03 SES 02 A, National Curriculum Development
The latest Finnish national core curriculum (FNCC) renewal process took place in 2012-2014. The intention was to make the process as participatory and democratic as possible by offering citizens and stakeholders an opportunity to express their views on the early versions of the curriculum draft online. It was argued that through these comments the voice of the citizens would be heard, and the comments would be taken in to consideration while modifying the curriculum. The goal of this research is to examine the successfulness of democracy during the design process of the FNCC and enhance the democracy of the Finnish curriculum design process.
The research questions in this study is “How was deliberative democracy actualized through crowdsourcing in the Finnish curriculum design process in Spring 2014, in terms of the discourse theory of law of Jürgen Habermas?". We approached this question through the theoretical framework on collective democratic will-formation by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Jürgen Habermas’s (1996) discourse theory of law offers a description of ideal conditions for legislation and jurisdiction in democratic societies. In democracy, action norms, such as laws and decrees, are enacted through a democratic process. Legislation and administration are also a major part of the FNCC design process. For instance, the acts and decrees for the curriculum are stipulated by the Parliament of Finland, the strategic planning is done by the Ministry of Education and Culture and the process is coordinated by the Finnish National Agency of Education (EDUFI). Hence the FNCC may be regarded as a legislative document and the curriculum design process as a legislative process. (Heikkinen, Huttunen & Kiilakoski 2014; Habermas 1996.)
Habermas’s discourse theory of law is rooted on his previous work. The idea of democratic will-formation was first introduced in his theory of discourse ethics (1996) and in the theory of communicative action (1984). One of the main ideas beyond these theories is an ideal model of free, open and democratic discourse which at some point was conceptualized as an “ideal speech situation”. The theory of discourse ethics offers us a theoretical frame to examine if the curriculum design process includes features of an open and free rational discourse in which all parties concerned are free to express their views, and the final decisions are made by following the best argument which has been introduced in the discourse. (Heikkinen, Huttunen & Kiilakoski 2014.) This kind of decision making is a prerequisite for deliberative democracy. Briefly, deliberative democracy is a cooperative way to solve problems through dialogue. In this dialogue, arguments are limitlessly exchanged until a common opinion has been formed. (Bohman 1996; Cooke 2000; Gutmann & Thompson 2002).
This study was conducted with theory-oriented document analysis. The data consisted of three different document entities: the national core curriculum draft of April 2014, the online comments inspired by the draft of April 2014 and the final version of the national core curriculum from December 2014.The draft of 2014 and the comments were no longer available online when this study was conducted, and therefore we requested them from EDUFI. The final national core curriculum can still be found online. These three document entities formed a vast amount of data that would have taken years to analyse. Therefore, we decided to focus only on one subject. We wanted to concentrate on a subject which had a solid place in the Finnish national core curriculum and which had inspired people to comment on the draft. Finnish language and literature and mathematics both fulfilled these conditions. Due to a whole new content of programming and the various comments inspired by it, mathematics was selected as a point of view.
We divided the comments given on the curriculum draft in to three categories based on the quantity and quality of the arguments: strong, medium-strong and weak propositions. While we studied these propositions and the final version of the curriculum, we discovered that most of the propositions did not play a significant role in the curriculum process. Thus, in terms of Habermas’ theory of democratic will-formation, we may suspect that the process was not as democratic as it was claimed to be. To conclude, the limits and opportunities of deliberative democracy in curriculum design are reflected.
Bohman, J. 1996. Public deliberation. Pluralism, complexity, and democracy. Cambridge: MIT Press. Cooke, M. 2000. Five Arguments for Deliberative Democracy. Political Studies 48 (5), 947-969. Gutmann, A. & Thompson, D. 2002. Deliberative democracy beyond process. Journal of Political Philosophy 10 (2), 153–174. Habermas, J. 1984. Was heisst Universalpragmatik? (Eng. What is Universal Pragmatics about?) In: Vorstudien und Ergänzungen zur Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, xx-xx. Habermas, J. 1996. Between facts and norms. Contributions to a discourse theory of law and democracy. Eng. W. Rehg. Oxford: Polity Press. Heikkinen, H., Kiilakoski, T. & Huttunen, R. 2014. Opetussuunnitelmatyö kollektiivisena tahdonmuodostuksena Jürgen Habermasin oikeuden diskurssiteorian valossa. Kasvatus 45 (1), 20–33.
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