23 SES 05 C, Education Policies and the Politics of Equity
Following Gösta Esping-Andersen’s welfare-state regimes typology (1990) and especially the latter expansion of it (1999), the Nordic countries are constructing their own welfare-state regime and are thereby often treated as one entity at least in the public discussion outside Nordic countries. Concerning the commonalities in the comprehensive school systems, the model still dominant in the 1980s and supported by a socio-democratic ideology was stressing equality and the social and cultural integration of students from all backgrounds (Antikainen 2006; Koritzinsky 2001). Important decentralization reforms were nevertheless introduced across the area in the 1990s. Those reforms increased the power of local decision-makers (Simola, Rinne, and Kivirauma 2002; Lindblad et al. 2002), parental choice possibilities (e.g. Lidström 1999) and competition between schools. More possibilities for setting up private schools were also provided in some countries. As shown by OECD in PISA-reports in the 2000s, the systems produce different outcomes on a school level and the levels of school achievement differ across and within Nordic countries (OECD 2009). Although the Nordic comprehensive school systems are oftenconsidered fairly similar from the the international perspective, they differ in several aspects, which are to be explored in more detail.
A similar equalising ideology behind constructing the Nordic comprehensive schools in each nation state has at least historically been evident. This research project aims to shed light on how the national narratives of those “stories of comprehensive school” are constructed in the discourse of former and present policy-makers, and what are the actual differences in the forms of political steering within each system on a level of policy documents. We ask, how do the national comprehensive school systems differ, what are their cross-national interconnections and embedded international influences, and how the national narratives of the comprehensive school are constructed. We focus on the local and national narratives in each context by exploring each national reality with their specific features. Concerning comprehensive education, not only the history of the system, but also the current developments (e.g. processes of privatisation, urbanisation and urban segregation, new forms of pedagogic ICT and private providers) in the society will be discussed in relation to comprehensive school as a system.
As a theoretical frame we use the approach of dynamics in education politics, which has been applied in other studies, which sees education politics as a fluid and relativist target of study, which operates and changes in space and time. Kauko et al. (2012; see also Kauko 2011; Palonen 2006) have distinguished three dimensions of dynamics in politics: the political situation, the political possibilities and Spielraum. Politics as a situation bears the idea of a distinguished moment when politics can be changed. It illustrates the moment of Kairos where a historical rupture is visible. Political possibilities concern what is up to seize in a certain frame of a political situation. Actors evaluate their chances and develop an understanding of their possibilities to manoeuvre. Finally, framed by the political situation and possibilities, an essential element for the dynamics in politics is the Spielraum for ‘politicking’. This refers to the potential of actors to capitalise on existing situations and possibilities, compared with opponents less ready to tolerate or make use of the presence of contingency.
In this presentation we concentrate on Finnish policy-makers (n≈8) and on the Finnish national narrative on how and why was the comprehensive school constructed in the 1970s. We also focus on the currents developments in other Nordic countries and aim to explore, how is the Finnish comperehensive system positioned in relation to other Nordic comprehensive school systems on a discoursive level.
Antikainen, A. 2006. In Search of the Nordic Model in Education. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 50 (3). 229–243. Connelly, F. M. & Clandinin, D. J. 1990. Stories of Experience and Narrative Inquiry. Educational Researcher 19 (5). 2–14. Esping-Andersen, G. 1990. The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Esping-Andersen, G. 1999. The Social Foundations of Postindustrial Economies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Kauko, J. 2011. Korkeakoulupolitiikan dynamiikat Suomessa [Dynamics in Finnish Higher Education Politics]. Helsinki: University of Helsinki, Department of Behavioural Sciences. Kauko, J., Simola, H., Varjo, J. & Kalalahti, M. 2012. What could a dynamics perspective contribute to comparative research? In J. Kivirauma, A. Jauhianen, P. Seppänen & T. Kaunisto (Eds.) Koulutuksen yhteiskunnallinen ymmärrys. Social Perspectives on Education. Research in Educational Sciences 59. Turku: Finnish Educational Research Association. 219–233. Koritzinsky, T. 2001. Educational Reforms in Norway in the 1990s: Civic pluralism and National Unity in Decision-Making and Curriculum Contents. In S. Ahonen and J. Rantala (Eds.) Nordic Lights. Education for Nation and Civic Society in the Nordic Countries 1850–2000, Helsinki: SKS Finnish Literature Society. 204–225. Lidström, A. 1999. Local School Choice Policies in Sweden. Scandinavian Political Studies 22 (2): 137–154. Lindblad, S., L. Lundahl, J. Lindgren, and G. Zackari. 2002. Educating for the New Sweden? Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 46 (3): 283–303. Palonen, K. 2006. The Struggle with Time. A Conceptual History of ’Politics’ as an Activity. Hamburg: Verlag Münster. Simola, H., R. Rinne, and J. Kivirauma. 2002. Abdication of the Education State or Just Shifting Responsibilities? The Appearance of a New System of Reason in Constructing Educational Governance and Social Exclusion/Inclusion in Finland. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 46 (3). 247–264.
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