23 SES 05 A JS, Democracy and Education in Performative Regimes
Paper Session Joint Session NW 23 with NW 13
Throughout Europe, evaluation has expanded radically at all levels of school governance as part of the broad doctrine of New Public Management including marketization, decentralization and performance management. There is a growing accountability pressure derived from globalisation of education governance resulting in evaluation systems (Leeuw and Furubo 2008) of monitoring, inspection and oversight, and benchmarking to measure performance and assess students and teachers. Sweden and other countries’ education systems increasingly rely on evaluations of different kinds as ways to control and enhance quality and performance in education and schooling but also to support competition and school choice (Merki 2011; Pollitt and Bouckaert 2011; Dahler-Larsen 2012; Lingard and Sellar 2013; Grek and Lindgren 2014). Despite the recent recentralisation effects of evaluation systems local autonomy is still high. Actors at the municipal and school level have different conditions and varying freedom of choice for local school governance in different education systems. The local context matters in a variety of ways. Local actors can assimilate, adjust or resist state policies of for example marketization and use evaluations in different ways.
Evaluation systems put in place assumes that citizens are rational and active choosers using evaluation and accessible performance data for an informed choice (Musset 2012). But research indicate that parents are primarily concerned with “the atmosphere”, “pedagogical climate”, “safety” and “reputation of the school” (Ehren, Leeuw and Scheerens 2005, p. 71). However, school choice has made parents a more powerful policy actor in local school governance (Blomqvist 2004). But not only school choice contributed to the shift from macro democracy to micro democracy in Sweden (Möller 1996). So did different forms of voice options for improving participation and influence in citizens daily encounter with welfare services (Jarl 2005; Kristoffersson 2008; Dahlstedt 2009b; Holmgren et al. 2012). During the 1990s the emphasis on active citizenship and collaboration was viewed as a natural part of the democratic mission of the schools. The school should be an arena for dialogue forming an active local citizenship. Progress should be achieved from the bottom-up by those involved promoting the inclusion of parents in a form of partnership with the school (Jarl 2005; Dahlstedt 2009b). This multi-actor model of governance focusing on citizens’ agency reflect what has been called a ‘will to empower’ (Cruikshank 1999), ‘politics of activation’ (Dahlstedt 2009a) or ‘government technologies of agency’ (Dean 2010).
Parents become a part of local school governance when they make choices, try to influence teachers, school-principals, schools administrators or local school boards. And their need of evaluation for this influence differs. Parents as customers need easily accessible performance data to support informed school choice whereas parents as active and responsible citizens largely need the same evaluation knowledge as other policy actors. How local authorities, local school providers and schools govern their education and schooling through different forms of evaluation therefore shapes conceptions of citizenship. Studies on local policy, i.e. schools and school providers’ strategies and use of evaluation related information is scarce and there is a need for more knowledge on how it shapes citizen roles in different education systems. In this paper I therefore begin by exploring what ways are provided for parents as citizens, to influence, change and affect education in Sweden. I then turn to answer what evaluation related information is given on school and school provider websites to analyse what citizenship ideals are promoted using the categorisation developed from the channels for influence. I finish with discussing these forms of citizen power in education in relation to the more everyday encounter with teachers and school staff by drawing on previous research and interviews with parents and teachers.
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