Schools accused of ‘shallow’ teaching

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Norwegian schools have been charged with offering “shallow or superficial” instruction, failing to motivate students and spending too little time building up students’ skills in dealing with social and emotional issues. A new report from a government-appointed commission suggests Norway’s schools have a lot to learn.

The commission’s conclusions, delivered to Education Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen this week, is the result of a two-year evaluation of the public school system. Entitled “The School of the Future, renewal of subjects and competence,” the commission’s report urges major changes in the Norwegian curriculum.

Need for strategic thinking
The commission, headed by Professor Sten Ludvigsen of the University of Oslo, found that students today receive relatively “overfladisk” (shallow, or superficial) instruction and need a narrower curriculum that will allow more potential to delve into some subjects in depth.

The commission also claimed that schools today need to spend more time developing students’ social and emotional skills. That includes instruction in strategic thinking so they can learn new things themselves, work with a clear plan and not be so likely to give up when they encounter difficulty or challenges. Students need, the commission claimed, to have more faith in themselves if the country’s high school dropout rate is to decline.

News bureau NTB reported that educational research, according to the commission, now shows a clear connection between good emotional and social skills and a student’s performance in school. There is, in turn, a connection between school performance and how students will succeed later in life. Schools of the future must also teach students to think more critically, be creative and investigate areas that spark their curiosity.

Basics still apply
The basics of “reading, writing and arithmetic” remain important, the commission noted, and have been emphasized by Isaksen as the “foundation” of the school system. He welcomed the new report, saying that “if you can’t read, write and deal with numbers, you don’t have the skills you need for critical thinking or to work more efficiently.”

He told news bureau NTB that “social and emotional skills are critical,” but admitted he was a skeptial as to whether a means of developing more such competence would lack academic content. The commission’s finding are targeted at both primary and secondary school curriculum and will now be taken under advisement by Isaksen’s ministry.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund