages

  • social studies and ethics

  • practical and aesthetic subjects

Here the need is described for the pupils to develop competence in these disciplines. Mathematics is part of the discipline mathematics, natural science and technology, but is given special mention because it also is part of other disciplines.

Mathematics, natural science and technology

Mathematics, natural science and technology are important in a number of vocations, in various social areas and for an individual’s coping with day-to-day living. Society needs competent labour and innovation in such fields as medicine, nature management, engineering and technology. Important parts of Norwegian business and industry are based on mathematics, natural science and technology. This discipline will also be decisive in the search to find solutions to global challenges in terms of sustainable development, for example when it comes to global warming. Each individual needs competence in mathematics, natural science and technology in their everyday life, in many vocations and to understand and become involved in important societal issues.

Mathematics competence

Mathematics is an independent science subject which the school subject mathematics builds on. Moreover, other fields of mathematics are included in other subjects, such as processing numbers, statistics and various forms of representation.

There is broad agreement that there will be a need for mathematics competence in the years ahead.17 Knowledge development in other science subjects depends on mathematics to ensure the competitiveness of business and industry and innovation in a number of fields in society. Many will need mathematics in education and work contexts.18 Everyone needs mathematics in day-to-day life, for example to consider numbers and statistics that support various types of information, to be able to assess facts and to deal with social issues critically and with reflection. This is important for an informed and well-functioning democracy. Mathematics competence is also necessary for dealing with personal finances.

In school, mathematics competence is generally dealt with through the mathematics subject. Moreover, numeracy has been given importance as a basic skill in all subjects. Similar examples are found internationally where numeracy, or mathematical literacy, is defined as skills across subjects, both in the subject curricula and in the development of tests.19

See section 2.7 for proposals for changes in today’s basic numeracy skill.


The need for advanced competence in languages and communication and the ability to master several languages become even more important due to the globalisation and internationalisation of society, working life and business and industry. Pupils with bilingual or multilingual competence are a resource for Norwegian culture and society, and they should be given the opportunity to develop their linguistic competence. This applies to pupils with Sami, Finnish/Kven language backgrounds, as well as pupils with other minority-language backgrounds.

English is an international language, and the media are more internationally oriented than was previously the case. European integration continues to create the need for Norwegian pupils to learn European languages. Globalisation is also a reason for pupils to choose languages from other regions of the world. Languages are important for the individual’s ability to express him-/herself and develop identity. Linguistic competence must in particular be considered in conjunction with being able to communicate, interact and participate, see section 2.5.

Social studies and ethics

It is important today to understand and analyse historical, cultural, geographical and socio-economic aspects of our society, and this will continue to be important in the future. The general conflict level in the world and economic difficulties impact society globally, regionally and locally. This highlights the need for pupils to understand various aspects of the local, national and global society they belong to.

In a more international world the pupils must learn about different geographical regions and cultures. Knowledge about and reflection on different religious and cultural values and norms are important elements in a multicultural society. Understanding ethical issues and the need for action are important in different areas, for example in connection with conflicts in the world. Knowledge about democratic principles and forms of government will be important in the coming years. Social responsibility and attitudes relating to democracy are related to this. The Committee finds democratic competence to be especially important, see section 2.5.2 on collaboration competence.

Practical and aesthetic subjects

The term practical and aesthetic subjects refers to a broad group of subjects, in today’s school represented by the subjects of arts and crafts, physical education and food and health. Practical and aesthetic disciplines broaden the competence pupils must develop in school as the basis for further education and participation in working life and society. Working life needs a number of competences which the practical and aesthetic subjects in school offer.

Aesthetic subjects can give pupils different artistic forms of expression and they may learn to express themselves and communicate through various art forms. Artistic and aesthetic forms of expression may promote reflection on the society we live in and on different cultures. This may be very important in a multicultural society. Experiencing and contributing to creating artistic expressions may be important for individual development of identity, knowledge development and the ability to express oneself. These subjects help to develop another type of understanding than scientifically oriented subjects do, and give room to explore and experiment where the goal is not necessarily to achieve an outcome that is the “correct answer”.20

The Committee emphasizes that it will be more important for pupils to learn how to take adequate care of their own lives, bearing in mind physical and mental health, lifestyle, economy and consumption, often called life skills or everyday competence, and which include the ability to make informed decisions and ethical considerations.

2.3.2 Scientific methods and ways of thinking

The Committee emphasizes that scientific methods and ways of thinking are a particularly important part of the disciplines described under section 2.3.1. The Committee for Quality in Primary and Secondary Education in Norway and a number of international projects have suggested that scientific methods and ways of thinking are relevant for the future, and this is considered in the context of the need to think critically and solve problems.21

Increased specialisation and on-going knowledge development in the scientific subjects have created the need to reassess which specialised knowledge pupils need to learn in school. If pupils learn the important scientific methods and ways of thinking, concepts, and principles in different disciplines, this may help them to understand how knowledge is changed, and how to acquire new knowledge.22 Pupils will thus acquire tools so they can use their knowledge and skills later in life.

