Norwegian Civic Education System
The Norwegian education system dates back to over twenty decades ago. Before the Second World War, it placed emphasis on the formal structure of governmental institutions and matters of the constitution. Between the 19th and 20th century, the Norwegian education system experienced a gradual development of civic education as it began to place emphasis on the structure and organization of governmental institutions as well as matters of the constitution. This form of teaching also advocated for increased loyalty and submission to the king and his government and made voting a virtuous practice among Norwegian citizens. Civic education is examined through various levels including the curriculum as understood by teachers, formal curriculum, student experience and how teachers understand it. Presently, the Norwegian education system dictates that children start compulsory education when they are six years old. Each is mandated to learn a society subject each year for the ten years of compulsory schooling including history, geography, and social studies. Although most courses in upper secondary are optional, one must study a social study course every week for three hours during the first year. It is worth noting that civic education in the Norwegian system emphasizes on the social studies the students take in various stages of their academic ladder.
The first law that makes direct reference to civic education in Norway was enacted in 1814. It demanded that all schools, regardless of educational level, should have a copy of the country’s constitution. Additionally, in 1848 it was made mandatory that all students should be provided with the required knowledge that matches their political community. Between the 20th and 19th century, civic education was established as an appendix to history and focused on the formal organization of political institutions and the constitution. However, during the post-war years, civic education was strengthened to minimize the possibility of it re-emerging as a political force. Social studies and civic education became compulsory subjects in all upper secondary schools after 1965 and primary schools in 1959. Also, in lower secondary and primary school, social studies were combined with geography and history to a broad subject called society subjects. Public education after WWII expounded on traditional formalism as it focused on encouraging the learners to engage in the activities of the society and assume responsibility for the governance of the community. This resulted in the enactment of student councils. For instance, under the Folk High School Act of 1949, it was mandatory for all schools to have student councils whose members comprised elected representatives from each class.
Government and Municipal Power Distribution of School Policies
The goals and framework of the education sector are defined by the Government and the Norwegian parliament. The Ministry of Research and Education is responsible for the implementation of national educational policies. At the kindergarten level, the government has the overall responsibility for financing, developing, and managing the quality of education given to the children.  The governors in each county act as links between the kindergarten sector and the Ministry of Education. Additionally, they are mandated with the task of implementing kindergarten policies through administrative tasks, guidance and supervision of municipalities, and development work. Besides, Municipalities are responsible for supervising and approving both private and public kindergartens as well as running municipal kindergartens. These municipalities also ensure that all the activities and practices of kindergartens are by the accepted framework and regulations. However, the ownership and responsibility of private kindergartens are rested on Kindergarten owners.
Similarly, the state holds the overall mandate of both primary and secondary school training and education. The County Governors link the Directorate for Training and Education with the Ministry of Education. Their primary functions include quality development, guidance, and supervision of schools. Quite the reverse, the administration and operation of upper secondary schools is under the municipalities while the training and education for upper high school are under county authorities. The binding framework is formed from regulation and legislation, including the National curriculum. However, county and municipal officials, teachers and schools can affect the implementation of training and education within this framework. Each school is made up of a head teacher, board of governors, committee, and councils. There also exists a subordinate executive agency under the Ministry of Research and Education known as the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training. Its main functions include quality assessment, promoting quality development, documentation and analysis of secondary and primary school training and education, and conducting administrative tasks that are linked directly to secondary and primary school teaching and training.
Besides, tertiary training is an alternative to higher education regulated by the national legislature. It is offered partially by private authorities and partly by county officials. Additionally, university colleges and universities are managed and controlled by the state through the Ministry of Research and Education. Each institution of higher learning is comprised of a board that organizes and directs its operations. Only accredited institutions have the powers to terminate and establish their courses of study. Also, university colleges have the liberty to decide the topics and studies to be offered at first-degree level. Quite the contrary, universities have the freedom to choose the topics and subjects offered at all levels including doctoral programs. The Norwegian Center for International Corporation in Higher Education and the Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance play significant roles in the governance of University Colleges and universities.
