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Adaptation of contents to address the principle of learning to live together: The case for interdisciplinarity

Ellen-Marie Skaflestad


During the last two or three generations, great changes have taken place in the living conditions of the young. In many countries, both parents spend more time away from the home at their place of work, while their children’s links to the world of work and the learning that may be acquired there have waned. The impact of the mass media has grown continuously over the last decade, and schools have become increasingly multicultural.

Social change is no longer an episodic set of events interspersed by periods of stability. Advanced societies are now open to a continuous process of change, difficult to predict scientifically and control socially. These societies are dynamic rather than static, and complex rather than simple entities. Advanced societies are ‘risk societies’ (Elliott, 1998). Social change has ambiguous consequences for the individual. It opens up new possibilities for human fulfilment, but multiplies the risks and hazards that confront the individual in achieving this fulfilment. In these circumstances, responsibility for shaping the conditions of existence in society should be devolved down to the grassroots - to the people themselves. Education can only meet the challenge of social change if it gives all pupils access to appropriate cultural resources in a form that enables them to take responsibility for actively shaping the economic and social conditions of their existence.

The organization of the curriculum in terms of academic subjects for the purpose of systematic instruction is ill-suited to the aim of a general education. More consistent with such an aim is a curriculum that organizes cultural resources in usable forms for the purpose of enabling pupils to deepen and extend their understanding of the problems and dilemmas of everyday life in society, and to make informed and intelligent judgements about how they might be resolved. Such a curriculum will be responsive to the pupils’ own thinking and their emerging understandings and insights into human situations.

Educational change implies a focus on both curriculum and pedagogy, and on the development of teachers as experimental innovators. Learning has to be connected with the living experiences of students in a rapidly changing society. Different conceptions of education and of the curriculum presuppose different conceptions of society and the principles governing access to its ‘benefits’. Recent trends in curriculum policy-making reflect the dilemmas with which all ‘advanced’ Western states are wrestling. States feel that they need to steer the curriculum in ways that are consistent with their economic goals, but find that the context of policy implementation is too complex to handle from the centre. The dilemma is illustrated by, on the one hand, attempts at the State level to establish national educational standards through the concept of a core curriculum which will command a public consensus, and on the other, by pressure on schools to respond to the complex changes taking place in their locality.

However, it is clear that the idea of the curriculum having a unifying function in a diverse learning environment, combined with the emergence of the comprehensive common school, has gained strength in many societies. General education can be defined as ‘that part of the student’s whole education which looks first of all to his life as a responsible human being and citizen’ (Harvard Committee, 1945, in Elliott, 1998). The notion of citizenship should be central to defining the character of general education. Without it, general education tends to be defined as a common core of knowledge, skills, and values - a definition that fails to draw attention to basic curricular concerns, such as what knowledge is most worthwhile and what aims and objectives are best suited for schools in democratic societies.

General education is more than a function of the curriculum; it is also an orientation to learning and to curriculum design. Generally speaking, all education justified under general education should emphasize a socio-civic content that promotes problem-centred inquiry and group co-operation. General education should also be marked by interdisciplinary subject-matter schemes. The learner in this general education scenario is defined as an autonomously thinking, socially responsible citizen who is able to make decisions. In a broad sense, it is a perspective on learning that emphasizes citizenship priorities. Thus, the consequence of general education is a comprehensive concept of schooling (Hlebowitsh, 1993).

The connective model of the curriculum

Conceptions of knowledge underlie curriculum development and can be defined in either of two ways: ‘Curriculum as facts’ and ‘curriculum as practice’ (Young, 1998). ‘Curriculum as facts’ tends to have a life of its own and obscures the social contexts in which it is embedded. It often results in the curriculum being neither understandable nor changeable. ‘Curriculum as practice’ does not begin with the structure of knowledge, but with how knowledge is produced by people acting collectively. According to Young, this connective model of curriculum integration does not start with subjects but with the broader notion of curriculum purposes and how subjects can achieve those purposes. It does not start from the requirements of the national curriculum, but with individual schools defining their curriculum purposes and asking how they can be made to correspond to the requirements of the national curriculum.

Schools need to define their purposes in terms of the kind of young person they want to produce, and the kind of adult, worker, citizen and parent roles they wish young people to assume. For schools to move towards a connective model, all staff need to endorse the curriculum criteria and agree to articulate how their subjects or areas of responsibility would be involved - both in supporting shared approaches to teaching and learning and in delivering the agreed outcomes. The model is ‘connective’ in the sense that subject specialists would be required to connect their subject teaching to: (a) the purposes of the overall school curriculum; and (b) the way other subjects are contributing to the overall school curriculum. According to Young, the role of subjects would need to be made explicit in at least three ways; first, by identifying the specialist skills and knowledge they can offer; second, by showing how any of the specific skills and knowledge of particular subjects can contribute to the broader curriculum goals, such as personal and social education through collaboration with other subject specialists; and third, by identifying the contribution of subject specialists in enabling schools to develop their external links with employers, the community and other education providers.

The Norwegian National Curriculum: a connective curriculum model?

Changes in society and the structural changes in education have made it necessary to re-examine the guidelines governing the purpose and content of education. An agreed minimum values framework has been developed in a number of countries, in the search for the common good. Thus, the process of promoting a consensus of values represents a negotiated view of the common good in a given society at a certain period of educational reform. Globalization in education should mean that there is one ultimate goal to be supported by general education in all countries - how to make citizens able to understand both the local and global societies well enough to learn to live together and act as responsible citizens in local and global terms.

When large-scale reforms were being introduced in primary, secondary and higher education in Norway, it seemed natural and fitting to provide a common formulation of the common core of the curriculum, with a view to emphasizing how the stages of education are linked together, not forgetting adult education. Interdisciplinarity has to be considered not only across the curriculum at a certain stage or level of schooling, but in a vertical structure as well. Consequently, curricular reforms are to be seen as a macro-educational planning process. How the reform concept is interpreted is dependent on the social, political, economic, cultural and educational conditions of a country. It is a policy issue to define the context of change, and to view and be willing to develop a holistic reform strategy, where elements of change are linked and provide for interventions enabling curriculum implementation to be realized.