However, it will be necessary to consider the importance of scientific methods and ways of thinking in various subjects in school. See Chapter 3 for a more detailed discussion on how concepts from various disciplines, principles, methods and ways of thinking may promote in-depth learning in the subjects.

On the one hand, putting emphasis on scientific methods and ways of thinking in the subjects will be connected to analysis and understanding of how knowledge comes about. On the other hand, practical skills, such as carrying out experiments and finding knowledge through observations and dialogues with others, may also be part of what the pupils need to learn.

Figure 2.3 Illustration Chapter 2

Figure 2.3 Illustration Chapter 2

2.3.3 Digitalisation and digital competence

The Committee finds that digital competence is an important element in the disciplines in school. Technological development and the use of digital technology have major impact on how we live our private lives, and how we are in school, working life and society. Today, digital competence is necessary if we are to participate in various forms of learning and education, and participate actively in working life and society.23 Digital competence is an integral part of different disciplines in school and education, and is decisive for innovation and technological development in business and industry and in public enterprises.

Digital competence integrated in the disciplines

Technological developments, including digital technology, create change in science subjects and in other fields.24 This will have an effect on the kind of digital competence the pupils should develop in the school subjects. For example, it will vary from one subject to the next as to which types of digital and other technological tools are relevant to use, and what the pupils should use these tools for as part of their subject competence.

Digital competence can be defined in several ways. Often the distinction is made between ICT competence or technological competence and information and media competence. ICT competence comprises the use of digital tools and technology, understanding of technological systems and acting ethically when using technology. Information and media competence focuses on the use of technology for different purposes and in different contexts, and includes learning about technology and media.25

Digital competence across subjects

Digital competence is also considered to be a cross-curricular competence that is relevant across the disciplines. The competence to use a diversity of tools and competence connected to safety and security are examples of digital competence without any immediate connections to any of today’s school subjects. Tool competence refers to the practical use of universal digital units and systems, such as using a computer and established software for word processing, and processing numbers, presentations and images. Security refers to learning to protect one’s own digitally-stored information.26 It is proposed in Chapter 3 that such competence should be integrated in one or possibly a few subjects, with clear assignment of responsibility.

Digital competence is also part of other cross-curricular competences, such as being able to think critically and to communicate and collaborate. Critical thinking will today generally be about assessing information which is accessible digitally, see section 2.6.2. Mastering digital tools and surroundings is an important part of communication and collaboration, see section 2.5.

2.4 Being able to learn

The Committee argues that pupils in the future school will need to learn and develop their own competence, in school and in other arenas later in life. The Committee finds pupils’ development of metacognition and self-regulated learning as essential for further learning and underlines that these areas are developed in collaboration with teachers and co-pupils. A knowledge-based society and working life demand that the individual must develop his or her own knowledge and study new knowledge areas throughout life. By developing metacognition and self-regulation pupils learn to be involved in a way that will promote in-depth learning. This may also promote motivation for learning in school and in other arenas. Being able to plan, implement and evaluate one’s own work may give pupils good work habits in school and in further education and working life.27

2.4.1 Metacognition and self-regulated learning

Metacognition refers to being able to monitor and reflect on one’s own thinking and learning. In a learning context this means that pupils reflect on why they learn, what they have learnt and how they learn. Metacognition also means being able to apply ways of thinking and learning strategies actively and purposefully to promote one’s own learning. Pupils will need knowledge about relevant learning strategies in each subject, but they must also be able to use them and assess when their use is relevant. The development of metacognitive competence should be connected to work with individual subjects/disciplines because the pupils will need various strategies and approaches depending on what is to be learnt.28

In school and in working life metacognition is important for being able to plan, implement and evaluate one’s own learning and work processes. For example, pupils need to assess the level of difficulty of an assignment and to assess how to master the task while working on it.

Metacognition means reflecting on one’s own thinking in different contexts, not merely in connection with learning processes. Being able to reflect on one’s own thinking and actions is important when solving complex problems or performing tasks and activities.

Self-regulated learning means that pupils over time learn to take initiatives and control parts of their own learning process.29 This requires that they learn strategies for planning, tracking and evaluating their own learning process, and for motivating their own effort. In many contexts, particularly early in their learning trajectory, pupils do this together with others. Throughout their learning trajectory pupils should increasingly learn to make their own assessments and to work independently in the learning process. School is responsible for facilitating pupils’ learning and helping them to act independently and with co-responsibility within these frames.

Self-regulated learning and metacognition are requirements for learning in all subjects, and should therefore be developed as an integrated part of learning in the subjects.

