Reviews of National Policies for Education

1990-0198 (online)
1563-4914 (print)
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Reviews of National Policies for Education offer customised, in-depth analysis and advice to assist policy makers in developing and implementing education policy. Individual reviews can focus on a specific policy area, a particular level of education or a country’s entire education system. These reviews are conducted at the request of the country concerned.

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Reviews of National Policies for Education: Improving Lower Secondary Schools in Norway 2011

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23 June 2011
9789264114579 (PDF) ;9789264114562(print)

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Lower secondary education is key for success in overall education attainment, because it is where students can either "make it or break it." It is the last level to consolidate basic skills and to enter either upper secondary education or the labour market with the adequate competences. This report develops comparative knowledge on lower secondary education across OECD countries and tailors it to the context of an OECD country: Norway.

Despite diversity in provision across countries, lower secondary education faces some similar challenges: some countries have difficulties ensuring high academic achievement, and many students fall behind at this stage, resulting eventually in drop out from upper secondary. Selected evidence shows that there may be lack of student motivation and that the configuration and practices in schools at this age may not cater adequately to the specific development needs of early adolescents.

After analyzing the comparative evidence and country practices, this report provides a strategy to support teachers, schools and students that can contribute to raise student attainment in this level (or to make this level more effective) in Norway.

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  • Foreword
    Education is key for the future of our countries. It contributes to strengthening economic growth, development and social cohesion and to the well-being of our societies as a whole. Lower secondary education plays a crucial role within education systems: it is typically the final stage of compulsory education where students consolidate basic levels of knowledge and skills.
  • Executive summary
    The report Improving lower secondary schools in Norway aims to help education authorities in Norway and other OECD countries to understand the importance of lower secondary education and to find approaches to strengthen this key education level. It provides an overview of the structure of lower secondary education and the main challenges it faces across OECD countries, develops a comparative framework of the key policy levers for success in lower secondary and adapts it to Norway’s specific context. The recommendations focus on teacher quality, school success, student pathways and on the process of effective policy implementation. The report is a result of the OECD’s efforts to support making reform happen across OECD and partner countries.
  • Lower secondary education across countries
    This chapter argues that lower secondary is a key level within education systems, and that success in this specific level has a positive impact in education achievement overall. However, lower secondary education has not been a clear focus of research or policy priority across countries. A comparative analysis shows different ways in which it is delivered across countries and raises issues such as the duration of lower secondary school, how this level fits with primary or upper upper secondary, the role it plays in comprehensive schooling, and teaching and learning approaches to maintain the motivation of students. After a review of the literature on the purpose and the types of lower secondary education prevalent across OECD countries, the chapter presents some conclusions on the current situation and the challenges to improve this level, and international evidence and research findings on how lower secondary can be more effective.
  • Lower secondary in Norway
    This chapter reviews Norway’s strengths and challenges in lower secondary education, laying the foundation for the recommendations that follow in Chapter 3. It identifies a set of assets on which Norway can build upon to strengthen its system. These include signs of recent improvement in student performance (with scope for accelerated uplift), the public and social prioritisation of education, the comprehensive character of the educational system that emphasises equity and inclusion, the positive learning environment in the schools, the strong teacher motivation, the parallel policy efforts geared towards improvement and governance close to school needs. Conversely, it identifies four main challenges that can be reviewed to improve the quality of lower secondary education in Norway. These are the low engagement and motivation of lower secondary students, the need to nurture the conditions that make excellent teachers, the failure to address students’ individual learning pathways, and governance arrangements that do not align sufficiently with one another to support improvement.
  • Policy levers for quality lower secondary in Norway
    This chapter presents a set of recommendations to improve the quality of lower secondary education in Norway. They focus on levers that can make a difference in improving student performance and motivation: students, teachers and schools, all within a framework of ensuring effective policy implementation. Each recommendation starts with a comparative framework, follows with a review of the current context in Norway and provides a recommendation with three tangible action steps. The chapter first proposes the need to align and focus policy design and implementation to the current decentralised structure by focusing on key priorities, raising capacity and using data strategically. It then moves to the need to raise teacher’s status in Norway by strengthening initial teacher education, raising the level to a Masters degree, strengthening teaching skills through continuing teacher education and delivering concrete teaching strategies, and defining clear expectations for teachers. In terms of school improvement, it suggests the development of a national strategy to strengthen schools as organisations, to enhance instructional leadership and to give greater flexibility and choice for students. The last recommendation proposes ways to ensure students make smooth and successful transitions from primary into lower secondary and then into upper secondary.
  • Annex 1. Events related to the OECD Norway review
    Within the framework of this project, the OECD-Norway Steering Group on Quality in Lower Secondary in Norway organised and led the following activities with Norwegian stakeholders...
  • Annex 2. The authors
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