The starting point for the overall work on revised curricula for the different levels of the education system in Norway is to be found in the following Acts of Parliament: the Primary and Lower Secondary Education Act; the Upper Secondary Education Act and the Vocational Training Act; the Adult Education Act and Folk High Schools Act. The main themes in the relevant sections of these acts fell into the following six groups:

· moral outlook;
· creative abilities;
· work;
· general education;
· co-operation;
· natural environment.

The common core of the curriculum expanded on these themes. The introduction to the ‘Core Curriculum for Primary, Secondary and Adult Education’ in Norway states that the aim of education is to furnish children, young people and adults with the tools that they need to face the tasks of life and surmount its challenges. Education shall provide learners with the capacity to take charge of themselves and their lives, as well as equipping them with the will and determination to stand by others. Education must spur students to diligence and to close collaboration in the pursuit of common goals. It must promote democracy, national identity and international awareness. In short, the aim of education is to expand the individual’s capacity to perceive and to participate, to experience, to empathize and to excel.

It was recognized that if education is to achieve these aims, a number of concepts of the human being, illustrating our complex and diverse roles and identities, need to be defined for curriculum development. These include:

· The spiritual human being;
· The creative human being;
· The working human being;
· The liberally-educated human being;
· The social human being;
· The integrated human being.

Education should ultimately form integrated human beings possessing seemingly conflicting capabilities, attitudes, values and skills which permit him/her to lead a full and meaningful life, actively contributing to the common good, yet maintaining his/her own identity and dignity. From this perspective Norwegian education aims to:

- convey the culture’s moral values, with its concern for others, while fostering the ability to plot one’s own life course;

- provide familiarity with Norway’s Christian and humanist heritage, while teaching knowledge of and respect for other religions and faiths;

- teach individuals to overcome self-centredness and belief in the right of the strongest, while inspiring strength to stand alone, to stand up for oneself, dissent and not to acquiesce or submit to the opinions of others unwillingly;

- develop an independent and autonomous personality and, at the same time, to be able to function and work as part of a team.

A number of dual aims are listed in the core curriculum, and the final statement is:

Education must balance these dual aims. The objective is an all-round development of abilities and distinctive qualities: to conduct oneself according to accepted moral principles, to create and to act, to work with others and in harmony with nature. Education shall contribute to the building of character that gives individuals the strength to take command of their own lives, to assume duties within their society and to take care of the surrounding environment.

When greater knowledge gives greater power, more stress must be placed on the responsibility that accompanies this power. The choices to be made must be based on awareness of consequences and connections, but should also be guided by a scrutiny of values. A distinct precept of education must be to combine greater knowledge, know-how and skills with social awareness, ethical orientation and aesthetic sensibility. The young must be involved in social life, both individually and in a normally coherent way. Education shall promote ethical and critical responsibility in the young for the society and the world they live in.

The ultimate aim of education is to inspire individuals to realize their potential in ways that serve the common good; to nurture humanness in a society in development.

Operationalization of the core values in primary and lower secondary curriculum: the case for interdisciplinarity

During the 1990s, new curricula have been approved for Norwegian primary and upper secondary education. There are two main differences between the old and new curricula for compulsory education.

The first of these differences is the degree of freedom of choice regarding syllabus content and working methods. The former curriculum allowed local authorities, schools and individual classes a relatively large amount of freedom to decide and allocate the syllabus content at each level. To a great degree, the choices made corresponded to the content of the particular textbooks chosen. Therefore, there were considerable differences in the syllabuses taught from school to school, and district to district. The new national curriculum is based upon a national syllabus. Teaching objectives are set out for each stage (e.g. for age 8 to 10), and instructions about what is going to be taught are formulated.

The other important difference concerns the working methods. The old curriculum recommended pupil-oriented, challenging, working methods. However, more often than not, teaching and learning followed traditional methods. The new curriculum demands that schools, teachers and pupils implement pupil-oriented, challenging, working methods. This is evident in the curricula’s general directives, the language used to describe objectives and main features, and the emphasis upon theme-based study and project work.

The compulsory school is a nationwide ten-year school characterized by community and adapted education, which means an all-inclusive school in a co-ordinated school system based on the same curriculum. Adapted education means that it is locally and individually adapted, and takes into account gender equality and linguistic minorities.

The subject curricula are structured according to principles on centrally selected material, local material and adaptation, progression and more subject-specific teaching within a holistic and unified perspective. In the subject curricula, the selection of contents aims at promoting:

- fundamental values, cultural heritage and identity;
- creative abilities and creativity;
- all-round practical skills;
- basic knowledge and broad understanding;
- the ability to co-operate and independence;
- knowledge and awareness of nature, the environment and technology.

It is specified that fields of knowledge across subject boundaries are to be topics related to contemporary society and the individual and society.

Teaching methods must include creative activities and modes of expression, play, practical work, independent work and in-depth study, and project work at all stages.

The structure of the subject syllabi is as follows: (a) introduction; (b) subject-related aims; (c) subject-related objectives for each stage (primary, intermediate and lower secondary); (d) subject-related areas of study for each grade. There are no individual objectives or targets related to the areas of study described. The objectives are an expression of the competence of the pupils to be achieved at each stage of schooling. This provides important possibilities to schools and teachers to teach according to interdisciplinary themes and topics, in particular within the framework of project work. This focus on an interdisciplinary approach is expressed as follows in the curriculum document:

Although the curriculum is arranged by subjects, it has been designed so those subjects support each other. Aims, objectives and areas of study must be viewed in relation to each other with a view to unity and connections, both within and between subjects. At the primary level, much of the teaching is organized around themes. Structural and thematic connections between subjects and subject areas should be exploited throughout schooling. This helps pupils to develop overall understandings and to make the most of knowledge and skills across subject boundaries.

Certain fields of knowledge to be taught across subject boundaries have been identified, such as topical issues related to:

- Contemporary society - nature and environment, international understanding, human rights and peaceful co-existence, technology, information and communication technology, knowledge of the media, working life and vocational guidance, consumer knowledge, road safety.

- The individual and society - the family, sex education, homosexuality, preventive health work, drug abuse, crime prevention, bullying and violence.

The thematic structure of contents shall be based on the experience, interests and understanding of pupils, on connections with the local environment and on topicality. The methods to be used are creative activities and modes of expression in all subjects, practical and independent work, project work and in-depth study. Local work on subject curricula should mainly be decided by individual schools or co-operating schools. It shall establish the foundations for teachers’ planning their lessons at all levels. Clear connections between the centrally and locally defined educational content of the teaching must be established, and the aims of the general part of the national curriculum should be borne in mind.

