03 SES 07 A, Curriculum Reform in Russia, Finland and England
In Finland, the latest reform of the National Core Curriculum (NCC) of 2014 introduced two novel elements, aiming to enrich its traditional discipline-based structure of basic education. The first, meant to permeate the teaching of all subjects, introduces the 21st century skills, conceptualized as transversal competencies. The other introduces integrative instruction in the form of Multidisciplinary Learning Modules (MLM), interpreted in the international press as “Finland is abandoning subjects and switching into phenomenon-based learning”. Together, the two aim at reinforcing the meaningfulness of learning for the students, to integrate teaching in basic subjects, and to change the culture of schooling. Despite a consensus on the importance of transversal skills as outcomes of education (Hautamäki & Kupiainen, 2014) and the long tradition of project and problem-based learning in the different subjects, their introduction in the NCCC 2014 has raised some criticism, mainly related to the time they cut out from disciplinary learning. The NCC 2014 lists seven transversal competencies: Thinking and learning to learn, Cultural competence, interaction and self-expression, Taking care of oneself and managing daily life, Multiliteracy, ICT Competence, Working life competence and entrepreneurship, and Participation, involvement and building a sustainable future. The transversal competencies are not to be understood as separate school subjects, but to be embedded in the curricular objectives of each subject. Among them, ICT was shown to be of critical value during the COVID-19 school closure of spring 2020 with the majority of schools and students apparently faring relatively well through the unplanned home-schooling ‘intervention’ (Vainikainen et al., submitted). The MLMs are intended to strengthen teacher collaboration across disciplinary boundaries and to help students see and build bridges across the disciplinary subjects by building MLMs around themes such as Climate Change or Youth and Economy or projects combining Arts, Music, and History, for example. The role of the transversal competencies and MLMs as subordinate to the disciplinary subjects can be seen in their assessment being embedded in the assessment of the individual subjects. Yet, unlike the disciplinary subjects, the NCC offers no guidelines for either the content or the assessment criteria for the transversal competences or the MLMs. This paper will consider whether the lack of empirical evidence to support the introduction of the two new elements and the absence of clear guidelines as to their implementation compromises the role of the NCC in safeguarding equality of the Finnish Basic School.
FNAE (2014). National core curriculum for basic education 2014. Finnish National Agency of Education. Publications 2016:5. 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 (s. 170–194). London: Routledge. Vainikainen, M.-P., Oinas, S., Ahtiainen, R., et al. (submitted). School-level variation of distance learning practices during the COVID-19 pandemic in Finland.
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