To develop competence in learning, pupils must also develop their social and emotional competence. Pupil persistence, expectations for their own mastering and being able to plan, implement and evaluate their own learning processes are key aspects. Learning demands persistence, for example when learning processes take time, are perceived as dull or when assignments or subject matter are challenging. Learning strategies for progressing when something is difficult is part of developing persistence. Pupil motivation to learn, the will to reach goals and the sense of autonomy and relevance will also influence pupils’ learning. Moreover, pupil expectations for their own mastering will impact motivation, effort, persistence and the goals that they set, and are therefore related to learning competence. Pupil motivation for learning and expectations for mastering are influenced by different matters, including previous experiences of mastering or failing, the knowledge pupils have in a subject and the support they are given in the learning environment.30

Pupils’ learning and reflection on their own learning processes are formed in a social environment. In school, working life and other arenas pupils will exercise metacognition and self-regulated learning together with others in various contexts. Pupils should acquire strategies for learning together with others, for example, asking for help when they need it and experiencing that they also learn by explaining subject matter to others.31

In previous curriculum reforms (Reform 94 and Reform 97), responsibility for own learning was a key concept. Even if this was not the intention, many understood this to mean that more of the responsibility for learning something should be placed with the pupils, giving the teacher a more withdrawn role. Experience garnered from these reforms in the 1990s show that it must be communicated clearly that even if the pupils are practising at working independently, school and the teachers are still responsible for facilitating the pupils’ learning processes.

2.5 Being able to communicate, interact and participate

Being able to communicate, interact and participate is an important area of competence in the future school. Communication, collaboration and cooperation are often considered together, both in research and in reports on competence for the twenty-first century. The abilities to argue and debate, to work in groups and communicate through different media and to different target groups are seen as important future competences.32 The Committee considers communication and collaboration as a common area of competence because they are inextricably linked to each other. In the context of communication, reading, writing and verbal competence are also mentioned. Under collaboration competence we find collaboration, participation and democratic competence. The collaboration concept points out the importance of social responsibility and relationships to others. It also shows the connection between cooperation in school and working life and society’s need for collaboration and democracy on the local, national and global levels.

Figure 2.4 Illustration Chapter 2

Figure 2.4 Illustration Chapter 2

2.5.1 Reading and writing competence and verbal competence

The importance of communication in society and its working life is increasing, where society needs employees and citizens who can deal with a complex diversity of information and texts, and who can communicate and interact with others. For individuals, reading, writing and the ability to communicate verbally are important requirements for having a good learning outcome at school and from education, for participating in working life and for orienting oneself and impacting the society around them. Moreover, reading and expressing oneself are important parts of the personal development of pupils. Pupils in the future school will need to learn to master many forms of communication, whether they are verbal, written or digitally based. This means that in the school for the future pupils should to an increasing degree practise in genres they will encounter in arenas outside school and later in life.33

Common features of reading, writing and verbal competence

Literacy research is an important contributor to understanding reading and writing competence and verbal competence. Today the literacy concept is used to point out that academic, social and cultural contexts place different requirements on reading, writing and communicating verbally. The pupils must therefore learn to read, write, speak and listen with different purposes in different contexts.34 The development of digital media has led to new communication cultures, genres and complex forms of expression which the pupils must be able to understand and use.

What the relevant competences for reading, writing and speaking are will differ from one subject to the next. Which concepts have to be understood, how one reads texts and how important principles and ways of thinking are presented are closely related to the subject-specific content. As subject terminology and subject matter become more complex, greater demands will be placed on pupils’ reading, writing and oral competences. It is important today and will continue to be in the future that school focuses on the relationships between these competences.35

Reading competence

Developing reading competence refers to being able to understand, use, reflect upon, critically assess and engage in the content of texts. As is the case today, pupils must be able to deal with access to much and varied information, and be able to read multimodal texts that have varying purposes and are taken from various contexts. Texts include everything that can be read in different media, not just words, but also illustrations, symbols or other means of expression. The understanding pupils have of mathematics impacts how they understand mathematical representations in texts. When reading digitally, pupils must deal with more complex expressions than previously. Finding information, interpreting, collating information from various sources and reflecting and assessing information critically will be an important reading competence in the school of the future.36

Knowledge on and the use of strategies are important aspects of reading. Text diversity and the complexity of texts pupils encounter will mean that they have to be able to reflect on the text message and content and compare this with the content of other texts. Such in-depth strategies may increase in importance because much of the digital reading of pupils in today’s as well as tomorrow’s society is superficial and vulnerable to distractions. Research shows that pupils’ development of subject competence and their development of reading are processes that occur parallel to and influence each other. For example, pupils’ understanding of concepts and background knowledge in a subject or topic area has an impact on their understanding of a text.37 It is extremely important for learning in all subjects that the teaching supports pupils’ reading development.