Co-operation at school and with the wider community

Co-operation between pupils, teachers and the school administration is essential to the development of the school in terms of creating a learning environment and a place for work. Such co-operation can strengthen the context and possibilities for interdisciplinary perspectives and approaches, helping pupils to see the interconnectedness of learning, and the links between school and the wider community. For the pupils to be included in a social, academic and cultural community, the staff of the school must co-operate, providing a model for the pupils. Co-operation will enable pupils to learn from each other, developing social skills and gaining insight into democratic methods.

It is stressed that the school should develop general social and civic awareness and active involvement in the life of the community. By encouraging pupils to approach new tasks and challenges actively, constructively and deliberately, the school lays the foundations for further learning and helps pupils to master their future work, and their participation in family and social life.

Practical work and project work

Important emphasis is given to practical and project work. Practical work is supposed to form an integral part of all classroom activities and should be designed so as to show pupils the connections between practice and theory and between action and knowledge.

Teachers must provide adequate opportunities for independent work and in-depth study of subjects and subject areas, and in theme and project work. Emphasis should be on teaching research and analytical skills and on developing study methods and working habits which equip pupils for independent work and in-depth study, as well as group work. Teachers are expected to work closely with pupils in realizing projects.

It is stated that project work lends itself to both a single subject and an interdisciplinary approach, and can be linked to specific local themes. Teachers are expected to co-operate with each other to ensure that project work has an interdisciplinary character.

Allocation of time

School time must be allocated as appropriate to the various activities, bearing in mind the need for unity, continuity and progression in subjects considered separately and together. At lower secondary level, 20% of periods in each year must be devoted to theme and project work.


Challenges for curriculum development in our time are to find ways of integrating general education and subject syllabuses - to organize knowledge for teaching and learning into meaningful units. The need for interdisciplinarity is obvious if knowledge is to be made really meaningful in a holistic way for the individual pupil.

The Norwegian model of the curriculum for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary education might be identified as a connective curriculum model. The outcome of the curriculum reform is presently being evaluated. Research-based evaluation will give some feedback on the success of operationalizing the curricula for a better quality of learning.

The former Minister of Education in Norway, Mr Gudmund Hernes, stated that the main message of the curriculum reform can be summed up like this: The most important of all pedagogical tasks is to communicate to children and young people that they are developing continuously in such a way that they can have confidence in their own abilities. This may be seen as our common curriculum challenge for the next century as well.


Elliott, J. 1998. The curriculum experiment: meeting the challenge of social change. Milton Keynes, UK, Open University Press.

Hlebowitsh, P.S. 1993. Radical curriculum theory reconsidered. a historical approach. New York, Teachers College Press, Columbia University.

Royal Norwegian Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs. 1993. Core curriculum for primary, secondary and adult education in Norway. Oslo.

Royal Norwegian Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs. 1997. Principles and guidelines for basic school education. Oslo.

Royal Norwegian Ministry of Education, Research and Church Affairs. 1997. Curriculum for the 10-year compulsory school in Norway. Oslo.

Universitetet i Oslo. Institutt for lrutdanning og skoleutvikling, 1998. IEA Civic Education Study, Report no 1. Oslo, University of Oslo.

Universitetet i Oslo. OECD-PISA Programme for International Student Assessment. Internet:

Young, M.F.D. (1998). Curriculum of the future: from the ‘new sociology of education’ to a critical theory of learning. Basingstoke, UK, Falmer Press.

Victoria’s schools of the future

Kenneth Ross


Victoria is an Australian state with a population of approximately 4.5 million people. In 1996/97, there were 1,700 government schools providing education for 5- to 18-year-olds. The majority of these were primary schools. Another 673 schools were in the non-government sector. Total enrolments were 777,368 students, 517,882 of whom were in government schools. Twenty-five per cent of all Victoria’s government schools cater to students from non-English speaking backgrounds, with a small proportion of students from an Aboriginal background.

The formal education system consists of primary schools from preparatory (P) grade to grade six (ages 5 to 12) and secondary schools from grades seven to twelve (ages 12 to 18). Most students (approximately three-quarters) complete thirteen years of schooling and attain the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE). The total number of government schoolteachers in 1996/97 reached 18,159 in primary and 16,902 in secondary schools.

School education is supervised by the ‘Office of Schools’, which is divided into nine regions for administrative purposes. The Office of Schools is located within the Department of Education1 and manages the government school system. Several administrative units, including the Office of School Review, in charge of accountability framework, and the Board of Studies, in charge of the curriculum framework, support it. The Office of Schools reports to the Secretary of Education (the public service head) who reports to the Minister of Education. The latter has ultimate responsibility for the school education portfolio.

1 At the inception of the ‘Schools of the Future’ Programme, the current Department of Education was referred to as the Directorate of School Education (DSE). Both DSE and DOE are used interchangeably in this chapter.


Australia began decentralizing power and authority to schools nearly thirty years ago. In the 1960s, the education system was highly centralized; the states made all key decisions on curriculum, budget and personnel. From the mid-1970s, Victoria became one of the leading states in the move towards a fully decentralized system of education. Between 1980 and 1992, a number of initiatives were taken by successive governments to devolve authority and responsibility progressively to schools. These moves culminated in a policy paper entitled ‘Education: giving students a chance’, published in late 1992 by the Liberal Government. It outlined that quality education can best be achieved by transferring educational decision-making and resource management to the school level. A ‘Schools of the Future’ (SOF) Task Force was formed to develop a detailed report outlining the government’s objectives and how quality education would be delivered. The task force released the SOF Preliminary Paper in 1993, which revealed that the key to schools’ effectiveness would be a ‘school charter’. The ‘Schools of the Future’ Programme and other legislation has increased the powers and responsibilities of school councils and principals dramatically. Victoria’s principals have been placed on limited tenure contracts and local selection of staff was introduced.

