By Pierre Gouëdard
How can a country ensure that education policies meet the needs of all schools? That’s the question many policy makers across OECD countries are grappling with as they seek to promote school improvement. Such policies aim to develop education system flexibility and support student achievement amid social and technological change.
Today, the most important trend in school improvement policies concerns “high-quality teachers”. These policies aim to develop career pathways, review teacher recruitment and registration, or strengthen initial teacher education and professional development. From 2015 to 2019, 34 such policies were implemented in OECD countries.
In 2018, Norway’s Directorate for Education and Training (UDIR) began implementing a new model for professional development. It seeks to establish a sustainable approach to school improvement that would respond to local contexts and the wide-ranging needs across Norwegian schools. It rests upon three complementary pillars that are designed to cater to school needs: a decentralised scheme to provide all municipalities with competence-raising opportunities, a follow-up scheme to support and guide municipalities that report weak results in key areas, and an innovation scheme to strengthen partnerships between schools and universities.
Today, the most important trend in school improvement policies concerns “high-quality teachers”. These policies aim to develop career pathways, review teacher recruitment and registration, or strengthen initial teacher education and professional development.
The OECD supported Norway in rolling out its new model, using an implementation framework developed under its Implementing Education Policies Programme. This resulted in a report that puts forth recommendations for turning a loose implementation strategy into a tighter co-creation strategy:
Figure 1: The OECD implementation framework
Source: Adapted from Viennet and Pont (2017) and OECD (2019).
- Refine policy design: The new model should be guided by a collaborative vision and a theory of change that clearly states how it will contribute to raising student outcomes.
- Promote inclusive stakeholder engagement: The roles of different stakeholders should be clarified and communicated clearly, and capacity must be developed at every level.
- Shape an environment conducive to the new model: A “whole of system” approach would help position the new model vis-à-vis existing competence-raising initiatives, and universities should broaden their offer to meet the priorities of local schools.
Ultimately, however, the entire model relies on different actors knowing and being able to play their intended role. The Government of Norway considers that past initiatives (such as Ungdomstrinn i utvikling, Lower Secondary School in Development) have built enough capacity at the local level for the new model to take root. But if this is not the case, the model will either make no change to the current situation, at best, or even exacerbate inequalities, at worst. Carefully monitoring the implementation process and student outcomes will help Norway stay on the right track to improving school quality.
The OECD continues working with Norway, to monitor how the new model is unfolding on the ground. In September, we organised a workshop in Oslo to help representatives from Norwegian Universities clarify their roles under the new model, and discuss the report’s conclusions. We are currently leading a second workshop with County Governors to continue informing the different stakeholder groups. The OECD’s involvement in implementing the new model will end with a final seminar in Spring 2020, when all stakeholders gather to evaluate progress and discuss next steps.
Our report will be valuable not only for Norway, but also for the many countries that are looking to promote school-based professional development and bridge the gap between policy design and effective implementation.