Global /Local Dynamics & Curricular Reform. Andrea Sterzuk Curriculum Development & Evaluation in Technical & Vocational Education September 26, 2013. Why do we need to consider global trends?.
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Curriculum Development & Evaluation in Technical & Vocational Education
September 26, 2013
The reality of the times that we live in is that a student’s “contemporary society” is no longer limited to his or her local surroundings.
The 21st century has been described as period of globalized times—increased migration, changes in technology, and a global market—and, as such, a student’s contemporary society includes both local and global society.
Understanding global trends in curriculum development might be considered as evidence of “glocalization” or the ability to think globally and act locally.
One characteristic of globalization is “the convergence of formal institutions within and across nations towards similar goals and operating structures” (Astiz et al., 2002, p. 67).
Today’s reading discusses the interaction between global and local interests in shaping curriculum transformation. Specifically, Alderuccio (2010) examines the sub-Saharan African trend of the vocationalisation of primary education driven by “external and supra-national values” (p.734).
Question: What do you know about this trend? Are you aware of the driving forces? Have you been impacted as student? As a teacher?
Another example of convergence across nations can be found in the global educational trend of decentralizing curriculum development.
Because “formal education is the most commonly found institution and most commonly shared experience of all in the contemporary world” (Dale & Robertson, 2003, p. 7), the seemingly global shift towards the decentralization of curriculum development is another example of formal institutions across nations converging towards similar goals and operating structures.
In current academic writing about the ways in which educational jurisdictions in the world approach curriculum development, the conversation often gets presented in a binary way: centralized or decentralized curriculum development.
In reality, there likely isn’t any jurisdiction that is fully decentralized or centralized; it’s more likely that educational systems make curricular decisions at multiple levels (like in Alderuccio, 2010).
Centralized or Decentralized? Each Canadian province is responsible for producing “centralized, high quality curriculum that outlines what students are expected to learn and be able to do, in all subjects and grades” (Alberta Government, 2012). Yet, from an outside perspective, others suggest that “education in Canada operates in a largely decentralised framework. Within individual provinces, a complex interplay of centralised and decentralised responsibilities for education exists” (Majhanovich, 2009, p. 137).
Before moving into a discussion of how centralized and decentralized curricular development differ, lets first look at howor why this is becominga global educational trend.
For many educational jurisdictions, “similar goals” manifest as the desire for high performance on a particular international student achievement test, the PISA. Developed jointly by the Organisationfor Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member countries, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) aims to measure how well students approaching the end of compulsory education have acquired some of the knowledge and skills essential for full participation in the knowledge society.
“At a global level, as in the international comparative system of testing known as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (OECD, 2000, 2001), policy enactments may lead to changes in national curricula and national systems of testing, which in time will lead to changes in curriculum and assessment at the level of schools and thence to changes in what is learnt and what an individual considers to be performative knowledge. What is considered to be appropriate performative knowledge has therefore changed as a result of changes at global, national and school levels.” (Scott, 2011, p. 157).
International assessments such as the PISA can lead to the “global homogenization of student learning. Many view the results of these tests as the “gold standards of education” (Zhao, 2011, p. 270).”
“By becoming an international standard, PISA has the direct potential for determining the curriculum content in the areas’ tests, which are mathematics, reading and science” (Spring, 2008, p.62).
Sahlberg (2011) writes that “since its inauguration in 2000, PISA has had a huge impact on global education reforms as well as national education policies in the participating countries. It has become a significant pretext for educational development in Asia, Europe, and North America, and is gaining interest in the rest of the world. Large-scale education reforms have been initiated (in the United States, England, New Zealand, Germany, Korea, Japan and Poland), new national institutions and agencies have been created and thousands of delegations have visited well-performing education jurisdictions, including Finland, Alberta, Ontario, Singapore, and Korea to discover the “secrets” of good education” (p.55).
MichelaChiaraAlderuccio, the author of today’s article, explains that “the global educational agenda—promoted for instance by the EFA movement and related initiatives—is shaping and influencing country-specific national agendas in the education sector, and therefore curriculum changes in sub-Saharan Africa.
In the same way, PISA scores influence curriculum changes in North America, Europe and Asia.
Using a centralized approach, curriculum (and assessment) is created and controlled at the national level. Jurisdictions include: France, the UK and Australia.
The argument for this approach is that national standards are established; students can do well on centralized and international assessment and all students receive the same education. In this model, teachers and schools are often evaluated in terms of performance so that under-performing teachers and schools can be corrected.
This model requires larger centralized work units and it may impede pedagogical innovation – teachers are sometimes referred to as technicians. Through this approach, standards are maintained but adaptation is impeded.
Examples of jurisdictions that use a de-centralized approach to curriculum development include: Finland, Israel, Singapore, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.
We can define the goals of a decentralized curriculum in the following way: “The object of school-based curriculum development is to encourage and enable the school, or communities of students, teachers, parents, and others, to be creative and innovatory to draw upon the wide array of resources in constructing and reconstructing those learning transactions that we have defined as “curricula” (Skilbeck, 2005, p. 121).
Why is it so important for a school curriculum to be “creative and innovatory?” One main argument for the decentralization of curriculum development is the need to educate students for a changing social future (Cope and Kalantzis, 2000).
“In order to educate young people to play a role in both future economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability, education policies need to be based on a proper understanding of these key concepts” (Sahlberg & Oldroyd, 2010).
This type of education requires that students be able to work with new knowledge, be flexible with new ideas, work collaboratively with others and adapt to new and unpredictable situations (Hargreaves, 2003).
Growth and development of learners: “The individual student is not to be prepared for a fixed and limited place in a stably structured society. The student has unconstrained capacities for growth and development and fulfilling those will benefit social progress” (Meyer, 2007, p.259).
Individualized and strength-based curriculum: “What becomes highly valuable is unique talents, knowledge, and skills, the ability to adapt to changes, and creativity, all of which call for a school culture that respects and cultivates expertise in a diversity of talents and skills and a curriculum that enables individuals to pursue their strengths” (Zhao, 2011, p.277).
Question: Consider Malawi. Are there particular talents and skills that are geographically distributed? Does one region have better tourism opportunities? Are there artists or artisans in another part of the country? How might a decentralized curriculum cultivate expertise in different communities? How might a centralized curriculum impede this expertise?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to decentralizing curriculum development: “As for the task of local “development” of the curriculum, that, too, is diverse, ranging from quite modest adaptations of highly structured text materials to meet the needs of particular groups of students, to the creation and construction of quite substantial learning programmes” (Skilbeck, 2005, p. 118).
Summary of the argument for a decentralized curriculum: The world is changing; schools need to not simply transmit knowledge but, instead, need to create innovative thinkers.
Educational systems make curricular decisions at multiple levels.
“The core curriculum is centrally planned and constitutes 80% of the national curriculum, while the local curriculum is locally designed and allows schools and communities to decide on 20% of the national curriculum. Therefore this component is based on contents, defined locally, to be integrated within the national curriculum, by extension of the core curriculum or by adding new subjects considered relevant to the integration of children into their communities” (p. 731).
Do you work with a centralized or decentralized curriculum? How does this affect you as a teacher? How does it affect your students?
How much, if any, of your curriculum is determined locally?
How do global interests impact the curriculum that you work with?
How is community involved in determining what is relevant to the goal of integrating students into their communities?