Transnational policies: New tools for learning in Denmark

Transnational policies: New tools for learning in
Denmark and India.
The current changes within education systems worldwide
seem to be so many and so hasty that it is giving sense to
define the restructuring process as the development of a
new paradigm. We may say that the changes in this century
are eroding the continuity which used to be fundamental for
education systems.
Nation states as we knew them in the 20th century regarded
education systems as costs. Systems for defence, for health,
for justice, for social security etc. were instruments for the
sustainability of the nation and systems for education had
proven their effectiveness in relation to nation building.
Governments gave for that reason national values a high
priority in the curricula for primary schooling: We were in
my school days praising our national culture by singing
songs about Danish history and nature. But my
grandchildren are not singing that kind of songs.
The nation states were willing to pay the costs because a
civilized population provided with a relevant mix of
knowledge, skills and attitudes make all functions better
and governance easier. Education policy was often regarded
as a question of identifying the right curricula and the
publication of textbooks noted as the end result of the
process. The approach in relation to education policy was
top-down and may explain why the inputs were having the
highest priority. Actually, our understanding of education
as a policy concept is linked to that approach.
Policy makers in Denmark and India tend to forget that our
systems for education in their origin were based on values
imported from other countries. We may trace values
embedded in our curricula back to policy makers in other
countries. The humanistic intention of 1835 formulated by
Lord Maccaulay in the British Parliament was that the
development of Indian education should be based on
European values and the later action plans developed by the
rulers were instruments for providing selected Indian
children with certain values which were important for the
East India Company. The British spoiled Indian values
when they imposed their system according to Gandhi.
Few Danes of today are familiar with the fact that Martin
Luther was involved in the design of a schooling system for
selected children. He was the author of Little Catechism the most important Danish textbook in the 16th century and also supervising King Christian III who was Lutheran.
Actually, Dr. Johann Bugenhagen, a representative of
Martin Luther was after a civil war placed in the Danish
Kingdom for two years where his task was to develop
regulations for churches and schools. The royal ordinance
written in Latin was sent to Luther and accepted by him
before it was translated into Danish and printed. The
printing technology was a powerful instrument for the
development of schooling systems and also used in
Northern Germany where Dr. Bugenhagen drafted
regulations for eight duchies and cities.
Education systems expanded
The systems grew in size and developed new layers in
Europe and India. The systems for secondary education
expanded from the beginning of the 20th century and
systems for the education of adults inspired by UNESCO
were a reality in the end of the century. The story about
higher education is following the same pattern as in the 16th
century: The changes were coming from abroad. Dr.
Bugenhagen had reorganized Copenhagen University as
well and the development of a higher education system in
Denmark was based on Lutheran values.
Actually, the history of higher education in India has a
connection to Denmark. British missionaries at a Danish
trading post in Serampore, West Bengal were so
entrepreneurial in their handling of the printing press that
they accumulated funds. The missionaries wanted to have a
university and managed in 1827 to make King Frederik VI
sign a charter which gave the university senate the right to
grant degrees. The trading post was afterwards bought by
the British but Serampore College is still holding the
Danish charter for degrees in theology. British universities
were by 1857 established in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras
but the curricula for higher education were not based on
Indian values.
The rulers in Denmark and in India wanted to consolidate
their power. King Christian III had support from Martin
Luther and was able to construct a coalition between state
and church and the model was kept in 1849 when the first
constitution was written. The royal regulations of 1814
which led to the schooling of all Danish children were part
of agricultural reforms and the schooling of selected Indian
children became an instrument for the recruitment of staff
to the colonial civil service. The approach was top-down in
both cases.
Stakeholders want a bottom-up approach
Education systems were for centuries based on continuity
and that is why the current hasty changes are surprising in a
historical perspective. Denmark belongs to the European
Union (EU) and EU member states are developing
themselves into knowledge economies in accordance with
the Lisbon Strategy from 2000. One of the consequences is
that the national systems for education and training are
being restructured through The Open Method of
Coordination imposed by the EU. The global economic
competition between nation states imply that the national
systems are becoming instruments for long term
investments in the competences of the workforce. Actually,
the Danish Parliament did in 2006 change the formulation
of the aims for primary education in order to become more
competitive in the future and India is implementing a
programme for skills development where the existing work
force is the target group. The need for economic growth is
the argument.
The changes within European higher education may serve
as an example. France, Germany, Italy and UK started by
1999 a reform of higher education systems which was
named the Bologna Process and based on a voluntary
coordination of national policies. Research-based higher
education is valued as a tool for innovation and the political
process has been successful and is now joined by 47
countries. The Ministers of higher education are meeting
each other every second year and decide a number of policy
changes which afterwards are implemented by the member
states. The communication after the Bologna meeting in
Berlin 2003 declared:
…Ministers encourage the member states to elaborate a
framework of comparable and compatible qualifications for
higher education systems, which should seek to describe
qualifications in terms of work load, level, learning
outcomes, competences and profile.
Transnational policy tools were announced and afterwards
implemented national governments. It is worth noting that
the communication of 2003 did not mention curricula. The
EU is supporting and funding the Bologna Process and the
Council of EU ministers and the European Parliament
passed in 2008 a recommendation of a European
Qualification Framework (EQF) with eight levels where the
upper three levels are coordinated with the Bologna Process
covering the PhD level, the master level, and the bachelor
Mr. Kapil Sibal, the Indian Minister for Human Resource
announced on February 7th, 2012 that India will develop a
national vocational qualification framework with seven
levels. Denmark has implemented a National Qualification
Framework (NQF) which is in conformity with the EQF.
