03 SES 09 A, Comparative Curriculum Studies
The emphasis of skills-based or competency-based curricula (CBC) initially came to the fore of education discourse during mid-1990s through the UNESCO work under Jacque Delors leadership (Delors, 1996), however CBC entered the national curricula significantly only after publication of The European Reference Framework of key competences (OJEU, 2006). Still, despite being only a recommendation framework, and primarily intended for the EU member states, the key competences approach attracted interest of countries outside the EU. Kosovo and Albania, the two developing countries in the Balkans region, adopted the competency-based curricula promoting key competences as drivers of teaching, learning, and assessment in pre-university education in respective countries, while also aspiring to join EU politically. Kosovo embarked first on the process adopting a competency-based national curriculum framework first in 2011 (MEST, 2011) and then revised in 2016 (MEST, 2016), while Albania adopted it in 2014 (MES, 2014a).
Here we ask three main research questions to gain a better understanding of curriculum policy reform in Kosovo and Albania: first, what contributed to adoption of the competency-based curriculum frameworks in Kosovo and Albania respectively; second, how do the two frameworks compare to one another, and to the European Reference Framework of key competences; and third, how do learning outcomes defined for each of the key competencies in lower secondary education (Grades 6-9) compare in the two respective core curriculum frameworks for lower secondary education.
Our objectives primarily pertain to dissecting the curriculum policy in the two Balkans countries in the light of promoted key competences approach at the European level. It is also our goal to compare the two curriculum frameworks to examine to what extent they are similar or different, and also to what extent they are convergent or divergent with the global education policy focusing on learning outcomes at the European level. Next, considering that both Kosovo and Albania were among lowest European performing countries in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 assessment, and that both are developing countries undergoing a long transition process to market economy after the collapse of Yugoslavia in Kosovo’s case and communism in Albania’s case, it is our objective to shed light to the education space being forged in the two countries as a pre-cursor to the societies they aim to develop into. In that sense, the study aims, by extension, to also contribute to the main theme of the ECER 2019 conference ‘Education in an Era of Risk – the Role of Educational Research for the Future.’
We rely on two theoretical underpinnings to guide our study in addressing research questions and discussing the findings. First, we borrow from the global policy flows in education to discuss the factors that contributed to adoption of competency-based curricula in Kosovo and Albania. Overall, two dominant research paradigms have been at the core of global education policy transfer, one that highlights the convergence of education policies (Anderson-Levitt, 2003), and the other that highlights divergence (Steiner-Khamsi, 2004). Second, we rely on Curriculum and Didaktik traditions as per Deng and Luke (2008) to discuss the competency-based curriculum approach and its role on the education goals that an education system aims to pursue. Curriculum tradition rests on four main overarching perspectives, namely academic rationalism, social efficiency, humanism, and social resconstructionism, while Didaktik is the European-based framework for curriculum making at the classroom level (Deng & Luke, 2008). In our study, the first theoretical framework assists in explaining the process, while the second the content of the curriculum reform.
The article relies on document analysis as a qualitative research method to address the main research questions of the study. “Document analysis is a systematic procedure for reviewing or evaluating documents—both printed and electronic (computer-based and Internet-transmitted) material” (Bowen, 2009, p. 27). To undertake the research we rely on ‘primary documents’ (Cohen, Manion, & Morrison, 2011) produced by respective governmental authorities in Kosovo and Albania. The documents are in the public domain and accessible online. For the purposes of our study, we focus on four key documents – two each from Kosovo and Albania – the latest competency-based curriculum frameworks, and core curriculum for lower secondary education. In the first set of documents, we analyze and compare (1) the principles on which the respective curriculum frameworks are based on, (2) the structure of pre-university education, (3) key competencies defined, (4) stages of education, (5) learning areas, and (6) assessment. Because the competency-based curriculum reform in Kosovo was originally initiated in 2011, and then revised in 2016, we examine both 2011 and 2016. In the next two documents focusing on core curriculum for lower-secondary education (Grades 6-9), we narrow down our analysis and comparison to (1) learning outcomes defined within each key competency for Stage 3 (Grades 6-7) and Stage 4 (Grades 8-9), (2) guidelines for teaching methodology, and (3) guidelines for student assessment. In addition, we also use other policy documents and reports related to the latest competency-based curriculum reform produced by respective governmental authorities. All documents are in Albanian language originally and all translations used in the paper are of the authors.
