03 SES 07 A, Curriculum Reform in Russia, Finland and England
In 2008, Russia fundamentally changed its national standards for schools: it withdrew a detailed description of subject-specific knowledge and skills; and introduced requirements based on interdisciplinary learning outcomes and personal attitudes. This brought about two major transformations. First, it allowed greater flexibility and curriculum autonomy for schools and teachers. They were encouraged to develop their own detailed curriculum and learning materials within the broad framework of the standards. Secondly, for the first time in modern Russian history expected learning outcomes were defined in terms of transversal (key) competencies, and not limited to disciplinary knowledge. However, the language of the standards was vague, and offered no description of how the expected skills would develop at different stages of schooling. Neither teachers nor parents could actually use the standards to monitor their children’s progress nor integrate the task of developing competencies into traditional disciplinary learning. Amendments in 2012 did little to improve this. Consequently, teachers continued to pursue their usual way of teaching and assessing students, focusing on subject-knowledge often reduced to memorising facts, while paying lip-service to key competences in their formal paperwork. In our paper, we bring together quantitative and qualitative sociological data to explore how teachers’ and parents’ perceptions of key competencies changed during the pandemic. Before, a vast majority of teachers and parents were convinced that formal education could not be held responsible for the development of key competences. The difficulties experienced by families during remote-learning under COVID constraints have changed this. At home, it became obvious that many children could not understand informational texts and did not know how to use internet at large for educational tasks not only because of contrasts in resourcing (spare devices and rooms), but also in terms of social and cultural capital parents can bring to supporting their children’s digital learning (Robinson 2009). Moreover, remote schooling mostly offered a restricted code (Bernstein, 1964), which created sources of tension for different families, and demonstrated a growing gap between what families aspire to and what school has to offer. Consequently, families are starting to appreciate and seek out key competencies for their children’s learning (though using other words to refer to them). The paper concludes with the discussion of possible policies that could make the slogans from educational standards find their way into the reality of school.
Bernstein, B. (1964) Elaborated and Restricted Codes, American Anthropologist, 66 (6), 55-69. Robinson, L. (2009). A taste for the necessary, Information, Communication & Society, 12(4), 488–507.
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