Learning How to Learn: The future of education in a changing society

From principal to politician: Marianne Sivertsen Næss share her views on how societal trends like COVID-19, technology and climate change shape the future of education. Banner: Shutterstock/Gorodenkoff
Learning How to Learn: The future of education in a changing society
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This article, first published in May 2022, is part of a series in which OECD experts and thought leaders  from around the world and all parts of society  discuss and develop solutions now and for the future. Aiming to foster the fruitful exchange of expertise and perspectives across fields to help us rise to this critical challenge, opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the OECD. 




Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. It requires massive transformation of our societies and the way we live our lives. There are also other global trends, like the technological change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which will form our society.

Before I became a leader of the Standing Committee on Energy and the Environment at the Norwegian Parliament, I worked as a principal at a high school in a small Norwegian town. It is clear to me that education is key to address climate change. Knowledge is the basis for action, and knowledge empowers children and young people.

That being said, younger generations need to know more than facts. They need to internalise knowledge that puts them in a position to handle climate change and other challenges. They must be prepared for the future.

Read more on the Forum Network: Can teaching young children about climate change and sustainability actually motivate climate action? by Shweta Bahri & Keya Lamba, Founders of Earth Warrios

Can teaching young children about climate change and sustainability actually motivate climate action?

In that regard, let me share some of the most important changes in the latest curriculum renewal in Norway. Norway has a centralised curriculum for grades 1 to 13, (ages 6- to 18-years-old). The development of the curriculum came about after a very broad and inclusive process, approved by the parliament. The main goal of the renewal was to create better conditions for learning, as well as provide better learning processes and lasting understanding for our students.

The policy changed from being results-driven to one more focused on good learning processes and the importance of in-depth learning. In-depth learning in school helps students master key elements in subjects better, and makes it easier to transfer learning from one subject to another. In essence: to learn how to learn.

Generic competences like critical thinking and problem solving, as well as more practical learning, were also emphasised. There are three interdisciplinary topics prioritised, one of them being sustainable development.

Digital skills are also more clearly defined in the new curricula. This involves important aspects of digital citizenship such as good digital judgment and information and data security.

As we know, education, research and technology are key tools in driving the transition to a greener society. We need targeted and long-term efforts in order to reach the climate and environmental targets.

Norway has a long-term plan for research and higher education. It sets out the main priorities for a 10-year period. The plan clearly prioritises investment in education, research and innovation that contribute to the development of a greener society.

However, as we know, forming the government budget is a yearly exercise. Moreover, new challenges emerge: the pandemic, energy prices and war in Europe.

In handling these crises, we as politicians must also not lose sight of the important long-term tasks that lay in front of us. As best as we can, we must prepare our children and young people for the future. We must cultivate skills that can empower them to handle a changing society.





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Go to the profile of Mark Langdon
3 months ago

Hi thanks for this interesting article. I am interested to know to what extent learning out with schools for example youth work, adult learning etc is supported in Norway. Also to whether you people are encouraged to engage with the concepts of degrowth and post capitalism?

many thanks

Dear Mark! Thank you for an interesting question to my article, “The future of education in a changing society”. 

The Norwegian Government are currently investing substantial measures in vocational training and adult learning programmes. As a part of this, there will be allotted resources to i.e. programmes for achieving certificates of apprenticeship through work experience and adult learning courses. 

The Norwegian Government implemented a new model for certificates of apprenticeship in 2018, with the full support of the Norwegian parliament. With this programme one can achieve a certificate of apprenticeship after one year of full time practical work experience. The candidate receives training and counselling throughout the practice period. 

Lifelong learning is an important principle of Norwegian education policy. The right to free education for adults up to and including upper secondary is guaranteed by law. Adults who need primary and lower secondary education have a statutory right to such education. Adults also have a statutory right to upper secondary education. If you are interested to learn more about adult learning in Norway, you can find an article on the Government’s webpage here: https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/education/voksnes_laering_og_kompetanse/artikler/adult-education/id213311/