This post is the first of a series of studies on the Norwegian Education System.
Norway is famous for free education. Since Norway became a country in 1905, it has focused on developing a country of equality, which included creating an education system centred on equality. An ‘equality’ education meant that everyone was entitled to the same education no matter their socioeconomic state. This was a triumph for equality but as proven over the years, has become a trial for a quality education.
Since my daughter, Lilu, has started barnehagen (kindergarten), I have been very keen on learning about the Norwegian Education System. I know both the Australian and British Education Systems and I am a teacher myself. I currently teach at an Arts school in Northern Norway where I am developing a program that has been absent for the past ten years. Working in the public sector means I become involved with the politics of both the city and Norway.
The past year I have sat in many meetings discussing the absence of the Arts in compulsory school, grades one to ten. For the last 15 years, ‘real’ Arts has had no place in Norwegian schooling. General teachers have been the ones to facilitate a far from desirable arts course that has been more about meeting criteria (specifically for handcrafts) than discovering the world of music, theatre and visual art. Specialised teachers in the Arts are rarely employed in compulsory school. Through school results, numerous studies and even a reprimand from the OECD, (an international organisation for economic cooperation and development – education being their primary focus) Norway is finally waking up to the fact that their free equality education system is failing and that the lack of ‘real’ Arts might be a contributing factor.
What I have discovered from my personal research and my involvement with Norwegian education has alarmed me. I am scared for my children’s education. Already as a parent I am being told by barnehagen staff not to advance my child too much in reading and writing (Lilu is four and learning to spell) because she will ‘get bored in school and then won’t want to participate’. The Norwegian Education System has to change to be a contender in a globalised world but for Norway to be competitive, it will have its greatest struggle in changing the ‘equality-indulgent’ population towards quality education.
Over the next month I will be presenting different ideas about the Norwegian Education System in a series of posts. Norway is being pressured from the international community to lift its game and Norway is gasping for any quick fix it can lay its hands on. The problems in the education system in Norway are long term. It will only get worse before it will get better and so this next generation will be lost to the wind. In the coming years Norway will produce one of the greatest numbers of highly educated unemployed in the world.
An equality education certainly doesn’t mean a quality education.