23 SES 06 C, Accountability, (In)equality and Social Justice
The Finnish basic education system has received great international interest since the first publications of the PISA assessment results in the 2000s. Several studies worldwide have tried to find out the essential reasons behind Finland’s unexpected success. This study focuses to contrast one of the explanations, the Finnish quality assurance and evaluation policy (QAE) in the Nordic and the European context.
The Finnish QAE policy in basic education has been characterized as an upstream policy in the international trend based on four national features: 1) the QAE policy is aimed for developing educational services, not an instrument of administrative control 2) it is aimed principally for administrative bodies and the schools rather than the public or parents 3) it is carried out through sample-based assessments and 4) the idea of making schools transparent through school-specific performance results and ranking lists is strongly resisted. These special features of ‘modest testing culture’ are said to promote educational trust between the actors (i.e. the teachers, pupils, parents etc.) and thus to support pupils’ learning. (Sahlberg 2011; Simola et al 2009.)
In comparison all the other Nordic countries have been strengthening recently the national level evaluation practices. For example in Sweden this has become significant through the increase of compulsory standardized testing and more regular school inspections (Segerholm 2009). In Sweden, Denmark and Iceland also the school performance results are published school-specifically by the government agencies. This policy promoting public accountability and competition has been traditionally linked into the Anglo-American education systems but has been noted to spread as an irreversible trend worldwide. (van Petegem et al 2005; Karsten et al 2001.)
The comprehensive school system built in the 1960s/70s laid the foundations for all the education policy in the Nordic countries. In its core was a shared idea of promoting social equality through educational equality. Since the 1990s the market-oriented reforms have been challenging the core foundations of the Nordic education policy (e.g. Telhaug et al 2006). Is it still relevant to talk about a common ‘Nordic comprehensive school policy’?
The aim of this study is to find out how the above-mentioned different QAE policies in the Nordic relate to other countries in Europe. Here the attempt is to construct a typology of the European countries by categorizing them on three QAE practices: the use of standardized national testing, publication of the assessment results and the school inspection system. In addition a following research question is presented; how the different QAE policies in the Nordic relate to two essential principles in the tradition of the Nordic governance – educational equality and public transparency aka ‘Nordic openness’.
Erkkilä, T. (2010). Reinventing Nordic openness: Transparency and state information in Finland. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, Acta politica, no. 40. Karsten, S., Visscher, A. & De Jong, T. (2001). Another side to the coin: the unintended effects of the publication of school performance data in England and France. Comparative Education, 37(2), 231-242. Sahlberg, P. (2011). Finnish Lessons: What can the world learn from educational change in Finland? New York: Teachers College Press. Segerholm, C. (2009). ‘We are doing well on QAE’: the case of Sweden. Journal of Education Policy, 24(2), 195-209. Simola, H., Rinne, R., Varjo, J., Pitkänen, H. & Kauko, J. (2009). Quality assurance and evaluation (QAE) in Finnish compulsory schooling: a national model or just unintended effects of radical decentralisation? Journal of Education Policy, 24(2), 163-178. Telhaug, A.O., Mediås, O.A. & Aasen, P. (2006). The Nordic Model in Education: Education as part of the political system in the last 50 years. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 50(3), 245-283. van Petegem, P., Vanhoof, J., Daems, F. & Mahieu, P. (2005). Publishing Information on Individual Schools? Educational Research and Evaluation, 11(1), 45-60.
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