Responses to Covid-19
It has been necessary to adapt the infection control measures to the situation at the local level, both regarding infection and outbreak management. This is done for schools by implementing measures in accordance with the applicable level of the traffic light model.
It is up to the infection control authorities to decide which level the measures are to be applied in accordance with the traffic light model. It is not, however, possible for local downgrades from the national set action level.
Details about the measures can be found in these guides:
- Guide to infection control for kindergartens
- Guide to infection control for school years 1–7
- Guide to infection control for lower and upper secondary schools
Responses to Covid-19
Schools and child day-care centres closed down in March 2020 in response to government measures to prevent and reduce spreading of Covid-19. Upon gradual reopening from mid-may 2020, measures were put in place by the government and the National Institute of Public Health (FHI) to guide local authorities on when to deviate from normal school life and which measures should be taken. Measures include helping children at risk to receive normal tuition at home when normal school life could not take place.
Pupils who receive alternative education, for example, school work from home, shall as a starting point be considered to be present in the education.
The National Institute of Public Health (FHI) has created a three-step model called the traffic light model with green, yellow and red levels. that shows which infection control measures kindergartens and schools must follow. The measures vary from an almost normal organization of everyday school life (green level) to more comprehensive measures with smaller, fixed groups and a greater distance between students (red level). The difference between the three levels applies particularly to the measures to reduce contact between people.
The New Core Curriculum and Subject Renewal
From August 2020 a new core curriculum - values and principles in education replace the core curriculum from 1994. The new core curriculum builds on the objectives-clause of the Education Act and describes how schools shall foster pupils’ formative development. Further, it describes the values, cultural aspects and knowledge-related aspects that form the basis for primary and secondary education. One of the aims of the new reform, called Subject Renewal (LK20), is to form a better link between the core curriculum and each subject curriculum. This is done by placing emphasis on key elements of the core curriculum in each subject curriculum.
New subject curricula for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary school also take effect in August 2020. The new curricula include both general and vocational education. The new subject curricula are put into effect stepwise over a period of three years:
- School year 2020–21 stages 1.–9. and year 1 of upper secondary school (Vg1)
- School year 2021–22 stage 10. and year 2 of upper secondary education (Vg2)
- School year 2022–23 year 3 of upper secondary education (Vg3)
From spring 2021 the pupils in Vg1 will be selected for examination based on the new curricula. From the following school year, this will include pupils from Vg2 and Vg3 as well.
Sami curricula have also been renewed. These are equivalent and parallel curricula for education within Sami districts and for pupils outside Sami districts who receive Sami education. New Sami curricula will be introduced by stepwise from August 2020.
Focus on in-depth learning
One of the main aims of the reform Subject Renewal is to create space for more in-depth learning. The curricula are conceived so that pupils have enough time to work in-depth and learn a topic thoroughly. The subjects taught today are being retained while creating curricula that allow for in-depth learning. Thereby, it shall be ensured that no new topic is introduced before the pupil hat grasped the ongoing topic fully.
Support for the new curricula
Support material has been developed for implementing the new curricula. The support measures embrace among others the development of features that indicate target attainment, planning tools, online resources, competence packages and a Facebook group for sharing experiences. More about support materials here (only in Norwegian).
The Curriculum Renewal
The last comprehensive reform of Norwegian education dates to 2006 when the Knowledge Promotion was introduced. After around 10 years of function, the Norwegian Parliament decided to adjust this reform through 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.
The revision entails a new core curriculum stating values and principles for primary and secondary education, new subject curricula and changes in the curriculum structure. A revised definition of competence was done to attract attention to and facilitate in-depth learning.
The revised curricula will be introduced gradually over a period of three years starting from the school year 2020/21. The first subject curriculum consists of 40 curricula for primary school and lower secondary school, and upper secondary school year 1. They include both the Norwegian curricula and the parallel Sami curricula.
Some of the key features concerning the content of the new curricula are:
- Pupils will be familiarised with key social challenges through the introduction of three interdisciplinary topics: health and life skills, democracy and citizenship, and sustainable development
- Several subjects become more practical and exploratory
- Critical thinking and critical approach to sources become a central part of several subjects.
- Greater emphasis on play-based learning for the youngest children
- Digital skills, programming and technology will be strengthened
- Reduction in the number of subject competencies allowing for more in-depth learning
Schools, counties and communities, and teacher education institutions are preparing to implement the new National Curriculum. The aim is to have all the National Curriculum set as regulation to the Education Act in time before the new school year in order to give stakeholders the opportunity to organise good processes to familiarise themselves with and apply the subject curricula.
The government has since 2015 piloted a teacher specialist project. The aim of the project is to try out and gain experiences with different types of teacher specialist careers (11 subjects and subject areas) in order to recruit and retain the best teachers in the classroom and to strengthen school as a learning community.
The school owners (municipalities and county authorities) apply for a grant to appoint a number of teachers to the function as a specialist with an additional payment on top of their basic wages. The government and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (school owners) cover respectively 2/3 and 1/3 of the costs.
The project started out on a small scale with 205 specialists and was at first intended to last for two years. Evaluation and national participants' conferences showed very promising results and it was decided to expand the pilot. The government's ambition now is to reach the number of 3000 specialists by the end of the pilot, in 2022. Since 2019 there are almost 1200 teacher specialists in primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education.
Since 2016 the government has also provided relevant specialist education programmes for teachers corresponding to most of the piloted specialisation subjects and subject areas.
A reference group follows the pilot closely based on status reports and other information and gives advice for adjustment and development of the pilot. The group has members from the Ministry of Education and Research, the Directorate of Education, the Union of Education Norway and the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities.
A new research-based evaluation programme is under planning. It will cover most of the remaining pilot period. Conclusions about a possible permanent arrangement of specialist teachers in Norwegian schools will be made by the end of the pilot period and based on the evaluation and other sources of information and on thorough discussions with the involved parts and organisations.
A decentralised competence development model
Norway, as part of the White Paper no. 21 “Desire to learn – early intervention and quality in schools” (2017), introduced a new competence development model for schools in which national funding for sustainable capacity and continuous professional development at all levels of the system is based on local analysis and decision making in networks of municipalities. A revised strategy for competence development in Early Childhood Education and Care from 2018 introduced a similar model in kindergartens.
The main pillar in the decentralised models is the principle that local analysis of competence needs drives the competence development. National funding is intertwined with local ownership to adapt to the large diversity of contexts in Norway. The models also underline the importance of co-operation between local universities and schools and kindergartens building to ensure capacity-building in core competence areas throughout the country. The models are well received among the stakeholders, and co-operation between local and regional authorities and higher education institutions are in many regions well established. The main focus at the national level is to ensure equal opportunities and quality in competence development across municipalities and regions across the country.
The funding for the decentralised model for schools in 2019 is approx NOK 230 million, while municipalities participating are required to add 30% of the funding. The similar model for Kindergartens amounts to approximately NOK 140 million. The new competence model aims at being fully implemented in 2020, and the funding will eventually be at a level between NOK 300 and 400 million.
New education act
The Norwegian Government has constituted a committee (2017) to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the legislation concerning primary and secondary education and training, and to draft a new Education Act. The aim is legislation that ensures the objectives and principles of primary and secondary education and training. The new legislation must at the same time provide municipalities and counties with necessary room for manoeuvre to ensure quality development in their schools. In order to achieve an appropriate balance between these considerations the committee shall suggest:
- general principles for the legislation concerning primary and secondary education and training
- a new Education Act
- guidelines for associated regulations
The committee will present their work as an Official Norwegian Report to the Ministry of Education and Research by 1. December 2019.