The speed with which this reform was institutionalized warrants an explanation. In March 1993, the government asked for applications to place 100 of the state’s schools into a pilot programme. The programme aimed at providing ‘virtually full authority over the budget and personnel function to the school site’. Within a six-week period, over 700 schools applied, and in July 1993, more than 300 schools entered the first phase of the SOF programme. By early 1994 another 500 schools had entered the programme and an equal number in July 1994. By mid-1995, all Victoria’s schools were in the SOF programme. In an attempt to assist schools to understand their self-managing role, the Directorate of School Education published two information kits in 1994. To assist schools to formulate and implement procedures to achieve their respective visions, a Curriculum and Standards Framework was created. This is a framework within which schools are able to create their own programmes, whilst taking into consideration the identity, aspiration and interests of their teachers. The Board of Studies provided curriculum frameworks for all schools, while the Office of Schools Review developed charter guidelines and an accountability framework.


Victoria’s model of school-based management (SBM) has two distinguishing dimensions: (a) the involvement of both internal and external constituencies, such as the principal and the representatives of the staff, parents, community and, in the case of secondary schools, students; and (b) the decentralization and devolution to the school level as against the district or the local education authority level, as is the case with other countries, such as in the United States of America or the United Kingdom. Victoria’s experience of SBM, through the SOF Programme, is thought to represent one of the most comprehensive strategies at school decentralization attempted anywhere in the world. It is the most sweeping move to decentralization in the history of Australian public education, with nearly 90% of recurrent expenditure distributed to schools within a global school budget. Victoria is the largest system of public education anywhere in the world to have decentralized such a large part of the state budget for school education. The stated objective of the reform was ‘[to improve] the quality of education for students by moving to schools the responsibility to make decisions, set priorities and control resources’. Accordingly, SOF is intended to ‘make more efficient use of resources for the benefit of students, provide a more professional workplace for teachers, and increase the level of community knowledge of, and satisfaction with, schools’. Basically, the reform has four elements, as shown in Figure 1.

FIGURE 1. The dimensions of schools of the future.

The curriculum framework: the process of decentralizing the curriculum made standards for student attainment explicit. The framework consists of two elements: the curriculum and standards framework (CSF) for years Prep to 10 (P-10) in eight key learning areas (KLA); and the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) for years 11 and 12.

The people framework: The career structures of principals and teachers were addressed in the people framework, consisting of five elements: (1) local selection of staff; (2) full staffing flexibility and workforce planning; (3) performance management for principals and teachers; (4) professional development; and (5) new career structures.

The resources framework: allocates 90% of the school’s recurrent budget directly to the schools; gives schools the flexibility to allocate all resources in accordance with student learning needs; and funds schools in a clear and equitable way through the school global budget.

The accountability framework has three elements: the school charter; the annual report; and the triennial review. ‘Quality Assurance in Victoria’s Schools’ is the main mechanism through which the performance of schools is monitored.

Each of these frameworks has several elements. Whilst most of the elements are in place, some are still to be fully implemented, such as full staffing flexibility in the people framework.


The School Charter

As part of the Accountability Framework, the School Charter is the official document produced by the school and the school council in collaboration with the school community. It is considered the major accountability agreement between a school and its community for the achievements of its students, on the one hand, and the school and the Department of Education (DOE), on the other. Each school develops its own charter which outlines how the school intends to deliver quality education to its students using the resources available in its global budget (the resources allocated to it by the DOE).

Through the Charter, school communities have the opportunity to determine the future character, ethos and goals of the school. Figure 2 shows the process by which the School Charter is developed.

FIGURE 2. The process of charter development.

The document of the charter includes: the curriculum profile, codes of practice, students’ code of conduct, accountability, budget summary and an agreement to ensure that schools meet their objectives within the limits of available resources. In particular, the document gives:

· A description of the school’s philosophy and future directions.

· The school’s goals and priorities that are identified as requiring further development.

· How the school intends to deliver the eight mandated curriculum areas and any other special enrichment activities specific to that school.

· Codes of practice for school council members, principals and staff.

· A code of conduct and the discipline approach used for students of the school.

· Details of the processes used for monitoring and reporting on student performance.

· A prediction of student numbers and an indicative budget for the period of the charter.

· A statement that the school agrees to operate within the terms of the charter and to agree to take all reasonable steps to ensure the school meets its goals within the available resources.

The school charter sets the strategic directions for three years. It provides the basis for detailed action plans and allows for the identification of performance measures in meeting the goals and priorities, which relate to curriculum, school environment, management, resource allocation and monitoring performance. Each goal is accompanied by indicators, which enable the achievement of that goal to be measured. The priorities are based on planned and continuous improvement. This places demands on the school to analyse its performance and, using the results of this analysis, to generate priorities for improved student performance. Schools report annually to the DOE and their local community on their performance in achieving their goals and priorities. Every three years a review is conducted at the school, in conjunction with the Office of School Review, to assist with the development of a new charter.

The school charter model adopted in Victoria has a number of features that place it in the category of the world’s best practices. First, there is explicit detail concerning the areas identified for improvement and the goals that drive the school; it is not a document that focuses only on improvement, but includes details about the normal operation of the school. Secondly, it is student centred with explicit acknowledgement of the central importance of curriculum and improved student learning. Measurement of both goal and priority outcomes are prominent features. Thirdly, the school charters are firmly located within a broad accountability framework that includes school review and school annual reports. Fourthly, there is detailed specification of the roles of the school community members and a profile of the school. Most importantly, as an accountability instrument, the charter gives parents, via the school council, greater say in the conduct of the school, and increases the requirement to account for the enterprise to the government. The Office of School Review can demand that charters are rewritten, and the objectives not attained in one year are carried over to the next.


A second important feature of the SOF programme is the Curriculum and Standard Framework (CSF). This is one of the elements of the curriculum framework noted above. The Board of Studies developed the CSF. There are eight key learning areas in the framework: arts; English; languages other than English; mathematics; sciences; technology, studies of society and the environment; and health and physical education. These guide the development of the curriculum from preparatory year through to year 10. The framework contains two components: (a) the curriculum content in several different levels to be attained over eleven years of study, across the various strands of activity within the key learning areas; and (b) the learning outcomes for students for each of those levels.

The CSF incorporates both content and process standards. Student progress is assessed against the CSF in a programme of state-wide assessment, the Learning Assessment Project (LAP). The LAP assesses students in years 3 and 5, in English and mathematics annually, and in one other key learning area on a five-year cycle. CSF is a teacher assessment of student performance based upon agreed performance levels contained within the CSF documents. In addition, the state has introduced one more test: a state-wide testing of student performance through the Victorian Secondary Assessment Monitor (VSAM) at years 7 and 9.

