TEACHER EDUCATION AS A POLITICAL BATTLEGROUND IN NORWAY: ARRANGING, RE-ARRANGING AND RE-RE-ARRANGING THE BUILDING BLOCKS
University of Oslo, Department of Education (NORWAY)
The 25 year period 1992-2017 can be seen as the LEGO phase in Norwegian teacher education. For the fifth time in 25 years, politicians will dismantle programs and build new ones, like children who dismantle the towers built with LEGO blocks, to build new towers.
The topic of this paper is to provide an outline of the process, and a preliminary discussion of the motivation behind the frequent changes, including, but not limited to:
- the class teacher ideology
- the needs of small schools
- effects of the way schools are funded
- the question of compulsory subjects, in particular mathematics
- the question of in-depth studies versus programs with broad curriculum
- the fascination with Finland’s master teachers.
The college based teacher education programs were extended to four years in 1992. The structure has since then been changed about every five years, the last reform taking place in 2010. The present government plans to extend the programs to 5 year master programs in 2017.
If the later reforms should be characterized in just a few words, the following seems reasonable:
- till 1973, 2 year programs with Norwegian, religion and education as main subjects
- 1973, 3 year programs, few subjects and considerable room for electives; Norwegian, religion and education compulsory, from about 1980 also math
- 1992, first 4 year program: many subjects and less educational theory; practice not allotted separate credits
- 1999, less room for electives, more in-depth studies, also in religion
- 2003, more room for electives, fewer subjects, reduction of religion
- 2010, two programs, one for grades 1-7, one for grades 5-10, even fewer subjects, religion no longer compulsory; Norwegian and math still compulsory when preparing for grades 1-7, no compulsory subjects for teachers preparing for grades 5-10.
- 2017, five year programs, religion once again compulsory, now as part of educational theory.
With regard to motives, the 1992 version marks a final attempt to design a program suited for the Norwegian ‘class teacher’ ideology: the idea that the young child, leaving mom, should meet one adult, who would follow him/her through grades 1-7, later 1-6.
With regard to small schools, the 1992 version made it possible to run a very small school with one teacher, who had squeezed ten school subjects or more into her program.
A change in the 1980s in the principles of funding and possibly also a decrease in funding, has resulted in many small schools being closed.
With regard to which subjects should be compulsory, one may question the wisdom in the provision that all teachers preparing for grades 1-7 shall study math. This probably reflects the status of the subject.
It is possible that the requirements regarding in-depth studies have gone too far. In particular with reference to teachers for grades 1-7, one may take into consideration that a given subject is not only studied for half a year as part of teacher education, but part time for three plus three years before that, as school subjects.
The up-coming 2017 reform, where programs both for grades 1-7 and 5-10 are planned as 5 year master programs is strongly inspired by the apparent success of Finnish schools, where teachers have master degrees.
 Norwegian official documents, plus more general literature on teacher education, e. g. Zeichner, K. M. (1983). Alternative paradigms of teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education, 34, no 3, pp. 3-9.