This article is part of a series developed by Cedefop community of apprenticeship experts. It was drafted by Margareth Haukås, Community expert for Norway, and revised by Cedefop staff. 

In Norway, sustainable development is one of the three priority interdisciplinary topics that are introduced in curricula at all educational levels, including VET and apprenticeship. The other two cross-curriculum competences are health and life- coping, democracy and citizenship. Their introduction is based on the 2016 government white paper regarding school subject renewal, following a 2015 report on ‘the school of future’ which proposed a new strategy for the renewal of subjects and competences in education and training so that learner develop knowledge and competences to become active participants in an increasingly knowledge-intensive society.  

Following public consultation (2017), the white paper led to the renewal of all vocational subjects. New curricula in upper secondary education were introduced in the 2021/21 school year. In Norway, typically, apprenticeships follow a 2+2-year model (two years spent in school-based training and two years in workplace training). For apprenticeships, the renewed curricula are offered at EQF level 4. Apprenticeship is part of the 10 vocational programmes* leading to approximately 180 different craft or journeyman’s certificates. The renewal covers apprenticeship programmes both for initial vocational education and training and for adults without upper secondary education.

Sustainable development (as the other two interdisciplinary topics) is integrated in all subjects if relevant, in all vocational programmes. The central role given to this green shift allows students to develop relevant skills within and across subjects. It combines technical knowledge (e.g., learn how to assess materials and chemicals) with attitudes (how to make ethical and environmentally good choices) and practices (use and reuse resources in production).  

The new curricula focus on being more future-oriented and relevant for students, apprentices and the requirements of working life. They should facilitate in-depth (technical) learning and better understanding of new developments and new technologies and should include opportunities for early specialisation.  

The renewal of vocational subjects is initiated and financed at national level. The Ministry of Education and Research has the overall responsibility (its Directorate for Education and Training led the renewal for all education up to EQF level 4). The new curricula were developed in close cooperation of the government with the social partners and companies. For example, renewal guidelines were developed in dialogue with sector actors, and curriculum development teams consisted of teachers and people with professional experience.  

This participatory approach builds on a long tradition of tripartite cooperation in VET, set for example by the 1975 Human Resources Development Convention and the Education Act. Social partners are represented (and often have majority) in all collective VET bodies: the high-level National Council for Vocational Education and Training (SRY), the ten Vocational Training Councils (Faglige råd) that give advice in specific groups of trades, the County Vocational Training Boards (Yrkesopplæringsnemnda) in each county and the trade-specific Examination Boards (Prøvenemnder) situated in each county.

The renewal poses a challenge in relation to professional development of teachers and availability of teaching support (delayed distributions of books adapted to the new curricula, lack of books in some programmes, delayed translation into the two national languages and three minority languages). National and local authorities should give schools the time to develop professional communities around the renewal (teacher CPD in Norway is not defined by law or regulations, but falls under the remit of ‘school owners’, i.e., county municipalities in the case of VET/apprenticeships, to select how to train teachers in relation to local needs).  

As a side benefit in relation to greening, the renewal process foresees that on top of practical exams, the traditional handwritten exams as of 2023 will be replaced by digital ones, reducing the use of paper (and making the process more efficient and easier to handle).

* Healthcare, Childhood and Youth Development; Technical and Industrial Production; Building and Construction; Electricity and Electronics; Services and Transport; Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry Arts; Crafts and Product development; Restaurant and Food Processing; Hairdresser, flowers and interior design; Information technology and media