The terms information and communication technologies (ICTs) and digital technologies are mainly used in government documents, including the 2017-21 Action Plan for Digitalization in Primary and Secondary Education and Training and 2019-21 Action Plan for Digitalisation in Higher Education and Research, with no specific definitions.
The 2021 Strategy for Flexible and Decentralised Education at Vocational Colleges, University Colleges and Universities defines flexible education programmes as “programmes with multiple options for learning activities in respect of time, place, scope and progression. Programmes may be web-based and/or location-based”.
There is no reference to the term EdTech in official government documents.
Constitution and laws: According to the 1998 Education Act (as amended in 2020), the county authority is responsible for providing students with the necessary digital teaching materials and digital equipment (Section 3.1), which in the 2003 Independent Schools Act (as amended in 2020), is the responsibility of the school itself (Section 6.2). The 1998 Education Act additionally provides for distance education for adults that must be adapted to individual needs (Section 4A.3).
The 2003 Electronic Communications Act includes provisions for universal service obligation (Section 5.1), which include access to public telephone services and digital electronic communications networks throughout the country.
The Constitution of the Kingdom of Norway makes no reference to technology.
Policies, plans and strategies: The digitalization of the education system in Norway is supported by several policy and strategy documents. The 2017-21 Action Plan for Digitalization in Primary and Secondary Education and Training provides the framework for the integration of technology in the primary and secondary education system, with a focus on the development of digital skills for students and teachers.
There are several digitalization strategies that are specific to the higher education sector, including the 2021-25 Digitalisation Strategy for the Higher Education Sector (which is the successor of the previous 2017-21 Digitalisation Strategy for the Higher Education Sector) and the 2019-21 Action Plan for Digitalisation in Higher Education and Research. The 2023-32 Long-Term Plan for Research and Higher Education also includes many technology-related objectives.
The 2015-16 Digital Agenda for Norway aims to strengthen digital competence and inclusion, with the government considering the expansion of the scope of regulation application on universal design of ICT in the school and education sector.
The 2020 National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence includes several education objectives in skills building, while the 2017-21 Norwegian Strategy for Skills Policy highlights technological skills as “important in the future”.
The 2022 National Strategy to Improve Digital Participation and Competence in the Population: Digital Throughout Life, which aims prevent digital exclusion in Norway, strongly supports the development of digital competence, with digital skills viewed as a “prerequisite for participation in the labour market, education, society and various social contexts”. The 2019-20 White Paper on an Innovative Public Sector: Culture, Leadership and Competence similarly prioritises digital learning and competence building.
Digital competency frameworks: The 2017 Professional Digital Competence Framework for Teachers is a guidance document that policy developers, heads of department, teacher educators, teachers, student teachers and others use as a reference in their work on improving the quality of teacher education and systematic continuing professional development of teachers. It has two main aims: one centres on professional development, the other around the actual practice of the profession. The country’s Framework for Basic Skills also includes digital competency for students.
Changes occurred as a result of COVID-19: The 2019-20 White paper on Skills Reform – Lifelong Learning emphasizes the increasing need for maintenance and updating of skills for the labour market, which the education system must adapt to. While initially published before the COVID-19 pandemic, the government built further on the white paper post-pandemic, with an emphasis on the need for a flexible education system than can quickly respond to new skills needs. Digitalisation is viewed a key tool to raise the quality and increase the availability of education, with the government aiming to revise the country’s digitalisation strategy and develop a digital skills platform that connects education institutions with those who need more education and training. The government additionally published the 2021 Strategy for Flexible and Decentralised Education at Vocational Colleges, University Colleges and Universities to ensure universities, university colleges and vocational colleges can develop and offer flexible programmes through digital solutions.
Furthermore, the Ministry for Education and Research has requested for the Nordic Institute for Studies in innovation, research and education to conduct a research project on the consequences of the changing education sector in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Findings and conclusions aim to be used in future policy for the sector and in the government's general work to learn from and to follow up the consequences of the corona pandemic.
2.2.1. Technology infrastructure and digital capacity of schools
Electricity: The 1990 Energy Act makes no reference to schools. In 2021, the government proposed offering an application-based additional loan of NOK 3000 to students at universities, university colleges and vocational schools and adult students studying at upper secondary level in order to cover their electricity costs.
Computers and devices: The 2017-21 Action Plan for Digitalization in Primary and Secondary Education and Training aims for students and staff in basic education to have access to sufficient, secure and fit-for-purpose infrastructure, such as ICT devices, which support their educational and administrative needs. In schools, the number of students per digital device (tablet/PC) varies between levels and subjects.
Norway has been increasingly adopting Bring Your Own Devices/Technology ( BYOD/T) approaches which permit students to use their own mobile devices at school. Close to 100% of upper secondary school students had access to a computer provided by their school in 2019, with one-to-one computer programmes also increasingly common among younger students, and implemented on a school-by-school basis.