The introduction of explicit standards by means of the CSF set a yardstick for teachers and the community, and made public what had been the professional concern of individual teachers and staff. The LAP reports to the parents took the locus of information control on student progress out of the teachers’ hands. It gave parents ‘objective’ feedback on their children, gave the school feedback on their performance vis-is other schools, and gave the whole system information on overall attainment. In other words, in government schools, the LAP results became another instrument of accountability when added to school charters.

At the same time, the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), which is a two-year (years 11 and 12) school completion certificate, was revised and re-accredited. The VCE provides a wide variety of subjects for students to enable them to undertake studies for either university entrance and/or employment. It contains a series of Common Assessment Tasks (CATs) to be completed by all students undertaking a particular subject to ensure common achievement measures across the system. Some CATs are assessed at the school and others through external examination, but a state-wide moderation system is used to ensure parity for all students’ work. All students involved in the VCE are required to sit a General Achievement Test (GAT) to check on the distribution of student grades for school-based CATs within the certificate. Should the school’s VCE performance fall within the tolerance range of that school’s performance on the GAT, then the results for the VCE assessment will be confirmed. If not, the VCE results will be externally reviewed.

FIGURE 3. Systematic and local accountability framework.


The third feature of the ‘Schools of the Future’ Programme (SOF), which is part of the accountability framework, is the systematic and local accountability processes. These are presented in Figure 3. According to this system, the Board of Studies provides curriculum leadership and assistance to schools on a state-wide basis, while the Office of School Review supports the attempts of individual schools to raise the quality of their teaching and learning. The Board is responsible for course development and accreditation, course evaluation and assessment of student performance (including school completion and certification). The Office of School Review is responsible for the co-ordination and management of the accountability processes, particularly as they relate to the development and review of school charters.

As for local or school level accountability, the school councils have the authority to determine the educational policies of the school within the framework of the School Charter. The councils are responsible for maintaining the school premises and grounds, employing non-teaching staff and contracting the services of teachers for particular projects. They are accountable to their local communities, to whom they report through the annual report, and to the Department of Education (DOE), through which independent auditors ensure that the financial dealings of the school conform to the appropriate guidelines.2

2 Both the LAP and the GAT assessment noted earlier are also used as part of the accountability framework.

These elements of the accountability framework serve two main purposes: they satisfy the ‘legitimate expectations of government about accountability for the outcomes of schooling’, and assist ‘schools and teachers to improve standards of student learning’. The framework allows schools to monitor and report on their effectiveness and focus upon improving it. It provides an integrated planning, development and reporting package in which schools develop their own educational plans and priorities within government guidelines (through the school charter), and monitor the progress in meeting these objectives (through annual reports and a school self-assessment). The school’s self-assessment is externally monitored through the verification phase of the school review component of the framework. The school charter, annual reports, self-assessment and independent verification are public documents, which are available for community inspection at the school level. The DOE does not allow public access to the accountability documents from schools; this has to be accessed through the schools directly.


This is an element of the accountability framework. School review, as shown in Figure 4, is a triennial review based on self-assessment by the school and an independent external verification leading to the development of a new school charter. Community consultation is encouraged at all stages of the process with many schools utilising significant community input in the development of the school self-assessment, including community representation on the verification panel and community involvement in the final development of the new charter. There are three annual reports indicated. Most schools complete two annual reports, with the school self-assessment doubling as both the summary of achievement over three years and the third annual report.

FIGURE 4: School review.


The school self-assessment forms the summary document of the performance of the school over the three-year span of the charter. It is this document that is used in the verification process. It is the school that constructs this document, albeit on the framework provided by the government. It is not until the verification process that external review of this data is conducted.

There are detailed guidelines as to how schools interpret data for self-assessment, as compared to the annual report. Schools are required to present and interpret the data, make judgements and recommendations. The recommendations are focused upon the school’s goals and priorities for the next charter. In constructing the self-assessment, schools are encouraged to involve their school community, although the extent of involvement varies. Some schools utilize consultants to help facilitate the process and/or the analysis.


An external verifier contracted by the DOE conducts the verification of the school self-assessment. The verification process has been constructed to be both affirming and challenging. It is affirming in that the work of the school and the progress made over the past three years is acknowledged and celebrated. It is challenging in that the process leads to the setting of new goals, priorities and improvements that may take place over the next three years. The verifier acts as a critical friend working with the school and taking a fresh look at the analysis of the school data to ensure that the school self-assessment is supported by the data presented, highlighting achievements, noting areas that can be improved or those that have been overlooked, and setting the planning and improvement agenda for the next three years.

The verification is conducted over one school day, with the verifier typically meeting with the principal, school council president, and one or more teachers. At the conclusion of the meeting the verifier prepares a report which is forwarded to the principal for consultation before the principal, school council president and verifier sign the document. A copy of the document is then sent to the central administration. The end result of the process is that there is a set of firm recommendations on the goals, priorities and improvement focuses to be included in the next charter. The school is in considerable control of the process through its writing of the school self-assessment and has wide representation on the verification panel, not to mention the school principal chairing the verification day.


The resource framework represents a significant feature of the SOF. Through this framework, the reform has implemented a new basis for funding government schools in Victoria through a well-developed School Global Budget (SGB). The SGB is primarily a formula-based funding model, which consists of a base element for all schools, together with an equity element based on the characteristics of the students enrolled. Hence, individual schools would have the flexibility to allocate all resources in accordance with local needs. Each school receives an SGB, most of which is made on a per student funding basis to reflect the different resource requirements across a range of variables related to learning needs. It provides funding for all school-based costs, including staff salaries, operating expenses and school maintenance.

Schools received support in the introduction of local budgets through increased funding for administrative support and with a software package called ‘Computerized Administrative Systems Environment for Schools’ (CASES). This assisted the schools to monitor their financial, personnel and administrative functions. Devolving financial management to the local level aimed to empower principals and schools councils to set and allocate resources for local priorities, to separate the purchase of education from its provision, and to decrease the need for a central bureaucracy.

The SGB has its counterpart in other places where there is a high level of school-based budgeting. In every instance, the task of determining the basis for allocation has proved difficult for a range of reasons, including the absence of information about allocations in the past and debate about the relative weightings to be given to the different factors to reflect learning needs.

