20 Jun 2005

Norwegian school reform: Food in science and science in food

Norwegian education is at the present going through a politically driven reform - new curriculum for all pupils/students, including primary (6-11 yrs), secondary (12-16) and high school (16-18). The current curriculum called L97 (6-16 yrs) is translated into English, but the new ones are not yet translated (not yet finished, but drafts are published). In Norwegian primary/secondary school natural sciences seem to be less focused than in many other countries, and the "food subject" (home economics) has been more or less devoid of scientific aspects - few teachers teach both science and home economics. Is this, maybe, a result of a gender barrier? As home economics traditionally has focused on the "home" part, it has been a women's matter, being placed among the "soft" subjects ("women cook the daily meals at home, restaurant chefs are generally men" as a simplistic angle of incidence).

The new curriculum draft for home economics is interesting in that it focuses more on the food itself than before (which also included house cleaning etc.), and is split into three main subjects:
- Food and lifestyle
- Food and culture
- Food and consumer issues

In spite of the mentioned traditional barriers, there are loads of common subject matters that may very well be taught from an interdisciplinary point of view. Also, many science subjects may be taught with food as a starting point.

I've made a very informal analysis of crossing elements in the curriculum drafts for the two subjects and find that:
- Food in science - 34 out of 129 subjects may be treated with food as a starting point
-Science in home economics - 18 out of 39 subjects may be treated with science as a starting point

Until now home economics has been exempt from examination, but from 2006 this will also be subject to grading. Maybe will this make schools and leaders more committed to treat home economics as a subject on equal terms to other subjects? Will this bing about a change in profile of the subject? Will we see a more theoretical and less practical hands-on home economics? Will the "gender distortion" continue? Will there be a twist towards a more masculine subject (and if so, do we want this to happen)?


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