A broad understanding of reading refers to how pupils gradually develop knowledge, skills, strategies, attitudes, motivation and ability to interact with their surroundings. Motivation and interest cause pupils to engage in the reading in a way that promotes understanding, and are therefore considered part of the pupils’ reading competence. Together, reading and writing are seen as important tools for expanding one’s own horizon of understanding and giving knowledge and motivation to participate in different societal arenas.38

Writing competence

The dependency on written matter in society has increased, particularly due to digital communication tools and social media. The importance of mastering written communication and collaboration is on the rise. Being able to write means the ability to express oneself understandably and appropriately on various topics, and being able to communicate with others. Writing is also a tool for developing one’s own thoughts and learning.39

Writing refers to mastering different writing actions which take place in various contexts and with different purposes. Being able to write convincingly and reflectively gives the basis for expressing one’s own opinions and for one’s own thinking and identity development. Writing can also be used to organise one’s own knowledge and develop new knowledge. Being able to use relevant concepts and structures adapted to the context is closely interwoven with learning in the subjects. The pupils must be able to apply grammar and language norms and write in a logically coherent manner across subjects and situations.40

Being able to plan, design and edit texts that are adapted to the content and purpose of the written text is part of being able to write. In working life, society and organisational life, and in personal day-to-day affairs, it is important for pupils to develop writing strategies. Receiving and giving feedback on texts and producing texts in cooperation with others will be important competences in school and working life in the future.

Verbal competence

In the future, pupils will continue to come to school with a wide range of language experiences. Learning to communicate orally with different purposes is important in school as preparation for participation in working life, for stating opinions and for mastering communication situations in everyday life. Developing the ability to express personal thoughts and opinions will, just as today, be an important part of the identity development of pupils.

Verbal competence may be defined as creating meaning through listening, speaking and conversing.41 This means being able to present messages with different purposes to different recipients. Being able to listen means understanding and processing what is said, giving a response and being aware of the understanding of the recipient when speaking.

All pupils have an everyday language they use with family and friends, and developing this has an effect on their personal development. In school pupils must learn to use the language in genres that are relevant in various social and work contexts, for example, by giving presentations or participating in discussions. The pupils must obtain knowledge about and training in relevant patterns of action, concepts and expressions that are demanded in various situations.42

School must give the pupils a metalanguage for verbal communication. This means being able to use strategies to plan what to say in various contexts and being able to reflect on their personal verbal communication, for example when taking part in dialogues.43

Attitudes are a key aspect of verbal competence, such as showing respect for the person one is speaking with or listening to. In a diverse and democratic society, being able to listen to and acknowledge points of view and perspectives is an important competence. The Committee points out that verbal competence must be considered together with collaboration competence.

2.5.2 Collaboration competence

The need for collaboration and participation is rising in many arenas. In Norwegian school and working life cooperation is a widely used work method, and participation, co-determination and democracy are important values. Collaboration across different backgrounds, values and points of view have major significance in a diverse society when it comes to religion, culture and values. For the individual it is important to be able to participate in different arenas, express opinions and enter into positive relationships with others. Being able to carry out activities and perform tasks with others is important in working life, and many will need to cooperate on solving complex problems, often across vocations or disciplines.44

Cooperation, collaboration and active participation may contribute to motivating, activating and involving pupils and promoting learning.45 Cooperating, feeling confident and having good relationships in the learning environment are also highly significant for the self-efficacy of pupils and their relationships to others.

Collaboration and participation

Pupils in the school of the future will need to learn strategies and methods for performing duties and achieving goals together. Being able to plan, implement and assess work together and adopt different roles in a cooperative process will be part of this. Another relevant competence is to be able to give and receive feedback on one’s own work and that of others in a constructive manner.

It is important that pupils learn to express themselves, and learn to participate in and contribute to the community, both in school and in different arenas later in life. In school the pupils may develop the confidence and courage to speak up and state their opinion. Both being able to assert one’s own opinions and to consider that one’s personal contribution to the community is important are part of this competence. In collaboration with others, pupils must also learn to consider those around them by regulating their thoughts, emotions and actions.46 This means, for example, waiting for one’s turn, allowing others to be heard, accepting majority decisions and making compromises.

Developing pupil attitudes and actions in connection with personal and social responsibility is part of collaboration and participation. This refers to feeling that it is valuable to contribute to the community and being able to show respect and care for co-pupils. Developing the cooperation competence of the pupils is related to school’s work to create and maintain a good psychosocial environment where it is important that the pupils are assigned co-responsibility for the school environment and learn how they can help create a productive school environment for others.

Being able to participate in discussions, dealing with conflicts and interacting across differences in views are important.47 Pupils need to practise taking part in discussions and cooperation processes where they have to investigate different points of view and test arguments against each other. Principles for unbiased argumentation, tolerating disagreement and criticism and being able to present constructive criticism of the arguments of others are important. Being able to resolve conflicts when they arise and enter into compromises are part of interactive and democratic competences.

Being able to listen to others, endeavouring to adopt the perspective of others and considering matters from several angles are important in a diverse society, as well as being able to reflect on and reassess stances when encountering new perspectives, and accepting that there will be differences of opinion.

Democratic competence

Democratic competence is an important aspect of collaboration and participation competence. Democratic competence refers to being able to live together and deal with challenges together. Common challenges such as climate change and the conflict level in the world reveal the need for social responsibility and cooperation on common solutions on a global scale.

