by Inger Lise Stieng
Norway with a bit more than 4 million inhabitants organises national compulsory education from the age of 7 to 16. Traditionally the population has been Lutheran. Immigration and internationalisation has developed Norway into a more pluralistic country with a mixture of religious groups. Immigrants are concentrated in the big cities, mainly Oslo where nearly 30 per cent of the children have a foreign language as their mother tongue.
Compulsory education is divided in two sections:
Primary school from 7 to 13 and lower secondary from 14 to 16. Upper secondary education from age 16-19 is given as an opportunity to all, with the possibility to choose between two main streams -academic and vocational. The school system is mainly public. Although there are possibilities for establishing private schools with state grants, less than 2-3 per cent of the pupils use this possibility.
The educational system has a social democratic ethos as its value basis with an emphasis on the equality of access and possibilities to all individuals, regardless of socio-economic background, sex, geography or aptitudes. In practice, this means that all pupils are allowed promotion through different levels up till upper secondary education, regardless of academic achievement or competencies achieved.
The Ministry of Education is responsible for the development of national curricula both for primary, lower and upper secondary education and for national examinations. Teacher education is based on curricula and regulations given nationally while LEAs are responsible for delivering the national curriculum in the school system. The counties and the municipalities are given state grants to their different sectors -education included- all in a bag and decide priorities and preferences locally when money is allocated to different sectors.
Plans and investment schedules for ICT are made and funded locally, but in-service training programs for teachers are often developed as combined national and local efforts.
The Ministry of education developed in 1995 an action plan for the integration of ICT in the school system putting national (small) money in a program lasting from 1996-99.
ICT and the curriculum
In 1997 a new national curriculum has been introduced for primary and lower secondary education and primary education has been extended to 6-year-old children. In the new curriculum ICT is integrated as part of different subjects on all levels. It is emphasised that children shall develop competencies both regarding ICT in itself and as a tool for learning.
Access to PCs, Internetting, the use of e-mail and databases and word-processing are competence-areas to be developed and put into use in project-work and other activities.
In addition to the action-plan and the new curricula, the government has revised pre-service-training of teachers in order to strengthen teacher qualifications in ICT. In -97 a new centre for ICT and pedagogics is given national responsibility for developing and co-ordinating activities related to ICT and learning issues in the educational system.
Still Norway has a long way to go before ICT-related activities are integrated in the daily life of a classroom. Less than a quarter of primary schools are for the moment connected to Internet compared to around half of the lower secondary schools. Nearly all upper secondary schools are connected and their local standard are usually on a much higher level with local school networks.
The English language in Norway
Norway has three official languages in compulsory education: bokmål, nynorsk and samian language. English as a foreign language is taught from 1 class in primary education from -97.
The fluency in English for all pupils in Norway is strengthened by the exposure of English in general in Norwegian society through television, films and mass media in general, games and "edutainment" products. Most of them are capable of operating English versions of software and applications without much difficulty.
ICT has been intensively focused the last two years and access to or competence in the use of ICT is given status and reward in society. However, teachers already operating in the educational system are rather unqualified to address the new challenges in curricula and the action plan. Thus, there is a danger in the individual schools for leaving the ICT challenges to individual, enthusiastic teachers and not making them part of the institutionalised and collective effort for school innovation.
last update: March 3 1998
(titles are the responsibility of the Webmaster)