Our analysis is still at an early stage, and we have some preliminary findings related to the process of curriculum reform in Kosovo and Albania, while the content analysis will be completed later. Regarding the process, in Kosovo’s case, the findings suggest that the change in political situation after Kosovo’s independence in 2008, and political leadership change of education sector in 2007 contributed to the shift from content- to competency-based curriculum policy. Specifically, the solution provided by competency-based framework marked the break of Kosovo’s education tradition from being European Didaktik-based towards curriculum tradition based on social efficiency ideology. Albania’s case of adopting competency-based curriculum reform is potentially most astonishing case in the global policy flow. It turns out, on the name of “[…] standardization of Albanian education area” (MES, 2014b), Albania has almost literally copy pasted the Kosovo’s curriculum framework adopted in 2011, hence ‘Converging to the dot’ in our title. Interestingly, the document itself is presented as one produced by Albania’s Ministry of Education and Sports, even though the structure of the document, starting from the table of contents, is almost identical to the Kosovo’s curriculum framework adopted in 2011, as well as to the revised version of it in 2016. While the curriculum reform in Kosovo was locally driven but heavily shaped by the international expertise available to assist Kosovo in its path towards a democratic society, the introduction of competency-based curriculum in Albania has primarily been a purely political rather than policy decision in the name of national rhetoric to ‘standardize education in Albanian area’, claiming that Albanian citizens of Albania, as well as Albanians that constitute more than 90% of citizens in Kosovo will have equal opportunities and access to quality education.
Anderson-Levitt, K. M. (2003). Local meanings, global schooling: anthropology and world culture theory. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27-40. Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2011). Research methods in education (7th ed.). London, UK: Routledge. Delors, J. (1996). Learning: the treasure within. Paris: UNESCO. Deng, Z. & Luke, A. (2008). Subject Matter: Defining and Theorizing School Subjects. In Connelly, F. M., He, M. F., & Phillion, J. (Eds.). The Sage Handbook of Curriculum and Instruction. Sage. 66–87. Ministry of Education and Sports of Albania [MES]. (2014a). Korniza Kurrikulare e Arsimit Parauniversitar të Republikës së Shqipërisë [Pre-university Education Curriculum Framework of the Republic of Albania]. Retrieved from: http://izha.edu.al/new/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Korniza-Kurrikulare.pdf Ministry of Education and Sports of Albania [MES]. (2014b). Reforma e sistemit arsimor parauniversitar – raport paraprak [Pre-university Education Reform – Preliminary report]. Retrieved from: http://www.arsimi.gov.al/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/RAPORTI_Korrik.pdf Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology of Kosovo [MEST]. (2016). Korniza Kurrikulare e Arsimit Parauniversitar të Republikës së Kosovës – e rishikuar [Pre-university Education Curriculum Framework of the Republic of Kosovo - revised]. Retrieved from: https://masht.rks-gov.net/uploads/2017/03/korniza-kurrikulare-finale.pdf Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology of Kosovo [MEST]. (2011). Korniza Kurrikulare e Arsimit Parauniversitar të Republikës së Kosovës [Pre-university Education Curriculum Framework of the Republic of Kosovo]. Prishtina, Kosovo: MEST. Official Journal of the European Union [OJEU]. (2006). Recommendation of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on key competences for lifelong learning (2006/962/EC). http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:394:0010:0018:en:PDF Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2004). The Global Politics of Educational Borrowing and Lending. New York: Teachers’ College Press.
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