Democratic competence comprises knowledge about the political system, human rights and being able to participate in elections and other democratic decision-making processes. Democratic competence is also connected to democratic co-citizenship, which is about living together in a community and participating and contributing in different social arenas. Co-citizenship is important for creating support for common democratic principles, promoting understanding across the different backgrounds and values people have and stimulating people to be active participants in local communities. In diverse communities it is important to promote harmony and understanding, but also to deal with conflicts if they arise.48

Being able to interact with others is part of democratic competence, for example being able to state one’s opinion, participate in discussions and listen to and show respect for the opinions and views of others. Attitudes such as understanding the value of togetherness and respecting differences, and allowing the opinions of others to be heard are important in this context. Understanding that participation means there are mutual obligations between people may also be defined as a part of democratic competence.

Democratic competence also includes performing democratic actions in practice, such as being able to chair discussions, allowing everyone to be heard and reaching agreement and compromises.49 School shall be a place that gives pupils experience of various forms of participation in democratic processes in its daily activities and representative bodies.

Democratic competence also refers to understanding and demonstrating social responsibility. This may mean understanding the situation of others and making ethical assessments of the consequences of one’s own actions and those of others.

2.6 Being able to explore and create

The Committee recommends that creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving are competences the school should help pupils develop. The Norwegian and international societies depend on creative individuals who can contribute in working life and society, create new enterprises and find solutions to demanding social challenges. A knowledge-based society and working life require scientific methods and ways of thinking, critical thinking and an exploratory approach to knowledge. The creation of aesthetic and cultural expressions has great value for society. For individuals it is meaningful to be able to contribute to creating things through work and other activities. The ability to undertake critical assessment, problem-solving and creativity may help individuals to cope with various events in life.

The Committee finds that these competences can be learnt and developed, and that they are important parts of all the disciplines in school. Curiosity, persistence, openness to seeing things in new ways and the ability to take initiatives are important aspects of the competences. Young people are by nature inquisitive and exploring, but curiosity must be stimulated to be developed.

Creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving are here described as different competences. However, they also have common features, and in many situations the pupils will need to apply the competences in concert to be able to explore and create. Complex problem-solving, for example in a work context, may demand innovation, critical assessment of information and the ability to choose relevant problem-solving strategies.

Textbox 2.5 Binde School: Competence in innovation as practice for the working life of the future

Binde School, located in the municipality of Steinkjer in the county of Nord-Trøndelag, has pupils from Years 1 to 7.

The school is putting extra effort into training in innovation, using the classroom and the local community as a training arena for all pupils at each year level. Through systematic work to develop innovation competence the school intends to prepare its pupils for life as adults. The goal is that the pupils should learn to think creatively, and that they practise seeing themselves and their opportunities as contributors to society and the working life of the future.

Application of innovation

The school has developed a teaching programme where the pupils learn and apply competence in other education arenas. The aim is that the pupils will see how knowledge may be applied innovatively, and that they should gain insight into the need for innovation in various businesses. The pupils visit and cooperate with businesses in the local region, and draw on local resource persons with innovation competence. This teaching is linked to goals in the curriculum.

Ever since the launch of this training in entrepreneurship in 2005 all the pupils in Year 7 have taken part in establishing their own pupil enterprises as part of the teaching in the various school subjects. Working with entrepreneurship gives the pupils knowledge and skills that can be connected directly to the competence objectives in a number of subjects.

The pupil enterprises use local mentors and find start-up capital themselves. Since the pupils are trusted and receive guidance through the mentor programme, they have established agreements with local businesses. The teachers function as guides for the pupils and the businesses throughout the school year, in connection with both product development and the creation of a good corporate culture.

When the pupil enterprises are wound down, the pupils in Year 7 share their experiences with the pupils in Year 6, giving the next group of pupils a good start when new pupil enterprises in the school will start in the autumn. The school has also introduced a special “fund“ that is fed by taxes paid by the pupil enterprises. These funds may be used to buy equipment for future pupil enterprises.

A good start to working life

In the classroom and in the other education arenas the teachers help the pupils as they learn to cooperate, take initiatives and responsibility, and become creative and confident. To promote the acquisition of these competences the teacher asks questions while expecting the pupils to reflect, propose solutions to the challenges and practise thinking creatively. The pupils are challenged when it comes to what is possible, and how to present their ideas. For the school it is important that the pupils learn how to contribute by proposing solutions to the challenges of others when the teachers ask questions.

Innovation competence is developed by putting trust in the pupils, placing demands on them, encouraging creativity and having them contact businesses. The school’s overriding goal is to make the pupils aware that everyone has competences it is important to use because society needs reflections, ideas and labour in the future.

