03 SES 08 A, Implementing the National Curriculum
This pilot study aimed at preparing a survey of attitudes of the Estonian teachers of general education towards existing curricula at national and school levels. More specifically, the study has two objectives: (1) to investigate Estonian teachers’ satisfaction with existing curricula, their role in curriculum design, and their expectations; (2) on the basis of research findings, to propose curricular solutions that are more appropriate for the needs of Estonian schools.
The importance of teachers’ involvement in curriculum development and of the way they perceive the existing curricula is well recognised in Europe and elsewhere. Teachers’ professional development, their professional self-concept, and ultimately, the proper functioning of the school system are largely dependent on these issues (Schwartz 2006; Shkedi 2009, Shawer 2010). In the former communist Eastern European countries, investigation of teachers’ attitudes towards curriculum is particularly relevant. During the Soviet time, curricula in these counties were extremely centralised. Teachers’ autonomy was strictly limited. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, decentralization of the curriculum development was often complicated due to the lack of tradition and competence in the field. Teachers, researchers and administrators found themselves reconciling their long experiences of Soviet curriculum policy and thinking with diverse and often controversial ideas pouring in from Western countries.
Nevertheless, a unifying feature of the reform attempts was that almost everywhere, teachers were expected to become the main actors of curriculum reforms (Cerych 1997; Kalin and Zuljan 2007). However, research reports on these reforms are not encouraging. Authors from different Eastern European countries have stressed that teachers rarely see themselves as qualified and active participants of curriculum development (Olek 1998, Polyzoi and Cerna 2001, Kalin and Zuljan 2007). Thus the attempt to elucidate how teachers perceive the existing curricula, the curriculum development process and their involvement in this process is the first step towards creating curricula that were really helpful for teachers.
In Estonia, four framework curricula for general education have been introduced during the last 20 years (1992/93, 1996, 2002; 2010). The curricula of 1992/93 followed mostly a format common to Soviet subject syllabi. The next framework curricula rather adopted Scandinavian format that conceives national curricula having a general part that reflected cross-curricular ideas and guidelines and a block of subject syllabi. All Estonian national framework curricula introduced since 1996, provided guidelines for compiling school curricula. Yet, an analysis of these guidelines in these three generations of curricula did not reveal significant changes in their coordinative nature or role (Krull and Mikser 2010). This fact raised an issue about appropriateness of framework curricula in use as guidelines for developing school curricula that teachers really need for their work. Is it really true that Estonian educators managed to switch from the practice of using extremely centralized curricula in the Soviet period in one step to the practice that ensures satisfactory balance between coordinating and mandating role of national curricula and school needs of autonomy in developing effective school curricula?
The aim of this paper is to introduce findings of the mentioned pilot study.
Cerych, L. (1997). Education reforms in Central and Eastern Europe: processes and outcomes. European Journal of Education, 32(1), 75–97. Kalin, J. and Zuljan, M. V. (2007) Teacher perceptions of the goals of effective school reform and their own role in it. Educational Studies, 33(2), 163–175. Krull, E. and Mikser, R. (2010). Reflection of cross-curricular ideas in the Estonian curricula of general education. An historical study. TRAMES, 14(64/59), 1, 34–53. Krull, E. & Trasberg, K. (2007). Changes in Estonian general education from the collapse of the Soviet Union to EU entry. Tartu: Tartu University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No ED 495 353 Olek, H. (1998) Educational research in Central and Eastern Europe: A diverging tradition. Educational Research and Evaluation, 4(1), 78–93. Polyzoi, E. and Cerna, M. (2001) A dynamic model of forces affecting the implementation of educational change in the Czech Republic. Comparative Education Review, 45(1), 64–84. Schwartz, Morey (2006) “For whom do we write curriculum?” Journal of Curriculum Studies 38, 4, 449–457. Shawer, S. F. (2010) Classroom-level curriculum development: EFL teachers as curriculum- developers, curriculum makers and curriculum-transmitters. Teaching and Teacher Education, 26, 173–184. Shkedi, A. (2009) From curriculum guide to classroom practice: teachers’ narratives of curriculum application. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 41(6), 833–854. Telhaug, A., Medias, O., Aasen, A. (2006). The Nordic Model in Education: Education as part of the political system in the last 50 years. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 50(3), 245–283
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