In 1994 (and again in 1995), an Education Committee was called by the then Minister of Education to advise him on a mechanism by which the DOE could allocate 90% of its state’s budget to schools. Most of the committee’s recommendations in 1994 and 1995 were implemented. These included a per capita core funding supplemented by needs-based allocations for students at educational risk, students with disabilities and impairments, rurality and isolation, students from non-English speaking backgrounds, and priority programmes. The principles underlining these recommendations were detailed as follows:

Pre-eminence of educational considerations. This principle implies that determining what factors ought to be included in the construction of the School Global Budget and what ought to be their relative weighting are pre-eminently educational considerations.

Fairness. This principle implies that schools with the same mix of learning needs should receive the same total of resources in the School Global Budget. In accordance with this principle, SGB should redress the unfair historical allocation of resources, which involved some schools receiving more resources and others receiving fewer resources, when they were otherwise comparable.

Transparency. This principle implies that educational validity and the fairness of the SGB will be apparent only to the extent that the basis for allocations in the SGB is transparent - that is, it is clear and readily understandable by all those concerned. The basis for the allocation of resources to each and every school should be made public.

Subsidiarity. Subsidiarity is the principle that a decision should only be made centrally if it cannot be made locally. It describes the principle of maximizing funds available for school-based decision-making. An implication for the construction of the SGB is that the starting point is to consider included all items of expenditure related to the operation of school. A case must then be made to exclude an item from the SGB. Exclusion of items from the SGB may take place if - and only if: (a) schools do not have control over the expenditure for that item; (b) there is excessive variation in expenditure for the item at the school level from one year to the next; (c) there is unpredictability in expenditure for the item at the school level; (d) expenditure is of a once-off nature; or (e) the item is one for which the school acts simply as a payment conduit.

Accountability. Accountability is a necessary counterpart of the educational focus in the SGB, given that the latter is concerned with matching resources to learning needs. A school which receives resources because it has students with a certain mix of learning needs has the responsibility of providing pro-grammes to meet those needs, and should be accountable for the use of those resources, including outcomes in relation to learning needs.

Strategic implementation. When new funding arrangements are indicated, they should be implemented progressively over several years to eliminate dramatic changes in the funding levels of schools from one year to another.

When implemented in 1995, the SGB consisted of six elements, as follows:

Core funding (based on current staffing and grants formulae with additional funding for administrative support for small schools and early childhood years P-2. This amounted to 80% of the total budget).

1. Additional funding depending on the isolation and rurality (IAR) of schools (depending on the size of the school, and its isolation factor) so as to ensure adequate staffing and a range of curricula in these schools.

2. Additional funding for students from non-English-speaking backgrounds.

3. Additional funding for students with disabilities and impairments (DAI).

4. Additional funding for students at educational risk (SAER).

5. Additional funding for priority programmes such as: physical and sports education; science and technology; instrumental music; professional development; arts in Australia.


Another important dimension of the SOF is its extensive use of technology and computerized information systems. At the administrative level, and as noted above, CASES was introduced to assist schools to monitor their financial, personnel and administrative functions. This allowed the schools to interface with the central computer system. Schools were issued a standardized computer hardware and software system. CASES stores and processes a range of data including student records (often from teacher input), and financial, physical and human resource data. To enhance the value of information recorded and maintained in CASES, another type of software was designed. This is the CASES Management Information System (CMIS), which is an ‘add-on’ software package to make better sense of CASES for management purposes. It provides a range of summary reports, often presented graphically, which have been developed in consultation with schools and central personnel. Both CASES and CMIS programmes have been developed in-house by the DOE.

To enhance the system by extending it to include student records, a third software application was introduced. This is a commercial product adapted to Victoria’s requirements. The product known as Kidmap provides student assessment and recording, analysis and profiling of student progress/needs, preparation of reports for parents, and access to teaching resources. It allows schools and school systems to access student data, and to analyze and interpret this in a variety of ways.

At the central office and regions, the DOE introduced an Education Management Information System (EMIS), which has some linkages to the CASES/CMIS environment. The basic system in EMIS is the Corporate Information System (CIS) which contains basic school profiles, a diary of events, a phone directory and a range of documents. EMIS also includes a decision support system (DSS) which contains the same databases as CIS, but with additional features. These features provide additional information to allow the construction of an individual school’s profile. They also allow the provision of a range of statistical information for downloading to a spreadsheet/word-processing package.

The interface between these information management systems is shown diagrammatically in Figure 5. The figure illustrates the main channels of communications and the users of these channels in the SOF management information system. For both the annual report and school review elements, the processes are informed by an extensive array of school and system generated data on student and school achievement. This very much facilitates the collection and analysis of data used in the operation of the accountability framework, and the day-to-day operations of the school.

FIGURE 5. Department of Education Management Information System: KIDMAP, CASES, CMIS and EMIS.

In terms of curriculum delivery, several curriculum programmes, which make an extensive use of technology, were also introduced. An Interactive Satellite Television (ISTV) programme was established in 1994. Both government and non-government schools installed satellite dishes to receive centrally produced programmes. Students could interact directly with the programmes’ presenters using either a fax or a telephone. Professional development programmes for teachers and general access for other community groups were also made available through this new technology. Other technological initiatives in the curriculum included programmes which gave all schools access to the Internet and opportunities to develop methods of using the new technologies; and brought people from education and the entertainment arena to work together to develop computer software that both educates and entertains.


As part of the people framework, the career structures of principals and teachers were addressed. This was ‘consistent with efforts to restructure the public sector’, where ‘there has been downsizing of central and regional agencies, with a small but powerful strategic core “steering” the system’. In this framework, staff selection was devolved to the local level and professional development was provided to build capacity in principals for their expanded roles, as well as to give teachers the skill to implement curriculum improvements. However, the school’s personnel for the most part remain centrally employed. At the same time, schools were given an increasing capacity to select staff and determine the mix of professional, paraprofessional and support arrangements.

