Who actually wants Curriculum 21, and where does it come from?

Who actually wants Curriculum 21, and where does it come from?

wl. They repeat it over and over again: Curriculum 21 was but an implementation of the Education Article in the Federal Constitution which the people had approved of with a large majority. There, however, is merely written that the objectives of the educational levels should be harmonised.
The education article was worked out by the Commission for Science, Education and Culture of the National Council which had intended to establish the “definition of benchmark figures or meeting points” in its report on occasion of the Parliamentarian Initiative of 2005. In the commentaries of the Federal Council for the vote the “cantonal educational authority” is explicitly mentioned, as well as “uniform benchmark figures” supposed to form the framework for harmonisation. Such “benchmark figures”, however, would not take up more space than a few of Din A4 pages. It is evident that in 2006 the people had voted for such a concise harmonisation. And the promise of harmonisation is not even fulfilled in Curriculum 21 because there is no solution mentioned for the language problem in different cantons and the competences have to be processed in a highly individualised way within three- and four-year cycles.
Rudolf Walser for example (avenir suisse) criticized clearly that the will of the people has been ignored: “Cantonal authority was given priority to and they only spoke about uniform benchmark figures. […] There were not any indications that the Curriculum 21 should list up highly controversial personal, social and methodological competences instead of containing educational goals in the sense of knowledge and abilities.”  
Speaking on the occasion of a conference at the PH Zurich (Eduction department of the University) on 7 October 2011 Prof Rudolf Künzli, who does curriculum research in Zurich, made it clear that it was not by chance that D-DEC (Cantonal Directors of Education of the German speaking Cantons) ) wanted to have thousands of competences implemented in the Curriculumm instead of some “Treffpunkte” (benchmark figures). The decision “was made in competition with the explicit alternative, the ‘Treffpunkte’”. Those had already been partly elaborated by EDK and “concentrated on specific professional topics and educational contents.” It is evident that the Commission of the National Council meant those when speaking explicitly of “Treffpunkte” (benchmark figures).
As for Curriculum 21 it is certainly not about an implementation of the constitutional article, but it is about something else, as Prof Künzli formulates in the same text: “The alternative that had been chosen deliberately, makes clear that it dealt with large changes of viewpoint and changes of understanding of school and teaching the extent of which you should not underestimate.” The superintendent of schools in Zurich, Regine Aeppli, found even clearer words to describe the dimensions of the reform: “This is a project of the century that will change our school fundamentally.”
Where are the models, and what are the goals of the whole thing? In their White Paper HarmoS published in 2004, the DEC gives the hint that the restructuring of the educational system takes for a model the Anglosaxon and Scandinavian countries as well as Germany, as far as competences are concerned, particularly because monitoring of education is made possible that way. “This is what the work focuses on; and it has the utmost strategic priority” for the DEC.
The DEC then pointed to the theory of educational standards established by the American educationalist Diane Ravitch in whose sense it dealt with “‘standards of performance and result outcome’ which were oriented towards the output.” Unfortunately the DEC is not as honest as to inform the public that the same Diane Ravitch has been for long one of the most famous critics of this fatal education reform in the USA because as a result the educational system has become corrupt and asocial, and because intellectual performance have detoriated.
The question arises here, why this nonsense about competences, why educational monitoring and why the standardisation mania can bear such fruit, all the same. A telling answer to the question is a study done by the Bremen political scientist Tonia Bieber. She did research on the question why it was precisely in Switzerland that international organisations were so successful in turning the educational system inside out according to their own ideas. The influence that had been decisive for the introduction of the recent reforms of the Swiss educational system was the influence of Pisa. Through “soft governance” OECD had succeeded in getting the “veto-players” – particularly the SVP and the cantons – involved in the reforms efforts: Among the various instruments of these “mechanisms of governance” the setting of educational standards in the aftermath of the Pisa survey had had a special influence. Tonia Bieber summarizes that OECD has been responsible for all Swiss educational reforms since 1990, and that this represents an “extreme change of policy”. To sum up she judges that the “soft mechanisms of governance” used by the international organisations had even outstripped the conservative “veto players” – among other things because the latter did not want to be blamed for preventing reforms.
In the text mentioned above, Prof Künzli points as well to a fundamentally changed idea of stateliness. “From the point of view of curriculum theory and school theory Curriculum 21 is part of a changed logic of how schools are directed that are called governance today.” What is understood by governance are forms of influence and control that are not democratically legitimised, that is why international organisations with a foreign agenda have actually brought about Curriculum 21.
In parallel to politically pushing this agenda, the educational bureaucracies have been working at full blast on “implementing” the reforms inside the schools. For years the training and advanced training of teachers are committed to this school reform, the obligatory manuals are partly “in line with the curriculum”, principals of schools as well as members of school authorities have been aligned to this “masterpiece of the century”. Martin Wendelspiess, head of the Zurich secondary school authority, describes the means and methods of “soft governance” employed to implement the reforms in this context: Today we are equipped with a “far better quality management”, there are school directors and professional supervision of schools. And what about unruly teachers, who don’t agree?, asks the “Landbote” journalist the school bureaucrat on 10 February 2015. “At first the responsible persons try to enter in a dialogue; common goals and training courses are agreed upon or are decreed. If a teacher refused in principle, that would mean a violation of his professional duty.” Is it a mystery that the teacher associations are so silent?
As a summary we have to state: 1) Curriculum 21 is not a constitutional obligation. 2) The people did not want Curriculum 21 in this form. 3) The educational bureaucracy lets itself “softly” govern by international organisations. 4) Their pressure was transferred onto the teachers and others in the education system. 5) The whole procedure is in contrast to democracy, pluralism and the state of law.     •

Literature:
Diane Ravitch: The Death and Life of the great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, 2010.
Tonia Bieber: Soft Governance in Education. The Pisa Study and the Bologna Process in Switzerland, http://www.sfb597.uni-bremen.de/homepages/bieber/arbeitspapierBeschreibung.php?ID=159  

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