Chapter 1. Introduction and background to the report

This chapter introduces the report, with a brief description of Norway’s context in terms of educational policy reforms to raise school quality. It shortly describes the new model for competence development that aims to provide municipalities and schools with greater freedom of action and empower them to carry out systematic school improvements. The model calls for carefully thought out implementation strategy to ensure it results in effective changes in teaching practices across schools in Norway.

The chapter then describes the methodology for this assessment and tailored support to Norway, which is part of OECD’s new programme to support countries and jurisdictions in their education implementation processes. The assessment has been undertaken following an analytical framework on effective education policy implementation and through mixed methods analysis, which includes data and research analysis combined with a range of visits and meetings in Norway, and builds on Norwegian stakeholder engagement and contributions.


1.1. An overview of the new competence development model for schools

Addressing the quality and equity of a country’s education system can help shape its future. A thriving education system allows every student the opportunity to develop as an individual and strengthens a society’s capacity for economic growth and well-being. Norway operates a comprehensive welfare system with high levels of public social expenditures. Education is considered as a priority, and Norway is one of the OECD countries investing the most in its education system, while emphasising equity and inclusion. Overall, Norway is committed to an education system that promotes the development and learning of all its students.

Norway has implemented a number of reforms and policies towards realising this ambition – and as the evidence suggests with some noteworthy successes (Government of Norway, 2017[1]). For instance, the results of the PISA 2015 survey showed a positive development in the average performance of Norwegian students, which is now above the OECD average in all three disciplines (science, mathematics, and reading) (OECD, 2016[2]). This is also confirmed at earlier stages of education (TIMSS, 2015[3]; PIRLS, 2016[4]). Norway is set on continuing this positive development in student performance, but recognises there still are challenges and great differences between schools in municipalities and between municipalities and regions (Government of Norway, 2017[1]).

One of the areas in need of focus is teachers and schools professional development. Available data from 2013 showed that there was lower participation in professional development than the TALIS average and higher than average unsatisfied demand. In PISA 2015, principals reported that about 20% of students are enrolled in schools where inadequate or poorly qualified teachers hinders learning (around the OECD average), and about 50% of students attend schools where teachers not meeting individual student’s needs hinders learning (twice the OECD average) (OECD, 2016[5]). There already exists a strategy for individual credit giving professional development (the Competence for Quality programme). However, the Norwegian government considers that a new decentralised model promoting collaborative professional development could help cater to the different needs of teachers regarding the variety of contexts in Norway.

Part of the challenge lies in the series of devolution reforms and decentralisation processes that have transformed the structure of the Norwegian education system during the last decades. How to balance local autonomy with public accountability while ensuring local capacity for continuous improvement in the learning of all students is a complex challenge; one that policy makers across OECD countries have been grappling with for years – and this includes Norway (Government of Norway, 2017[1]). Through reforms and national programmes, such as the Knowledge Promotion Reform (2006), the Assessment for Learning Programme (2010), or the Initial Teacher Education (2011), Norway aimed to reinforce the roles and capacity of stakeholders at all levels of the system to lead and engage in systematic improvements to ensure the success of all its students.

More recently, the White Paper n.21 “Desire to learn - early intervention and quality in schools” (2017[1]) suggests that individual national competence development initiatives do not provide for enough local adaptation, and municipalities and county authorities have varying capacity and expertise to engage in quality development for schools. With the White Paper, the Norwegian Government aims to provide municipalities and schools with greater freedom of action and empower them to carry out systematic school improvements at the local level. It introduces the new competence development model for schools to develop collaborative professionalism at every layer of the education system. In this new model for locally based competence development, national funding for school-based sustainable capacity building and continuous professional development at all levels of the system is based on a local analysis and decision making in networks of municipalities (hereafter referred to as “the new model”). This whole-school approach aims for continuous professional development to be integrated into daily practice and municipalities taking responsibility for the development of their schools by engaging in networked collaborations at the local and regional level. The partnerships with universities and colleges is considered essential for making this happen (Government of Norway, 2017[1]).

The ambitions set out in the White Paper n.21 that introduces the new model are an attempt to ‘flip the governance’ from government steering to greater leading from the local level, and aim to substantially change roles and introduce a whole new way of working for stakeholders. It calls for carefully thought out implementation strategy to turn this policy into effective changes in the classroom. This includes the elements of effective governance as described in the OECD Governing Complex Educations Systems Project (Burns and Köster, 2016[6]; Burns, Köster and Fuster, 2016[7]): strategic thinking and shared vision building, careful monitoring and evaluation to make evidence-informed decision making and the readiness to quickly adapt to changing contexts and new knowledge. But it also involves the need to design the policies smartly, to create a conducive context, to follow a coherent implementation strategy and to engage with stakeholders throughout the process. In complex education systems, “implementation” is not about executing the policy, but more about building and fine-tuning it collaboratively (Viennet and Pont, 2017[8]).