The Role of the Voluntary Sector in Civic Leadership and Education
Norway’s voluntary sector is firmly rooted in the Norwegian historical practices and traditions. Its overall contribution is equivalent to the work completed by approximately 115,000 employees. However, its greatest contribution is seen in continuing and adult education whereas the least effect is seen in the secondary school. This disparity is due to the fact that the establishment of lower secondary and private elementary schools demands authorization by the public administration to ensure equitable distribution of educational services and equipment to all adolescents and children. To achieve this goal, the government established the public compulsory school system. However, these legal requirements allow for the establishment of private schools in areas where ideological, religious, or educational ideas are omitted from the public education system. This helps individuals with divergent ideologies have support to express not only their perceptions but also enlighten other persons on civic education and leadership.
Citizenship Education in the Norwegian Curriculum
Citizenship education in the Norwegian curriculum is achieved through formal, informal, and voluntary practices within and outside of school. According to the formal Norwegian curriculum, all students in primary schools are taught citizenship education. However, in upper secondary, it is taught as a separate subject and compulsory only in the first year of secondary education. Besides, using textbooks and other literary material, the teachers give the students assignments on profiles and programs of various political parties mostly found on the internet. They also conduct debates and mock elections that will help the students practice what they have learned in class.
The Social Studies curriculum comprises three subjects: history, social science, and geography. It is the third largest curriculum with approximately 1.7 hours of teaching per week. All students from the 8th to 10th grades take a compulsory subject known as Pupil Council Work for 71 hours during the three-year period. These lessons are similar to class meetings as students are allowed to raise the issues their class representatives should bring to the attention of the student council. As such, this subject aids in nurturing and developing the skills of the students as future citizens. The students benefit greatly from formal civic education as it enhances their political literacy as they become familiar with human rights, democracy, and the functions and structures of social and political institutions. Moreover, it aids at developing their values and attitudes which are essential in promoting harmonious relations among citizens and enhancing responsibility.
Informal citizenship education is realized through participation in student councils. The student councils in Norway take part in various issues including organizing social events and sports for students, raising the grievances of the students to the administration, and maintaining peaceful and harmonious relations between the school management and the students. In Norway, each class is required to have a class council made up of all the pupils in the concerned class. Additionally, each class elects one representative to the student council for stages 8-10 and 5-7. The pupil council in upper secondary is slightly different from that in primary school as every group of 20 students elects one representative to the council. Parental involvement through parent associations also helps promote citizenship education as they express their opinions on school development programs and the curriculum, take on a consultative role, and propose possible social and cultural activities. Also, the various topics included in the Norwegian way of teaching citizenship include national, local and global structures and systems, issues affecting connectedness and interaction of societies at global, local, and national levels, power dynamics and levels of identity.
How to Improve Civic Education in Schools
Despite the increased efforts to promote awareness of civic education, the students in various academic levels still exhibit laxity to exercise civic leadership and citizenship in Norway. As a result, there is a need to adopt measures that will motivate, instill patriotism and social responsibility among these individuals. Instead of focusing on past happenings, the main topics in social studies should compare both the past and present structures of governmental institutions as well as predict future structural patterns. Moreover, teachers should give learners more practical assignments that will enable them to understand and appreciate the role of citizenship. The students should also be encouraged to take part in the activities of student councils and solidarity projects as they provide an ideal platform for practicing democratic and constitutional rights. Also, participation in theme weeks instills a sense of responsibility in the students through collective participation towards achieving the set objectives.
Furthermore, education stakeholders should continually evaluate and assess the effectiveness of civic education in schools to ascertain that the curriculum is up to speed with the current trends in the society. Besides, being issued with examinations, the teachers should organize activities such as debates, and public speaking contests since they give a clear reflection of an individual’s intercultural, social, civic-related, and communication skills. Routine student surveys can also help encourage student participation in school activities thereby promoting civic education as it the students get the opportunity to share their views on social welfare, careers, student democracy, and academic guidance.
To sum up, the Norwegian civic education system promotes citizenship and patriotism as students it equips the learners with the skills and knowledge on how to exercise their rights and coexist peacefully in the community. Mandatory civic education at primary level provides the students with an ideal foundation on social and political structures in the society and their role as citizens in the day-to-day activities of the community and the country as a whole. Further, practices such as the election of class representatives and members of the student council give the learners a clear reflection of the role of voting and its significance in maintaining smooth relations between the students and the administration. It also eases their ability to blend in the society and take part in community practices such as the election of their members of parliament and the president. Furthermore, the educational stakeholders should continually review the curriculum and evaluation techniques since it helps ensure that the learners are up to speed with the current trends in social and political structures in the society.