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Curriculum Development in
Pasi Sahlberg, PhD
Senior Education Specialist
World Bank
Brief outlook
Population: 5.2 million
The most northern corner of the EU
GDP per capita: $26,000
4,100 comprehensive schools (1-9 grades)
475 upper secondary schools
50,000 teachers
Public expenditure on educational
institutions: 5.7 % of the GDP
Why curriculum change?
• Situation in the beginning of 1990s
– Teachers rarely used curriculum in their work
– Teachers demanded more freedom
– Teachers’ professional qualifications were
– Decentralization of public administration
– Central administration didn’t know exactly
how schools could improve performance
– Paradigm shift in understanding learning
What was the solution?
• New National Framework Curriculum 1994
– Loose conceptual framework describing
intended experiences rather than content
– Schools were invited to design their own
curricula (but not by Law)
– Increased flexibility and freedom of choice
– Focus on new conception of learning
– Support to schools in curriculum design
What happened?
• Schools progressed in different rhythms
• School curricula became very diverse (but
still based on a common core)
• Curriculum became a school improvement
instrument and an active reference for
• Schools created new identities and profiles
• Fundamental curriculum change!
Possible impact of 1994 reform
• Focus shifted from individual teachers to
school as a community of professionals
• The hidden potentials in schools, i.e.
motivation, creativity and moral purposes
were released but some got burned-out
• Trusting teachers increased their working
• Schools became gradually learning centers