The 27 EU member states are following the EQF guidelines
and are restructuring their national systems. Other NQF
models have been implemented by Australia, New Zealand
and countries in Africa and Asia. Transnational policy tools
for restructuring education and training are known all over
the world because human capital is needed by national
economies wanting to become more competitive.
Governments move gradually away from the top-down
approach and are inviting stakeholders to influence national
policy making. What kind of learning outcomes is wanted
by employers and others responsible for the development of
the current and the future work force?
Learning outcomes are replacing curricula
Curricula and textbooks have for centuries been instruments
for national governance of systems for education and
training but are getting less influence on the current long
term planning. The existing curricula are rooted in national
values but the current implementation of transnational
policies are backed up by banks as Asian Development
Bank, European Investment Bank and World Bank who ask
for restructuring of education systems when they negotiate
with weak national economies.
It had effect when the EU formulated guidelines for a
European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System
(ECTS). This policy tool is included in the Bologna Process
and was in 2005 recommended by the Ministers when they
met in Leuven. Each module earned during a course must
according to the ECTS regulations be based on a
measurement of the workload of learners. The success story
of ECTS can be interpreted as a step towards a bottom-up
approach because it is based on an end user perspective.
NQFs are among the most effective transnational policy
tools because they impose the paradigm of learning. The
following simple model may demonstrate how EU member
states and countries all over the world are pushing
education and national curricula back in favour of learning
processes and learning outcomes:
teaching process
learning process
learning outcomes
The old model is based on the governance of rulers like
King Christian III and Lord Macaulay: 1) National
curricula is the point of departure for understanding the
model, 2) the next step is a process based on efforts done by
teachers running a module and 3) the final step is exams
based on assessments done by teachers. The curricula are
instruments for a top-down approach, the model is teachercentered, and linked to a certain well-described academic
The new model is based on transnational policy tools: The
logic of the model is 1) Learning outcomes is the point of
departure with descriptors telling what learners are
expected to know (the old concept knowledge), to
understand (the old concept skills) and to do (the new
concept competence), 2) the next step is the work of
learners, and 3) the final step the identification of a problem
which motivates learners. The inclusion of learning
outcomes, learning processes and problems motivating
learners are placing the new model in the bottom-up
approach. The solving of problems is usually not linked to a
certain well-described academic discipline because learners
work in an inter-disciplinary way.
We may say that the old model is linked to the supply of
specific national curricula while the new model is linked to
the demand of specific learning outcomes. The perspective
is as in the ECTS case based on the needs of the end users.
The promotion of key competences
The concept competence describing what learners can do is
among the transnational policy tools within the EQF and
was in 2003 mentioned in the communication after the
Bologna meeting in Berlin. The Council of EU Ministers as
well as the European Parliament recommended in 2006 that
EU member states include eight key competences in their
development of national strategies:
1) Communication in the mother tongue
2) Communication in the foreign languages
3) Mathematical competence and basic competence in
science and technology
4) Digital competence
5) Learning to learn
6) Interpersonal, intercultural and social competences and
civic competences
7) Entrepreneurship
8) Cultural expression
A relevant question is: Did the EU recommend a
transnational curriculum in 2006? The EU member states
are supposed to include the eight key competences in
efforts done by their national systems but the competences
as such are not in favour of national values. The top-down
approach usually followed by nation states is not
recommended by the EU.
Some countries are resisting the recommendation from EU.
A recent study of the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland,
Iceland, Norway and Sweden) has shown that inclusion of
the eight key competences is having a low priority. The
general argument is that all eight key competences already
are included in the planning due to the current national
How will transnational policies affect values?
It is usually easy to identify values in curricula developed
by nation states. However, the question is: Are these values
universal or national? It is obvious that India as a secular
state is mainly working for universal values and Denmark
will probably in the 21st century cut the link between state
and church. Transnational policies are products of the
economic competition between nation states: Is this
competition an argument for including certain values?
The traditional way to develop national curricula is to
describe knowledge, skills and attitudes but the NQFs in
EU member states are based on the paradigm of learning
and ask for knowledge, skills and competences. We may
interpret the EU description of key competences as a call
for certain values but at least some EU member states are
not following the call.
Maybe the answer is that value-based education will be
supported if the values will benefit national efforts in the
global competition or if nation states as in the case of India
engage themselves in universal values. The top-down
approach once promoted by King Christian III and Lord
Macaulay were new then but systems for learning existed
before systems for education. The bottom-up approach
implemented in the 21st century is not new.
Cort, P. (2010), Stating the Obvious; the European
Qualifications Framework is not a neutral evidence-based
policy tool. In: European Educational Research Journal.
Volume 9. Number 3 (pp. 304-316).
Green, A. (1997), Education and State Formation in Europe
and Asia. In: Citizenship Education and the Modern State.
London: Falmer Press.
Halasc, G. & A. Michel (2011), Key Competences in
Europe: Interpretation, policy formulation and
implementation. In: European Journal of Education.
Volume 46, Number 3 (pp.289-306).
Kumar, K. (1988), Origins of India`s “textbook culture”. In:
Comparative Education Review. Volume 37, Number 4 (pp.
Moutsios, S. (2009), International organizations and
transnational education policy. In: Compare. Volume 39.
Issue 4 (pp. 469-481).
Pepin, L. (2007), The History of EU Cooperation in the
Field of Education and Training: how lifelong learning
became a strategic objective. In: European Journal of
Education. Volume 42. Number 1 (pp.121-132).
Zhao, Y. (2011), (Ed.) Handbook of Asian Education. A
Cultural Perspective. London: Routledge .
Dr. Søren Ehlers
National Centre for Competence Development, Aarhus
University, 164 Tuborgvej, 2400 Copenhagen NV,
E-mail: [email protected]
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