All of the restructuring noted above required considerable commitment from the central office to provide professional development for all school personnel: principals, teachers and school councillors. At the time of their entry into the SOF programme, schools had an induction period of six months to ensure that they were ready for their new responsibilities. Professional development for principals included issues related to the global budget, leadership and management. Administrative staff were given training to improve their understanding of the new computer system and the global budgeting process, including the management of personnel. Teachers were given training in programmes related to curriculum leadership in response to school charters. School councillors were given training to help understand the process of charter development, and the implementation of the SOF programme.

At the central and regional level, special positions were created to deal with local concerns. These positions, known as the District Liaison Principals (DLP) were placed in regions across the state. Two positions were placed in the central office. The role of the DLP was to act as a change agent, providing advice and assistance to principals, assisting with professional development, and ensuring that schools have access to student services and curriculum support staff. In addition, a small number of support staff were located in each region.

Support for principals and teachers is an on-going activity. Areas of support include leadership training, mentoring and coaching, with experienced principals supporting junior ones. These have helped to establish the longer-term future of leadership in schools. The Professional Recognition Programme (PRP) offered teachers the capacity to opt into a system of enhanced pay and career structure, including annual appraisal. The main aims of the programme are:

· To provide a working environment that encourages and rewards skilled and dedicated teachers;

· To encourage the further development of an ethos that values excellence and high standards of achievement; and

· To provide formal feedback on a teacher’s performance so that appropriate career development may occur through professional development and other means.

To achieve these goals, the DOE allocated in 1995, the total of A$240 per teacher in each school for professional development. This meant that appraisal could support improvement and provide the basis for promotions based on merit rather than seniority. Local staff selection, appraisal and professional development gave the school greater control over their human resources and greater flexibility in responding to local needs.


The SOF reform has devolved considerable authority and responsibility to the school level. Important features of its success include:

· The framework presents an integrated programme that works at two levels: for school planning and development and for system accountability. It is this dual utility that has been the key to success. Schools value the framework for providing them with a valuable developmental tool. Inspection programmes, such as those used in the United Kingdom, do not offer the same degree of support to schools as that offered by the accountability framework.

· The framework has been supported by the development of a range of performance measures. Some have been developed especially for the framework (staff and parent opinion surveys), whilst others have been developed as part of other elements of the reform (e.g. CSF). Importantly, benchmarks of performance have been created which allow schools to assess their performance against those of both the state average and schools, which have a similar student population.

· The development of the performance measures has been supported by the development of software to facilitate the display and analysis of the data.

This process has provided schools with the tools to monitor performance, a quality assurance framework within which to operate, and a quality control process that meets systemic requirements. In essence, the accountability framework includes the benefits of a supervisor model of school supervision, with an explicit and extensive programme of support for school planning and development.

Appropriate levels of professional development have been used to support the framework implementation. Extensive consultation and trialling occurred in the development of the school charter, the annual report and the triennial review. The Office of School Review also consulted widely with experts throughout the world, and its personnel have been active in gaining experience of best practice. The independence of the Office of School Review from the schools section has enabled it to develop the accountability framework without the constraints that it might have been subject to had it been part of the bureaucratic structure of the Office of Schools.

At the early stages of SOF inception, the DSE published ‘The schools of the future information kit’ and ‘Schools of the future guidelines for developing a schools charter’ to assist all schools in their transition to SBM. The documents reinforced the trend for principals to be recognized as true leaders of their schools and to be expected to build and lead their teaching teams by clarifying important responsibilities which are determined at the school level. The unique character of each school and community is reflected in distinctive curricula selected from a broad range of studies established by Victoria’s Board of Studies. So as to achieve the overall aim of providing quality education for every student, enabling each to realize his/her full potential, different approaches to learning and teaching are encouraged to optimize the advantages gained from technological progress. The school charter, developed within the guidelines of the DSE/DOE, encapsulates the school’s vision and establishes a framework for the allocation of resources. The crucial element for the success of the school would seem to be its ability to respond to the needs of the community and to provide a service which sustains an on-going demand for places within the school, as well as a boost to the employment potential of its graduates.

However, there remain considerable constraints on schools. For example, the leadership role of a principal of a SOF is a demanding one. The tasks carry onerous responsibilities, both ‘upwards’ to the DOE and the Minister of Education, as well as ‘outwards’ through the members of the School Council to staff, students, parents and the community.

Moreover, there is evidence of increased teacher workload and time demands, concern over the level of resources, increased reliance on local fund-raising, including the collection of fees, teacher disempowerment and a decrease in school diversity. There is also frustration at the inability of parts of the reform to be fully implemented, especially the promise of school control over staffing and the implementation of the principal performance management plan.

Concern has been expressed that reforms to bring about the decentralization of authority in the current education system are cost-cutting measures, rather than a means of improving school effectiveness. As a matter of fact, this phenomenon of cutting-costs and reducing staff has been a feature of most SBM reforms worldwide.

On the other hand, the new arrangements of decision-making and the increased community involvement give a clear impression that education is a partnership between the staff and the parents. However, much of this seems to have been undermined in favour of more power being given to the principal.

Non-school science education: A case study from France

Jean-Marie Sani


This article attempts to show how a non-school educational institution can be a valuable resource for complementing school-based education, and how it can be a place of innovation and experiment.

A typology of science museums

It is possible to place science museums into three categories, which have developed over time:

Collection museums are the most traditional - the museum is based on a collection. A principal disadvantage of such museums is the separation of the visitor from the objects on display. Direct contact and manipulation of real objects have obvious advantages over the simple viewing of artefacts.

Demonstration museums. In the second type of museum, demonstration of facts and mechanisms - ‘how things work’ - is very important. The origins of this type of museum can be found in the eighteenth century, but they are more closely related to universal exhibitions organized in many large cities during the nineteenth century.

Interactive exhibits. The third and most recent category is a type of museum where the emphasis is placed on possibilities for direct interaction between the visitor and the exhibition. Different types of information may be obtained depending on the actions performed on an object by different visitors, who will, in turn, react differently to the results of their actions. Computers may serve as an excellent tool for organizing such interactivity between visitors and exhibitions.

The majority of modern science museums are a combination of these three types. Examples are the Exploratorium in San Francisco, United States of America and the Cites Sciences et de l’Industrie, France.

The Cites Sciences et de l’Industrie

The main purposes of the CitI> are:

· to provide visitors with scientific, technological and industrial knowledge and know-how on phenomena and issues affecting their daily lives;

· to provide a forum for debate on current developments in science and technology;

· to operate as a resource centre which relays information from various partner institutions for the benefit of visitors (such as the service provided by the ‘Cites mers’);

· to be a centre for innovation in the fields of communication, education and training in science and technology issues, in partnership with institutions operating in these fields.

