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Norway will this year implement a ground-breaking initiative to modernise the country’s primary and secondary school curriculum by incorporating digital learning.
The reform is a response to industry calls for a more technology-influenced teaching programme. The new curriculum, which is being rolled out by the ministry of education, incorporates digital awareness, digital responsibility and digital competence.
The reform, the first in Norway’s education system for two decades, strives to achieve a balance between teaching responsible digital skills and the personal use of evolving digital equipment, such as smartphones, iPads and other internet-connected devices by students.
This is the latest initiative by the Norwegian government to introduce flexible educational systems that meet the challenges of the digitised workplace. A government study in 2019 found that two-thirds of companies in Norway’s private sector plan to increase digital skills among their employees in 2020.
The new teaching curriculum followed a lengthy consultation between the ministry and stakeholders. Norway’s business and industry sectors were keen to give their input, both in the preparation and formation of the tech-driven curriculum, said Nicolai Astrup, Norway’s minister for digitisation.
“What we are implementing addresses the needs of a changing world,” said Astrup. “The setting of new priorities for teaching digital technologies and skills is critical, both in terms of how society is developing and in meeting the future needs of the labour market. Technology is changing how we live and work. It presents new challenges that we must confront and find solutions for.”
In a legislative initiative running parallel to the new teaching curriculum, the Norwegian government has unveiled new proposals to limit, or possibly ban, the use of smartphones, tablets and iPads in primary schools.
The digitisation ministry is examining an option to permit the use of basic mobile phones that would limit communications by pupils to text messaging, and receiving and making calls. The restrictions would apply to all students aged under 13.
“Primary school-age children don’t need smartphones, and these devices must certainly not become an encumbrance to learning at this early stage in the education process,” said Astrup.
Jan Tore Sanner, Norway’s education minister, said: “Recent studies on the use of smartphones are worrying. They reveal how children are spending far too many hours each day using social media platforms like Snapchat, and playing games on their smartphones. This is time that could be spent more productively in collective activities and interactions with other children.”
Significantly, the new teaching curriculum deals with the social risks of digitisation in an unprecedented way. The ultimate objective of the digital awareness, digital responsibility and digital competence components is to provide practical teaching and learning methods while helping students to understand and control the technologies they are using.
Read more about digital skills in the Nordics
- Norway’s Conservative-led government is partnering with the private sector to help resolve skills shortages in core areas of the country’s rapidly expanding IT sector.
- Norway, in no mood to lag behind near neighbours Sweden and Denmark, has rolled out an ambitious new strategy to position the country as a leading location for datacentres.
- Norway’s ministry of finance is launching a regulatory sandbox to support the growth of fintechs and boost the adoption of their products and services.
The digital reforms also emphasise the need for a greater focus on the educational use of IT in Norway’s primary and secondary schools. Educators have sought new tools to help students use technology responsibly inside and outside the classroom, against the backdrop of unrelenting tech-led changes to personal behaviour and societal developments.
Sanner added: “Some of the modernised elements in the revised teaching curriculum are vital to turning out students who are better informed about the changing world around them. This is why the curriculum promotes strong digital judgement, how to learn to be critical about sources of information, as well as how to keep personal information secure.”
The modernisation of the curriculum reflects Norway’s strong emphasis on building on the government’s Knowledge Society policy. This platform is propelled by a core government programme, the National Curriculum for Knowledge Promotion in Primary and Secondary Education and Training, the central aim of which is to reinforce the teaching of basic digital competence at all levels, and in all subjects, within the country’s teacher training colleges and structures.
The reforms incorporated into the new teaching curriculum are more geared towards “how teachers teach and learners learn” in the digital era. There is also emphasis on how results can best be achieved within a modernised teacher education framework. The restructured curriculum also reflects the IT challenges teacher education has faced because of the digitisation of society and schools.
The digitisation of Norway’s primary and secondary schools is intended to complement and strengthen current teaching of IT skills in the country. This will please business and industry leaders, who have voiced concerns that Norway’s education system is at risk of lagging behind other Nordic countries in its capacity to produce students with basic literacy in new technologies.
For example, in Sweden, digitisation became part of the pre-school teaching curriculum in the second half of 2019, following the passing of the Pre-School Digitisation Education Act in July that year.
The Swedish legislation, aided by state-backed grants, has enabled the country’s schools to begin integrating digital technology into learning activities. Devices, such as mini-robots and iPads, are being used to teach children how to operate “digital machines” and give commands. Sweden’s pre-school curriculum aims to bolster children’s ability to build a critical and responsible relationship with digital technology.
Meanwhile, the Norwegian government is examining a range of further reforms to drive national economic growth and redress serious imbalances in the education and labour markets. Almost one in five adults in Norway have not completed upper secondary education, while the need for unskilled labour is decreasing in the Norwegian economy.
The digitisation of Norway’s primary and secondary schools is intended as the first major step in a process of tech-influenced education. Although the new teaching curriculum is not expected to bring immediate revolutionary changes in methods or practices, the longer-term intention is that “screens” will replace books and paper materials as the most common means of delivering information in Norway’s schools and colleges.