2.6.1 Creativity and innovation

Creativity and innovation refer to being innovative, curious, inventive, and capable of thinking outside the box and taking initiatives. Other concepts connected to the competences are idea development, risk assessment and being able to transform an idea into action. The concept of entrepreneurship is often used in connection with innovation competence in working life and in school.50

Developments on knowledge and technology and high expectations for being able to solve complex problems have made creativity and innovation important competences in society and in working life in the years ahead. Creativity and innovation are found to be important for the development of the economy and the competitiveness of Norwegian business and industry.51 Creativity and innovation in the form of aesthetic and artistic expressions have great value for society, and it will be important in the future that cultural expressions reflect the increased diversity in society. Most people will need to be creative in performing their jobs, and the ability to be innovative and take initiatives may create opportunities and ensure the quality of life for the individual and for others.

Creativity and innovation as competences share many common elements, but the concepts stem from different traditions, respectively aesthetic subjects/performing arts, and business and working life.52 A definition of creativity is that it is about being curious, persevering, imaginative, and having the ability to cooperate and work in a disciplined way. These elements are described as follows:

  • Inquisitive: Having the ability to wonder and ask questions, the ability to explore and investigate and challenging assumptions

  • Persistent: Sticking with difficulty, daring to be different and tolerating uncertainty

  • Imaginative: Being able to develop imaginative solutions and opportunities, playing with different possibilities, making connections and using intuition

  • Collaborative: Sharing a product, giving and receiving feedback and cooperating appropriately

  • Disciplined: Developing techniques, being able to reflect critically and to craft and improve53

The definition has been developed as part of a framework for assessing creativity across subjects, and is presented in Figure 2.5.

Figure 2.5 Definition of creativity

Figure 2.5 Definition of creativity

Source Spencer et al. 2012

Creativity, an important competence in most subjects and disciplines, is closely connected to subject-specific content and is developed through working with the subjects. In some cooperative situations persistence and the ability to cooperate with different people are requirements for creativity and innovation.54 As creativity is defined above, the ability to think critically and explore to find solutions is part of this competence.

Innovation may be defined in a similar manner as creativity, for example that it includes practical skills and skills relating to thinking, being creative, curious and able to see relationships, and having imagination and being able to deal with uncertainty. Social skills, such as communication, cooperation and persistence are also seen as important.55 While creativity refers to developing ideas, innovative competence also includes being able to transform ideas into action and taking initiatives.56

Innovation is important for society and for companies and enterprises, and pupils may be able to develop innovative competence in higher education and working life. Creativity as it is described here covers important competence in the future society and its working life. The Committee has nevertheless chosen to use the concept innovation in addition to creativity to point out that pupils will need to learn to take initiatives and transform ideas into action.

Entrepreneurship is often used together with or instead of the innovation concept, and many see entrepreneurship as a competence school should contribute to developing and as an important working method in school,57 see Box 2.6. The Committee has chosen to use the innovation concept, but recognize that in part it overlaps with the idea of entrepreneurship competence.

Textbox 2.6 Entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is a key concept in the business world and means the initiative and ability to create new business. In school, entrepreneurship is defined in a number of ways. One definition is that the pupils must learn to establish and operate an enterprise, for example by working with a pupil enterprise. Other definitions see entrepreneurship as both a competence the pupils should develop and a method and way of working. One example of this approach is that entrepreneurship training should help develop creativity and cooperation, strengthen pupils’ learning, their self-confidence and motivation, and encourage more young people to start up their own companies.

Entrepreneurship as a working method in school attaches importance to pupil initiatives, problem-based learning, practical work and cooperation with the local community. Such work methods may lead to a varied and practical education and inspire pupils to learn.

Source Johansen and Støren 2014, Spilling et al. 2015

2.6.2 Critical thinking and problem-solving

Critical thinking and problem-solving are often considered together and refer to being able to reason and analyse, identify relevant issues and being capable of using relevant strategies for complex problem-solving. It also refers to the ability to assess claims, arguments and evidence from various sources in complex and unknown situations. The ability to make rational choices and decisions and to use scientific methods is also connected to these competences.58

Critical thinking and problem-solving are important today, and some aspects of the competences will gain in importance in the coming years. The complexity of society and the access to vast amounts of information will demand that each individual is able to undertake critical assessments and deal with various issues and problems, at work, in society and in ones’ private life.

Due to digitalisation and the broad access to information, the ability to think critically and to judge sources has changed and become more important. Information that is available digitally has been quality assured to varying degrees and may be published or posted by individuals or organisations with other purposes than the dissemination of correct information. Being able to critically judge information and to understand decisions made on one’s own or others’ behalf constitute an important competence in a democratic perspective. Being able to think critically is also important for making good decisions and choices in one’s own life, for example when it comes to health.59 Many vocations will need to use research-based knowledge and will require understanding of scientific methods and ways of thinking.

Critical thinking means using scientific methods and ways of thinking to assess the validity of information and arguments. Being able to undertake ethical assessments and exercise one’s judgement is part of the critical assessment ability pupils should develop. This is important for the pupils in school, working life and leisure activities. Critical thinking is also a key part of reading and writing competence, see section 2.5.1.