1.2. Methodology for this assessment

This report is part of the OECD’s implementing education policies support programme with Norway (Box 1.1). It analyses Norway’s new competence development model for schools, developed in the White Paper n.21 to provide an assessment of the model and how to ensure its effective implementation (2017[1]).

An OECD team created specifically for Norway (Annex A) brings together analysts from the Implementing Education Policies and Strategic Education Governance projects. It follows a concrete methodology to support implementation that combines research with field work and country stakeholder engagement to ensure validity and ownership. More concretely, the team has: extensively drawn on qualitative and quantitative comparative data from benchmarking education performers; done research and desk-based analysis of key aspects of education policy in Norway; undertaken an assessment visit to Norway (Annex B); held a stakeholder engagement seminar in Norway to discuss and obtain input on the preliminary findings (Annex C) and; had regular exchanges with the national coordinator and a reference group of key education stakeholders (Annex D). The OECD team has also made extensive use of statistical information and policy documents from other institutions and from the Norwegian government.

To explore the different elements that can contribute towards the effective implementation of the new competence development model for schools, the report builds on the analytical framework developed by Viennet and Pont (2017[8]). It aims to provide a rational lens to those involved in the policy to analyse, and consider measures to enhance the effectiveness of their specific education policy change processes. The framework suggests that to shape coherent implementation strategies – central to the success of implementation – policy makers need to engage with stakeholders early on in the process, and to take into account the policy design and its context.

Chapter 2 analyses the design of the new model and the potential synergies that exist with other strategies of teacher training. Chapter 3 discusses the engagement of stakeholders with the model, and Chapter 4 reviews the context of the policy, and the contextual barriers or carriers that could hinder its implementation. In the last chapter, the OECD team presents a grid of actions to move forward an actionable implementation strategy for the new model.

Box 1.1. Implementing policies: supporting change in education

OECD’s Implementing Policies: Supporting Effective Change in Education programme offers peer learning and tailored support for countries and jurisdictions to help them achieve success in the implementation of their education policies and reforms. Tailored support is provided on topics the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills has comparative expertise in, including (but not limited to): introducing new curricula, developing schools as learning organisations, teacher policy, evaluation, assessment and accountability arrangements/education monitoring systems and building educational leadership capacity.

The tailored support consists of three complementary strands of work that aim to target countries’ and jurisdictions’ needs to introduce policy reforms and impactful changes:

  • Policy assessments take stock of reforms policies and change strategies. The resulting report consists of an analysis of current strengths and challenges and provides concrete recommendations for enhancing and ensuring effective education implementation of the policy analysed. It follows a concrete methodology: a desk study of policy documents, a three to five day assessment visit, in which an OECD team of experts interviews a range of key stakeholders from various levels of the education system and additional exchanges with a project steering or reference group.

  • Strategic advice is provided to education stakeholders and tailored to the needs of countries and jurisdictions. It can consist of reviewing policy documents (e.g. white papers or action plans), contributing the policy meetings, or facilitating the development of tools that support the implementation of specific policies.

  • Implementation seminars can be organised to bring together education stakeholders involved in the reform or change process, for them to discuss, engage and shape the development of policies and implementation strategies.

In the project with Norway, a policy assessment visit was undertaken in May 2018, a stakeholder engagement seminar to discuss preliminary findings in October 2018, and three reference group meetings have been held in Norway in 2018-2019. Work is planned to continue until 2020, with strategic advice, an implementation seminar and a final assessment.




[6] Burns, T. and F. Köster (eds.) (2016), Governing Education in a Complex World, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[7] Burns, T., F. Köster and M. Fuster (2016), Education Governance in Action: Lessons from Case Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[1] Government of Norway (2017), Desire to learn - early intervention and quality in schools, White Paper, Government of Norway, Oslo.

[2] OECD (2016), PISA 2015 Results (Volume I): Excellence and Equity in Education, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[5] OECD (2016), PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[4] PIRLS (2016), IEA’s Progress in International Reading Literacy Study.

[3] TIMSS (2015), IEA’s Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study.

[8] Viennet, R. and B. Pont (2017), “Education policy implementation: a literature review and proposed framework”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 162, OECD Publishing, Paris,

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