03 SES 07 A, Curriculum Reform in Russia, Finland and England
This symposium compares the experiences of curriculum change in Russia, Finland and England in a context where many governments are seeking to connect education to the demands of the 21st century. The OECD’s Future of Education and Skills 2030 project has encouraged countries to realign their curricula against new definitions of "the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that learners need to fulfil their potential and contribute to the well-being of their communities and the planet." (OECD, 2020. See also OECD, 2018; Bells, 2010). Yet this objective does not admit of simple resolution (Hautamäki & Kupiainen, 2014). Moreover in some countries it has provoked a counter-discourse, focused on the concept of “powerful knowledge” (Young, 2015). This discourse highlights the threats that weakening of disciplinary boundaries may pose for learners, leaving them adrift from the forms of knowledge validated within a more traditionally organised and didactic curriculum (Simons and Porter, 2015). England stands out by virtue of its political backing for this proposition.
From such diverse starting points, the papers in this symposium will explore some of the dilemmas encountered as curriculum reform programmes have unfolded in Russia, Finland and England, and the different trajectories they have taken. The speakers began working together in an eight-country project, initiated and led by the Institute of Education, Higher School of Economics, Moscow, from 2017-18. This was designed to look at how key competences and new literacies had been conceptualised and operationalised as targets of curriculum reform in the partner countries (See Dobryakova et al, 2020).
Some three years on from that original project, this symposium will consider the challenges that curriculum reform has posed in countries with very different political and social histories and which have brought very different strategies to bear in making change happen. In so doing the symposium will shift the focus from the definitions deployed in the curriculum to the processes through which each curriculum is enacted, with all the potential tension points that this produces for those most closely involved. (See Priestley et al, 2021). In the case of Russia and England, an extra dimension has been added to the analysis by the high levels of disruption COVID has brought to schooling since the pandemic began. This will be an explicit point of reference in these two papers.
The symposium will conclude by reflecting on the value of comparing curriculum settlements and reforms in different education systems; the challenges and dilemmas that such comparisons reveal; and how they might be resolved, given the very different structural characteristics and constraints inherent to different national systems and within which attempts to modernise the curriculum are inevitably embedded.
Bell, S. (2010). Problem-based learning for the 21st century: Skills for the future. The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas, 83(2), 39–43 Dobryakova, M. Froumin, I. (eds) with K. Barannikov, J. Hautamäki, G. Moss, I. Remorenko, and N. Seel. (2020) Key Competences and New Literacies: From Slogans to Reality. Moscow: Higher School of Economics Publishing House. https://ioe.hse.ru/keycomp Hautamäki, J. & Kupiainen, S. (2014). Learning to learn in Finland. Theory and policy, research and practice. In R. Deakin Crick, C. Stringher & K. Ren (eds.), Learning to Learn. International perspectives from theory and practice. London: Routledge. OECD (2018) The Future of Education and Skills: Education 2030 Position Paper. http://www.oecd.org/education/2030-project/about/documents/E2030%20Position%20Paper%20(05.04.2018).pdf OECD (2020) The OECD Learning Compass 2030. https://www.oecd.org/education/2030-project/teaching-and-learning/learning/ Priestley, M., Alvunger, D., Philippou, S & Solni, T. (eds) (2021) Curriculum Making in Europe: Policy and Practice Within and Across Diverse Contexts. Bingley: Emerald Young, M. (2015). Unleashing the power of knowledge for all. Spiked, 1, 1st September 2015, https://www.spiked-online.com/2015/09/01/unleashing-thepower-of-knowledge-for-all/
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