Problem-solving means that pupils must learn to analyse a problem and assess the relevance of knowledge and methods. They must also be able to test and explore different solutions and evaluate and make necessary adjustments while working with an assignment. Pupils must learn to accept that they may often be unable to find the solution to a problem immediately. Problem-solving and critical thinking may also be connected to how pupils learn strategies to work in an investigative manner. This means being able to ask questions, test, gain experiences and obtain more knowledge, a process that will then be the springboard for asking new questions.60

Society is dominated by complexity and demanding global challenges, and the need for complex problem-solving will most likely increase in working life.61 Therefore, pupils should have experience of solving problems and dealing with situations where it is not obvious which strategies and methods they should use to arrive at a solution. Such complex problem-solving requires that pupils learn to apply several competences together, including metacognition, creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving.62 See section 2.4.1 about metacognition. Complex issues will often require that pupils will be able to collate and apply knowledge and skills from different subjects.63

Pupils will need to learn problem-solving strategies that are relevant to each subject, and must be systematically trained to use subject knowledge and skills to undertake critical assessments and solve problems in their subjects.64

2.7 Reformulating today’s basic skills

The rationales for giving priority to the basic skills in the Knowledge Promotion Reform were that these are necessary requirements for learning and development in school, society and in working life. They are considered to be decisive for each individual’s ability to master working life and participate as a critical and reflexive citizen. The Committee finds these rationales to be as important in the school of the future.

Bearing in mind the assessments in this chapter, the Committee finds that changes in today’s model for basic skills are needed. The work with basic skills has been a major development activity for schools, school owners and for development of the national subject curricula and the national tests. It will be important to build on the good work that has been done to ensure continuity in school’s work and to learn from experiences.

2.7.1 Change of concept

The definition of basic skills in the Knowledge Promotion Reform is broad and connected to literacy, i.e. being able to communicate and participate in different societal and cultural contexts. This closely resembles an understanding of competence, and supports the idea that in the future one should use the competence concept instead of the skill concept.65 Even if the concept basic expresses that the skills are requirements for learning in all subjects, the term does not express clearly that the skills develop continuously throughout the students’ learning trajectory. The evaluation of the Knowledge Promotion Reform showed that in many cases the basic skills have been understood more narrowly than originally intended, as elementary skills that are most important for the pupils during the early stages of education.66 Discarding the concept of basic skills and rather using the competence concept may make it clearer that competence is developed continuously throughout one’s learning trajectory.

Moreover, the Committee wants to focus on a number of competences as important across subjects in the school of the future. Therefore there might be some confusion if the concept “basic skills“ were to be carried forward for some of these, while others are referred to as competences.

Even if we step away from the generic term for today’s basic skills, it will be important to point out the common features and collaboration between reading, writing and verbal competence, and digital competence and mathematics competence where it is relevant.

2.7.2 The different skills

Reading, writing and verbal skills

Reading, writing and verbal competences constitute an important requirement for learning in all subjects, and will in different ways be parts of the competence in the subjects. Therefore the Committee recommends carrying forward today’s principle that these areas should be present in all subjects. The manner in which the competences are integrated in each subject should be developed. For example, some teachers have understood reading as a basic skill as something “alien“ which comes from the outside, and not as clarifying what kind of reading that is relevant for the pupils to learn in their subject. How the competences can be made even more visible as part of the competence in the subjects should be assessed in a future curriculum process.

The Committee attaches importance to how different social and cultural situations demand the ability to read, write, speak and listen, and that these competences to some extent should be considered together. Communicating, interacting and participating are underlined as a common area of competence. This means that reading and writing, and verbal competence, should be considered together with collaboration competence.


The Committee has pointed out that mathematics competence is important in the school of the future. The Committee emphasizes that mathematics competence should be developed in the mathematics subject and in other subjects where it is a relevant aspect of the competence. This has consequences for today’s basic numeracy skill. One of the purposes of giving priority to numeracy as a basic skill was that it is important for developing competence in all subjects. Importance was also attached to how the pupils need numeracy skills to understand, interpret and use information so that they can be informed citizens and participate actively in society.67 An example of how numeracy is integrated in social studies is that pupils must learn how to use concurrent and conflicting information from statistics to discuss a social studies issue, and calculate incomes, prepare a household budget and assess how life situations, savings and loaning money impact personal finances.68

The introduction of numeracy as a basic skill makes it clear that the progression in the curriculum revisions in 2013 and not least the national test in mathematics have made it clear that all teachers have responsibility for pupils developing numeracy skills in all subjects. However, it has proved to be challenging for schools to work systematically with numeracy in all subjects.69

The Committee emphasizes that the purpose and content of numeracy as a basic skill may be maintained as well within a competence concept, and that what is designated as numeracy today may be seen as part of mathematics competence.

One objection against the concept of numeracy is that there is no clear distinction between what numeracy is and what mathematics competence is, and there is no correspondence between how numeracy is understood in the mathematics subject and how it is defined as a basic skill in all subjects.70 The concept of numeracy has over time been embedded in school, so in the event of a future change it will be important to clarify what the change in concept means. In developing the curriculum it may help to see competence in the mathematics subject and mathematics competence which is relevant for other subjects as a “common“ competence to ensure coherence and a clear division of responsibility between the subjects.

