23 SES 02 D, Policy Reforms and Teacher Professionalism (Part 1)
Paper Session: to be continued in 23 SES 03 D, 23 SES 04 D
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate how changes in governing of Swedish education have opened up for new ways of looking at schooling and to discuss consequences of these changes, with a specific interest in teachers’ professionalism. By doing this, the paper will contribute to education policy research by demonstrating how international policy trends come about in national and local contexts and the diverse impact they might have.
Using Sweden as a case, this paper contributes to education policy research by demonstrating how the changed governing has led to a new social perception of education, in which spaces has been created for new actors, models and solutions in terms of managing activities in schools. Specifically, it seeks to illustrate how various ready-made programs, mostly psychologically based, from 2002 and for a number of years after that, have been authorized and disseminated without critical inquiry or resistance in the education sector. However, later year’s research has criticized many of the programmes for their conflicts with the goals and values in the national curriculum, and discussed ethical consequences if schools are used as an arena for therapeutic activities (Bergh et al 2013, Grønlien Zetterkvist & Irisdotter Aldenmyr 2013). With these programmes as an empirical example, the specific research question asked is: How can local governing processes, where decisions have been made about programmes, be understood in the light of international policy trends, and what are the consequences for teachers’ professionalism?
In order to give a wide policy context, previous research of how the governing of Swedish education has changed over time is presented as a background (Bergh et al, submitted). The earlier governing tradition is characterized as ‘management of placement’, where different societal needs were placed on the local level and trusted to professionals with a specific education to deal with these needs (cf. Hopmann 2008). However, during the 1990s this tradition was successively challenged and soon replaced by the new ‘management of expectation’ strategy, which consists of two parts: expectations formulated by the state on what local actors are to do with given resources and a strengthened control system, i.e. to control that the expectations are achieved. Following this, a new kind of language is introduced, the content gets recontextualized between different levels of responsibility and the relation between autonomy and control change. It is also in this time, around the new millennium, that some national authorities (see below) authorize specific problems where schools are encouraged to work with questions about social competence, to contribute in work to prevent psychological ill-health etc. When these issues by this have been authoritatively initiated and legitimized, the space is thus open for actors who can provide solutions. This is also what happened, as different programs soon after were introduced with claims to be scientifically based, effective, evidence based etc.
From this background, the next part of the paper consists of an empirical analysis of how dilemmas not solved on the national level have been dealt with on local level, by local administrators with different overriding responsibilities. The analysis shows that there was a pressure from local politicians to solve the national formulated expectations, at the same time as neither the politicians nor the interviewed local administrators had much knowledge about the programs they bought and offered schools to use. Rather they trusted the national authorities and the ‘promises’ that the programs were scientifically based and with proven evidence based effects.
In the final part of the paper, the research question is answered and discussed, with a specific interest in consequences for teachers’ professionalism.
For description of theoretical framework, see ‘Methodology’ below.
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