Internet connectivity: The 2003 Electronic Communications Act includes digital electronic communications networks (internet access) as part of its universal service obligations (Section 5.1), while the 2017-21 Action Plan for Digitalization in Primary and Secondary Education and Training supports for students and staff to have access to the internet, digital equipment and content.
2.2.2. Technology and learning environments
The provision of flexible and distance learning is included in different government documents (including those published before the pandemic). The 1998 Education Act (as amended in 2020) initially refers to distance education, while the 2017-21 Norwegian Strategy for Skills Policy emphasizes how technological developments create opportunities for flexible and online education and training courses, which aim to be better utilized. Since 2018, universities, university colleges and vocational schools have additionally had the opportunity to apply for grants to develop and create flexible educational provisions, which are decentralised or online, as opposed to teaching at an institution. This was further supported by the 2021 Strategy for Flexible and Decentralised Education at Vocational Colleges, University Colleges and Universities which aims to increase access to flexible and decentralised high-quality education programmes that are adapted to the various needs of individuals and the work force. In the state budget for 2023, the government aims to increase the allocation for flexible and decentralised education and study centres by NOK 12.6 million, to a total of NOK 199.6 million. The 2020 National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence similarly considers the establishment of a digital platform for continuing and further education programmes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, learning continuity was ensured through online platforms already established in schools, supported by the country’s strong digital infrastructure. The competence package Digital teaching - at school and at home provided support for school owners. Educational institutions were responsible for considering how to handle the infection control rules, with regard to the content of the education. To support online learning, the Directorate for Education and Training published among other a list of information and resources, and all schools received free access to tools for online teaching. Furthermore, the government launched a grant scheme for local initiatives that aim to support distance education and to develop flexible vocational and adult education. The so-called ‘competency-package’ embraces a total of 190 million NOK for tripartite industry programs: online training, increasing study places at universities’ and colleges and for the training of the unskilled.
In Norway, digital literacy is implemented in the national curriculum as a basic skill. The country’s Framework for Basic Skills, 2017-21 Norwegian Strategy for Skills Policy, and 2019 Core Curriculum – Values and Principles for Primary and Secondary Education similarly define five basic skills: reading, writing, numeracy, oral skills and digital skills. These skills form part of the competence in the subjects and are considered necessary tools for developing the identity and social relations of each student, and for the ability to participate in education, work and societal life. Reforms have provided all school levels with new curricula with clearly stated competence objectives (with an emphasis on digital competency standards). Media literacy and online safety are included as part of the “digital skills” in the Norwegian Core Curriculum.
The 2022 National Strategy to Improve Digital Participation and Competence in the Population: Digital Throughout Life consider digital competence as a prerequisite for participation in the labour market, education, society and various social contexts. The strategy specifically highlights how primary and secondary school students are taught basic digital skills, and that the national curriculum contains several learning objectives to cover this area.
One of the key objectives of the 2017-21 Action Plan for Digitalization in Primary and Secondary Education and Training is for students to have digital skills that enable them to succeed in further education, work and community life. Digital skills are similarly considered a “basic skill” on the same level as reading, writing, numeracy and oral skills, and cannot be separated from 21st century competencies, such as collaboration skills, critical thinking and ethical assessment skills, citizenship, and problem solving. Additional strategy objectives include the further development of digital skills as a basic skill in the curricula, introduction of elective subjects in programming in upper secondary education, school access to guidance materials on the development of student digital skills, and the establishment of digital competency targets in curricula.
The 2020 National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence similary supports for digital skills, digital literacy and basic understanding of technology to be given prominence at primary and lower secondary level, while the 2015-16 Digital Agenda for Norway highlights digital skills and use of digital tools in school education. The 2019-20 White paper on Skills Reform – Lifelong Learning additionally supports the development of digital skills in education institutions.
The 2006-09 Joint Promotion of Mathematics, Science and Technology Strategy was published by the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research, with specific gender objectives. The national STEM strategy “Close to STEM” of the Norwegian government ended in 2020. Currently the government is lacking a plan and political foundation for a follow-up STEM strategy.
The 2017 Professional Digital Competence Framework for Teachers considers professional digital competence as an integral part of teacher competence and the teaching profession, with an emphasis on teacher education. The framework is based on national regulations, guidelines for teacher education programmes, the national curriculum, the Basic Skills Framework, and the National Qualifications Framework and consists of seven competence areas, which contain descriptions of knowledge, skills and competence: Subjects and basic skill; School in society; Ethic; Pedagogy and subject didactics; Leadershop of learning processes; Interaction and communication; Change and development. The Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education initially introduced the concept of "professional digital competence" in 2012, in connection with suggestions for the new framework for teacher education. The centre viewed this as important, in order to highlight the key role the teaching profession plays in realising digitalisation in schools, and the development of digitally competent pupils.
