Curriculum development: Content, context and language learning in Estonia

Urve Laanemets, Katrin Kalamees-Ruubel

Abstract


Globalization processes and new political and social environments (membership of the EU, ICT use) have created new contexts for learning as well as problems; they have greatly changed the meaning of literacy and shifted the functional load of languages for regional and international communication which is directly reflected in the content of language syllabi in National Curricula for general comprehensive schools (NC).
The aim of the study is to specify the opportunities of using the educational heritage and present research for more adequate design of language syllabi for general comprehensive schools. The study is based on works by Allardt (1979), Popkewitz (1987), Goodson (1991), Pinar (2013) et al as well as earlier research on development of foreign language syllabi in Estonia (Poldvere 2003 and Tomingas 2009).
As curriculum documents are constantly defined, redefined and negotiated at different levels, opinions of teachers as spokesmen of subject communities and school practice is of particular significance.
The methods used are documentary analysis (NC, syllabi, educational acts n=98), teachers’ questionnaires (n=50) and semi-structured interviews (n=15).
Preliminary results showed what factors could be considered for selection of educational content for learning languages and for new supportive learning environments.
Estonia is an interesting example of educational policy making by paying attention to integration of immigrants and learning Estonian as state language. There are less desired developments regarding learning Estonian as mother tongue which is crucial for sustainability of small languages enriching the world cultural heritage and preserving ethnic identities. Informed decision making for rational and suitable language policies for a particular society requires regular research on demand for languages competencies in the region. We also need analyses of earlier curriculum documents and comparative educational research on using specific principles for selection of the content and organizing integrated learning within the language cycle of subjects in the NC.


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