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Curriculum reform is at the heart of educational change and impacts pupils, teachers, other educational professionals, and society at large. Moreover, the way we go about developing our schools and designing curricula defines our future and reveals where we stand regarding the role of education in society. In order to research the desired aims of reforms, it is crucial to understand curriculum making: How does the school develop, and what regulates the development? Learning is at the core of school development. It can be considered as both the aim and the primary means of achieving and sustaining any change in schools. Accordingly, the impact of a school reform is highly dependent on the quality of learning enabled within the school communities. Particularly, the extent to which the reform engages teachers in active and skillful learning by promoting their professional agency is a central determinant of the reform’s outcomes. The core curriculum is the single most influential regulator of school development in Finland. It is renewed approximately every 10 years and provides a common direction and basis for renewing school education and instruction, and sets the framework and foundation for district- and school-level curriculum development work. Teachers in Finland are curriculum makers not only in the class and school, but also at the district and even national levels of the school system. In such a system, teacher autonomy and teacher agency are at the core of school development. Moreover, teachers’ ability to understand the aims of the reform and to integrate, modify, and adopt them as part of their pedagogical practices is essential. This requires making sense of their aims. In Finland, shared sense-making has been the main strategy in the latest participatory reforms, with the aim of promoting transformative learning in professional communities in order to reach reform goals.

Article

Serge Ebersold, Edda Óskarsdóttir, and Amanda Watkins

Financing plays a critical role in achieving more inclusive education systems, and most European countries are considering how the way they fund education impacts the policy goal of more inclusive practice in schools. The way financing is determined in laws and regulations has a direct impact on decision-making and implementation in relation to identifying learners’ educational needs, diagnostic and assessment procedures that might be used. Crucially it impacts on the placement of learners in different types of provision, including separate special classes or special schools. Financing inclusive education systems differs from financing special needs education in several important ways. In addition to providing shared educational opportunities for learners with recognised additional needs with their peers in mainstream settings, financing inclusive education systems aims to enable all learners to gain access to the educational support they are legally entitled to. Financing inclusive education systems is also far more complex than financing general education as it relates to a multilevel and multi-stakeholder framework of policy and provision that includes non-educational aspects of educational provision that are needed to ensure all learners access to high-quality inclusive education. These non-educational aspects may cover factors such as accessibility of the physical environment, specialist support, different resources for reducing the functional consequences of different disabilities, as well as financial support for families in meeting the direct and indirect costs of education. Effective mechanisms for financing inclusive education systems entail the provision of additional funding and resources that encourage mainstream schools to develop inclusive education policies, as well as innovative and flexible learning environments that meet a wider range of learners’ academic and social needs and requirements. A higher amount of funding does not in itself guarantee better learning conditions; the successful implementation of inclusive education policies depends on how funds are allocated and to whom the funds are addressed, rather than solely on how much money is available. Effective inclusive education systems build upon funding mechanisms and strategies that consider and manage the deployment and manipulation of resources at the school level, governance mechanisms, capacity building, and school development approaches. All these strategies must be targeted at achieving the policy goal of more inclusive practice in all schools.

Article

Educational psychology in Africa has a rich and colorful history. In sub-Saharan Africa educational psychology, as both a profession and a scientific field, is particularly vibrant. The emergence of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa shows how the science and the profession has pirouetted in ways that could support mental health and learning in African contexts in innovative ways. While emanating within Western cultures, educational psychology has been adapted and, perhaps, been deeply enriched in the African context. After the initial establishment of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa, three broad eras of theoretical development are evident: (a) the era of ecosystems and community, (b) the era of inclusion, and (c) the era of strength-based and positive approaches. During the era of ecosystems and community, emergent theories challenged the dominance of the individualist paradigms in educational psychology and provided broadened conceptualizations of the factors that impact mental health and effective learning. The role of communities was also given prominence. During the era of inclusion, the medical model was challenged as the primary foundation for legitimizing educational psychological assessments and interventions. Educational psychologists moved toward rights-based approaches that championed the rights of vulnerable populations and the creation of inclusive learning environments. The inclusion of children with disabilities influenced policy development in multiple sub-Saharan countries and expanded the dialogues on how best to support learning for all children. During the era of strength-based and positive approaches, theoretical and pragmatic approaches that forefront strengths, capacities, and possibilities started to develop. This era signified yet another departure from previous hegemonic paradigms in that educational psychology moved beyond the individual level, toward more systemic approaches, but then also used approaches that focused more on strengths and the mobilization of resources within these systems to address challenges and to optimize educational psychological support. These eras in the development of educational psychology in sub-Saharan Africa created optimal opportunities to respond to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In terms of SDGs, educational psychology responds primarily to Global Goal 3 (health and well-being) and Global Goal 4 (quality education). At the same time it supports the Global Goals of no poverty (1), gender equality (5), decent work and economic growth (8), reduced inequalities (10), sustainable cities and communities (11), and building partnerships for the goals (17).