23 SES 04 A, School Inspection Policies and Practices
School inspection has for many of the European governments become one important answer to declining school performance and Sweden is no exception. The expansion of the Standing International Conference of Inspectorates is one sign of the increased importance put on school inspection by policy makers in Europe (Lawn & Grek 2012). The Swedish Schools Inspectorate (SSI) leans heavily on the Education Act and Ordinance and other steering documents when inspecting and assessing schools and the work of the principal organisers/providers responsible for local schools (Riksrevisionen 2013). In a previous study we analysed interviews with a fairly large number of inspectors and inspection managers at different levels in the SSI about the effects of inspection. It appears that one of the most often mentioned effects was that the awareness of and compliance with laws and regulations in the school area has risen considerably among head teachers and local politicians (Hult & Segerholm 2012). Also, when analysing and comparing documents from the national agency previously responsible for school inspection (2003-2007), The National Agency for Education, and the present agency, the SSI (2008-2010), the greater importance put on judicial considerations is obvious (Lindgren, Hult, Segerholm & Rönnberg 2012). The legal framework therefore seems to be an increasingly important part of the governing of education in the Swedish case. We find that the closer to the present time we come, the greater the tendency to approach the issue of quality in schooling as a formal, legal problematic. The language used in the texts more and more takes on a legal terminology that seems to displace a more pedagogical discourse. We understand this process as an example of ‘juridification’. The concept refers to a general increase in legal and regulative processes in the society.
This paper explores this shift towards a more legally oriented inspection and governing, and highlights how these juridification processes might influence educational practices.
We draw on two main theoretical resources: the first based on the concept ‘juridification’ (Teubner 1987, Blichner & Molander 2008, Brännström 2009), and the second on the concept ‘constitutive effects’ (Dahler-Larsen 2010, 2013). “Juridification comes about when an issue that was previously dealt with within a cultural, ethical, political, economical, or some other kind of discourse, begins to be, or to be more clearly or more often, treated as a legal matter” (Brännström 2009, p 328). This is, to our understanding, also a description of what has happened to school/education, and of the process where a legal discourse more frequently becomes the key determinant instead of a pedagogical when it comes to dispute or conflict in school. With reference to the concept ‘constitutive effects’ (Dahler-Larsen 2010, 2013), we understand inspection as one type of evaluative process that influences educational practices in more profound ways than have previously been recognised. It is not only a question of inspection changing behaviour so that for example head teachers make sure that certain formal requirements are fulfilled (e.g. decisions properly documented). Dahler-Larsen claims that these evaluative activities also have the power to change the way we understand the phenomena that are evaluated/inspected.
Baxter, J. & Hult, A. (submitted). School inspectors in Sweden and England: the impact of policy on practices. Blichner, L. C. & Molander, A. (2008). Mapping Juridification. European Law Journal 14(1): 36-54. Brännström, L. (2009): Förrättsligande: en studie av rättens risker och möjligheter med fokus på patientens ställning. [Juridification: a study of the hazards and potentials of law, focusing on the legal position of the patient in health care. In Swedish.] Lund: Bokbox förlag. Dahler-Larsen, P. (2010). Constitutive effects as a social accomplishment: A qualitative study of the political in testing. Education Inquiry 13(2): 171-186. Dahler-Larsen, P. (2013). Constitutive Effects of performance Indicators. Public Management Review, DOI:10.1080/14719037.2013.770058 Hult, A. & Segerholm, C. (2012). Inspection effects throught the eyes of the inspectors: Swedish notions. Paper presented at the European Conference for Educational Research, Network 23 Symposium “Governing by Inspection (ii): National Developments”, Cádiz, September 17-20, 2012. Lindgren, J. Hult, A. Segerholm, C. & Rönnberg, L. (2012). Mediating school inspection – Key dimensions and keywords in agency text production 2003–2010. Education Inquiry 3(4): 569-590. Lawn, M. & Grek, S. (2012). Europeanizing Education. Governing a new policy space. Oxford: Symposion Books. Riksrevisionen (2013). Statens tillsyn över skolan – bidrar den till förbättrade kunskapsresultat? RIR 2013:16. [National supervision of education – does it improve pupils’ knowledge? In Swedish.] Stockholm: Riksrevisionens publikationsservice, www. riksrevisionen.se Teubner, G (1987). Juridification, Concepts, Aspects and Solutions. In Teubner, Gunther (Ed.), Juridification of Social Spheres. A Comparative Analysis in the rea of Labor, Corporate Antitrust and Social Welfare Law. Berlin: Walter de Greuyter & Co., pp.3-48.
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