The development of teacher professional digital competence is also supported in the 2017-21 Action Plan for Digitalization in Primary and Secondary Education and Training, which aims aims to strengthen digital competency in teacher training institutions and ensure that digital competency is included as part of teacher professional development. The 2018 National Strategy for Quality and Cooperation in Teacher Education similarly supports the improvement of teacher digital skills, while the 2010 National Curriculum Regulations for Differentiated Primary and Lower Secondary Teacher Education Programmes for Years 1 – 7 and Years 5 – 10 includes technology and digital skills as part of teacher education programs.
2.4.1. Data privacy
Norwegian data protection is governed by the 2018 Law on the Processing of Personal Data (Personal Data Act), which implements the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) ('GDPR'). The Act and Regulation 0563/2018 on the Processing of Personal Data contain certain specific national variations and additions to the GDPR. The Norwegian data protection authority ('Datatilsynet') enforces data protection law. In the Act, data controllers and data processors also include education institutions. The Act contains a provision permitting the Government to adopt a regulation on a more extensive obligation to consult with and obtain prior authorisation from the Norwegian data protection authority ('Datatilsynet') (Section 14 of the Act). The Datatilsynet has issued a list of activities which require a DPIA ('Blacklist'), namely the Norway DPIA Blacklist. The Blacklist is based on the EDPB's guidelines, is approved by the EDPB, and includes: processing of personal data for the purpose of evaluating learning, coping and wellbeing in schools or kindergartens (including all levels of education, from preschool, elementary, high school to university levels) and camera surveillance in schools or kindergartens during opening hours.
Student and teacher data privacy is also provided in the 2017-21 Action Plan for Digitalization in Primary and Secondary Education and Training, which states that student and teacher personal data must be processed safely. According to the 2020 National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, educational institutions are encouraged to consider how privacy and ethics can be given a central place in their programmes in artificial intelligence.
With support from the Directorate for Education and Training, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities has additionally initiated the project ‘SkoleSec’ for the purpose of strengthening work on data protection and information security in primary and secondary education. The main purpose of the project is to support the school owners’ work on assessing risk and facilitating and offering expedient tools and services for use in schools.
In December 2019, the Education Department of the Municipality of Oslo was fined approximately €120,000 for insufficient technical and organisational measures to ensure information security. The lack of sufficient security measures led to unauthorised users gaining access to as many as 63,000 students' personal data on a mobile messaging app developed for schools in Oslo. Moreover, in September 2020, the Municipality of Bergen was fined approximately €300,000 for insufficient technical and organisational measures to ensure information security in a communication system used by a school, pupils, and parents.
2.4.2. Online abuse and cyberbullying
The 2021 National Strategy for Safe Digital Upringing aims to protect children and young people from online abuse and cyberbullying, with specific provisions relating to schools. The Norwegian Media Authority [Medietilsynet] coordinates the strategy and offers a wide range of teaching and conversation tools about online hate.
In addition, the 2021-25 National Strategy on Prevention and Combatting Online Abuse Against Children aims to ensure ongoing awareness of the risks associated with the use of digital platforms in kindergartens and schools. Protection against cyberbullying is also referenced in the 2017-21 Action Plan for Digitalization in Primary and Secondary Education and Training.
The Norwegian Centre for ICT in Education (IKT-senteret) is organised as an agency under the direct authority of the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. The centre's mission is to help ensure that ICT is used to improve the quality of education, learning outcomes and learning strategies for students and youth.
The Norwegian Digitalisation Agency is the government’s foremost tool for digitalisation of the public sector. The Agency operates and develops important national solutions and ensures the strategic coordination of digitalisation in the sector.
The Norwegian Data Protection Authority [Datatilsynet] acts as the Ombudsman for privacy in Norway. The authority protects the right to privacy and strives to prevent misuse of personal data and offers several practical online resources of particular relevance to children, youth, parents, and schools on digital safety.
The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir) is the main information provider in terms of a dedicated website to youth (ung.no), and topics addressed includes bullying/cyber bullying, grooming, identity theft, social media sharing etc.
The Center for ICT in Education (IKT-senteret), The Norwegian Data Protection Authority (Datatilsynet) and the Norwegian Directorate for Education and Training (Utdanningsdirektoratet) have developed a common web site with resources for children, youth and adults to strengthen privacy, safe use of Internett and digital judgement: Dubestemmer.no (You decide).
There is no national mobile phone policy in Norwegian schools and each school decides its own policy through the individual school regulation. The 1998 Education Act regulates how strict the schools are able to be. Teachers are able to withdraw mobile phones if they are disturbing the class, but the phones must be given back to the students at the end of the day. Schools are not allowed to keep phones overnight, as the school regulations cannot apply to the students’ free time. The municipalities can choose to have common regulations for all schools in the same municipality.
According to the 2017-21 Action Plan for Digitalization in Primary and Secondary Education and Training, school owners are responsible for student learning materials, including digital devices. Some schools have devices available to students and make their own choices on the matter, while in many municipalities, choices are made centrally about what kind of device is to be purchased. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) school policies are also becoming increasingly common. School owners are responsible for ensuring that the school has appropriate infrastructure in place so that it supports both national and local targets for education, and that the students' privacy is ensured.