Experiences from curriculum development and the work in schools with numeracy as a basic skill indicate that it is not as relevant to make numeracy visible as a part of the competence in all subjects. An example of this is the language subjects, where, for example, a competence objective relating to being able to count in English has little to do with numeracy. In other subjects numeracy and other aspects of mathematics are an essential part of the subjects, such as in natural science and social studies. If some subjects are given greater responsibility for mathematics, including what today is understood as numeracy, it may clarify the division of responsibility between the subjects and make it easier for schools to work with the mathematics competence where relevant.

Digital skills

Today’s basic skills put too much emphasis on the tool aspect of digital competence and are not sufficiently clear in terms of how digital tools and media are an integral part of what the pupils must learn in the subjects and across subjects. It varies from one school to the next and one subject to the next as to how much the digital tools are part of the education.71

The Committee emphasizes it is more important to assess how technological and digital developments influence the competence in each subject than it is to focus on the common features of digital skills across subjects. As digital competence involves many dimensions, there is a need to distinguish more clearly between different aspects of the competence than the digital skills do today. It will be important to consider which digital tools and situations are prominent in each subject, and thus are important for what the pupils should learn in the subject. Moreover, digital competence should be shown as part of other cross-curricular competences. Today, much communication occurs digitally.

Coherence between different competences

Today’s basic skills in reading, writing and verbal language comprise elements of several of the competences the Committee has highlighted in this chapter, including metacognition, self-regulation, learning strategies and critical thinking. However, these are not a systematic part of the subjects. In a future subject renewal there will be a need to draw boundary lines and establish coherence between the content of the cross-curriculum competences, particularly in terms of how the competences are present in each subject.

2.8 The Committee’s recommendations

In this chapter the Committee has assessed what kind of competences will be important for society, working life and individuals in the future and which of these school should help pupils to develop. The assessments of the Committee have been made according to the school’s objects clause, important trends in societal development and relevant research.

Pupils in the school of the future will need to develop subject-specific competences and competences that are important in many subjects, such as being able to learn, communicate, cooperate, participate, explore and create. Assignments and challenges the pupils will encounter demand that they develop thinking, practical skills and social and emotional competence in an collaboration.

The Committee therefore recommends four areas of competence as important in the school subjects of the future. These competence areas are considered to be important for pupils, society and its working life in the years ahead. The Committee believes that pupils should develop subject-specific and cross-curriculum competences by working with the various subjects in school. If the areas of competence form the point of departure for renewal of the subjects, it will contribute to better coherence between the objects clause and the subject content than is the case today.

Figure 2.6 Illustration Chapter 2

Figure 2.6 Illustration Chapter 2

The Committee recommends the following:

  • A broad competence concept should be used as the underpinning for the school subjects of the future. Competence means that pupils should be able to master challenges and solve problems in different contexts, and comprise cognitive, practical, social and emotional learning and development, including attitudes, values and ethical assessments. Social and emotional competences should be integrated in the subjects as part of the recommended areas of competence.

  • The following areas competence should serve as the foundation for a future renewal of the subjects in school:

    • subject-specific competence

    • competence in learning

    • competence in communicating, interacting and participating

    • competence in exploring and creating

  • Competence should be developed through work in the subjects. In a future subject renewal process the four areas of competence must be present in all the disciplines in school.

  • The following competences are connected to the areas of competence:

    • subject-specific competence in mathematics, natural science and technology, languages, social studies and ethics, and practical and aesthetic subjects,

    • metacognition and self-regulated learning (being able to learn),

    • reading, writing and verbal competences, collaboration, participation and democratic competence (being able to communicate, interact and participate), and

    • creativity, innovation, critical thinking and problem-solving (being able to explore and create).

  • Today’s basic skills in reading, writing and spoken language should be reformulated as competences. Numeracy should be designated as a mathematical competence. Digital skills will be connected more closely than today to subject-specific competence in the subjects, in addition to digital competence being integrated with other cross-curriculum competences.



Erstad et al. 2014


NOU 2014: 7 Elevenes læring i fremtidens skole [Pupils’ learning in the school of the future]


Section 9a-3 of the Education Act: The psychosocial environment.


Malik 2013


Meld. St. 6 (2012–2013) En helhetlig integreringspolitikk. Mangfold og fellesskap White paper: [A comprehensive integration policy. diversity and community]


Fløtten et al. 2013


IPCC, UN’s Climate Panel 2014


Meld. St. 6 (2012–2013) En helhetlig integreringspolitikk. Mangfold og fellesskap White paper: [A comprehensive integration policy. diversity and community]


Autor et al. 2003, Levy 2010, Frey and Osborne 2013, Pajarinen et al. 2015


Fløtten et al. 2013


NOU 2003: 19 Makt og demokrati [Power and democracy], Beck 1992


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Erstad et al. 2014

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