Its services consist of:

Exhibitions. These are the most important resources: different exhibitions (permanent or temporary) whose aim is to help visitors understand the effects of the development of science and technology on human life. They combine possibilities for observation, demonstration and hands-on interaction by visitors.

‘Explora’. This is the main exhibition: 30,000 square metres on subjects as varied as the environment, communication, health, astronomy, energy, sounds and space.

‘Cites enfants’. This comprises two permanent exhibitions, for 3- to 5-year-olds, and 5- to 12-year-olds. The subjects include machines, communication, the human body and other aspects of biology. There is also a temporary exhibition on the topic of electricity.

‘Techno Cit146; is a particular exhibition on technology, intended for teenagers, where the visitors can have real contact with diverse objects, and where teamwork is very important. The exhibition is organized in five sections and each one can be reserved for a class of pupils for ninety-minute sessions.

Its resources are as follows:

‘Mathe’. This is a multimedia public library with 300,000 books, 3,000 films and a variety of computer software. It offers an excellent complement to the exhibitions.

‘Salle science-actualit#146;. This exhibition is a presentation of current developments in science and technology, assembled by a team of journalists. It is renewed monthly.

‘Cites mers’. This service space is organized in collaboration with external institutions, where visitors can obtain information on career orientation, vocational education, training, and employment. There is a strong emphasis on the evolution of the job market according to the development of science and technology.

Entertainment theatres. Different places of entertainment complete the complex. These include: (a) the ‘Ge’: a hemispheric cinema theatre; (b) the ‘Planrium’; and (c) the ‘Cinaxe’: a dynamic cinema theatre in which the room moves alongside the film.

These places receive from 3.5 to 4 million visitors a year.

The educational policy of the ‘Cit146;

Support to teachers: A variety of suggestions are provided to teachers relating to projects they may wish to carry out with their classes. These are merely suggestions - not directives - and teachers are free to select their own projects. The orientation and documentation services of the CitI> are available to schools in support of educational projects. The CitI>’s resources facilitate the development of both the content and process of projects:

· content: work on transversal topics which demonstrate the effects of science and technology on society (daily life, professional life, society’s choices, economy);

· process: access to the diverse media available at the CitI> in order to learn how to exploit them effectively to answer questions posed by educational staff at the museum.

A multidisciplinary approach: All the themes proposed by the CitI> to classes or teachers are multidisciplinary. This is recognized as a good approach in education, and a necessity for a holistic view of the impact of science and technology on society. To carry out multidisciplinary projects teachers have to:

· use resources which are themselves organized in a multidisciplinary way;

· favour connections between scientific and technological subjects through transversal topics;

· favour treatment of topics using scientific, technological, industrial, social and economic perspectives;

· illustrate the large social debates generated by the evolution of science and technology.

The organization of the educational projects

In the museum, school classes can carry out activities that they are unable to do in the school. On the other hand, there are certain important activities that must take place in the school. Thus, the teacher has to use the educational project method, covering a certain time frame, and incorporating activities scheduled before, during and after the visit:

Before the visit. The activities include:

· work on the topic and emergence of a set of questions, originating in the pupils’ existing conceptions;

· organization of the project material, budget, transportation and timing. Prior to visiting the museum, pupils know that the visit’s aim is to collect information on a particular topic.

During the visit. Activities will include:

· resolving the original question/problem;
· acquisition of methodological tools;
· collection of information in terms of knowledge and know-how;
· writing up a brief synthesis;
· extending the topic to related subjects that appear relevant during synthesis.

After the visit. In this last phase the following activities are important:

· sharing of acquired information;

· organization and reformulating of the information, for instance in the form of a report, school newspaper or exhibition;

· complementary research, using other resource centres (libraries, museums, factories).

It is very important to involve the pupils in a variety of activities. An example of a possible sequence is as follows:

· determine a research subject;
· identify the pupils’ preconceived ideas;
· prepare a set of questions;
· apply a research method, starting from the set of questions;
· evaluate the new knowledge that has been acquired;
· measure the evolution of the pupils’ knowledge compared to the initial subject.

This sequence may be adapted to the pupils’ level of ability, providing for individualized progression.

The role of the teacher

In this type of environment, and in such a didactic relationship, the teacher has a precise role to play. This role is, of course, often evident in the school, but it is probably needed more in a place like the CitI>. The teacher’s role is not to deliver ready-made information to the pupils, but to orient and guide them in the process of structured research, giving them the opportunity to ask their own questions, develop problem-solving techniques, make their own discoveries, and arrive at carefully thought-out conclusions based on scientific evidence. The teacher should help pupils to: formulate questions; organize their research; critically analyze and summarize the results; and formulate new questions based on the outcomes. The teacher must also evaluate the final results.


The role of the staff at the CitI> is to assist teachers in exploiting the museum’s resources to the best advantage in the realization of class projects. The most effective approach is a collaborative transdisciplinary project, with several teachers from different disciplines working as a team, and with activities carefully planned before, during and after the visit.

Present policy priorities

Beyond to the CitI>’s general and long-term objectives, specific short- or medium-term objectives are formulated (covering a year to several years). These presently include:

· the development of experimental activities;

· the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in education;

· work with disadvantaged publics in a strategy of partnership;

· focus on a multidisciplinary and systemic approach;

· provision of information and developing knowledge about training, jobs and careers, and vocational education;

· focus on lifelong learning;

· promotion of international development, especially in the field of science and language projects.

The role the Citould like to play in the formal educational system

The CitI> provides a place where teachers may practise innovation in science and technology education, with the help of tools, training and documentation. It aims to make available to teachers and pupils quality information on the latest developments in science and technology as they relate to the scientific and the industrial communities. The ultimate objective is to foster the introduction of new practices and methods in the whole education system. The museum’s close relationship with the formal education system allows it to be a laboratory and place of innovation for new educational practices. A similar role may be played by diverse non-school learning institutions in all countries: museums, libraries, industries, research institutes, art exhibitions. The development of partnerships between the school and non-school learning institutions opens up a wealth of exciting possibilities for innovation and change in the organization and practice of education.