33 SES 13, Reflections on Gender Studies - Towards a Feminist Pedagogy
Nordic gender studies in education started in Sweden, Norway and Denmark in the 1970s, in Finland and in Island in the 1980s. It was ‘a flying start‘, with a variety and richness of studies, much in Denmark, Norway and Sweden in the beginning, whilst in the 2000s especially Sweden but also Finland have been most active. Nordic gender studies and feminist studies in education have been nationally and internationally highly valued. One example of this is the international Gender and Education Journal, in which the number of Nordic (especially Swedish and Finnish) articles have grown in the 2000s (compared to a modest representation in previous years, see Öhrn & Weiner 2013), and is now more than 10 per cent of all articles (Lahelma, 2015).
In this paper we aim to describe and analyse the history of Nordic gender and education research, by exploring theories, methodologies and themes in individual studies. Our focus in this paper is predominantly in the history of the first 30 years, from around 1980 until the first decade of the 2000s. However, we also present an indicative analysis covering the latest ten years, showing some trends that have persisted over decades and others that have emerged later.
Theoretically we draw on a sociological feminist perspective (e.g. Connell, 1987) to explore
1) the foci of Nordic gender studies in education;
2) the relations between Nordic and international gender studies in education; and
3) the impact of Nordic collaboration and support from Nordic and national state funding on gender studies in education
In the paper we suggest that Nordic studies in the very beginning was inspired by quantitative ‘gender difference’ studies from the USA. From the 1980s on, however, the influence of British studies, especially ethnographic studies, have been stronger. This still is the case; contacts with British researchers are sustainable, for example in the Gender and Education Association. However, whilst the British gender and education studies appear often been conducted in close connection with schools and teacher activist, in the Nordic countries the sociological perspectives were more important from the start and the political-administrative influences have remained important over time. The beginning of gender and education studies in the Nordic countries was supported by the state and much of the early research was connected to development projects.
The paper draws primarily from the following documents: lists and titles of presentations and other documents of the Gender and Education network (1990-2017) of the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA); articles written by Nordic researchers in the international Gender and Education journal 1992-2017; reviews ordered by NIKK, Nordic Institute for Gender Research (NIKK 2005, Nyström 2010); earlier meta-analysis by Elina Lahelma (1987,1992), Inga Wernersson & Hildur Ve (1997) and Elisabet Öhrn (1990, 2002). We also had a general overview of articles written in some Nordic and national journals of education and gender studies (e.g. Nordisk Pedagogik/Nordic Studies in Education). Whilst choosing for a closer look these special sets of data we are aware that essential and important research in the field has regularly been presented and published in much wider fora. For example, feminist researchers in the field of philosophy of education often prefer conferences and journals of philosophy of education to those of gender and education. However, our analysis will be strenghtened because we also draw from our general knowledge of the field through our own experiences. The two of us started to follow gender studies in the 1980s, and have been active researchers in the field ever since. Therefore, our story about the history of this wide and complicated field draws not only from meta-analysis of studies and reviews that we have read but also from our own memories. Following the ideas of nomadic methodology (see e.g. Kurki forthcoming), the borders of the field that we are trying to cover are blurred (see also St. Pierre, 2013).
In this paper we suggest that in Nordic countries gender studies reached the traditional pedagogical sciences drawing from two more or less interlinked scientific and political processes in the 1970s and 1980s. First of all, Nordic academics in the fields of education and sociology of education became influenced by the new and powerful emphasis on women’s studies in other European countries and USA that was part of the second wave feminist movement. Secondly, gender equity has been central to the so called Nordic welfare model. Therefore the governments of the Nordic countries and the Nordic Council of Ministers answered to the international declarations on gender equality (e.g. CEDAW 1979) also by supporting women’s studies and equality projects at schools. The relatively strong alliance between feminist movement, state feminist equality officers (often called femocrats) and feminist research was important for the quick and powerful start of gender studies in education (Arnesen, 2000). In the 1980s and 1990s there was a wide variety of studies about classroom processes with a focus on compulsory schooling. There were much less studies about upper secondary education and universities or early childhood education. In the 2000s the focus has spread and long-term ethnography is rarer and there are more interview studies. Also in the 2000s, there are shifts in theoretical perspectives, similar to international research, and more empirical research on intersections (often of gender and ethnicity). Furthermore, there are changes in the presence and position of gender research in Nordic research over time.
Arnesen, Anne-Lise. (2000). Gender, Equality and Pedagogy in Education in the European Context: Debates and Issues in Policies and Research, in ATEE Spring University: Today’s Reforms for Tomorrow’s Schools. Klaipèda: Lithuania, 20-29. CEDAW (1979). Convention on the Elimination on All Forms of Discrimination against Women www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/cedaw.htm Connell, R W. (1987). Gender and power. Cambridge: Polity Press. Kurki, Tuuli. (forthcoming). Immigration as (mis)fortune? Gendered and racialised immigration policy and educational integration practices. Lahelma, Elina. (1987). Sukupuolten tasa arvo koulussa. Tutkimuskartoitus tasa arvokokeilu- toimikunnalle. [Gender equality in schools. Research review for the Commission of equal opportunities in education.] Opetusministeriön suunnittelusihteeristön julkaisuja 4, 1987. Lahelma, Elina. (1992). Sukupuolten eriytyminen peruskoulun opetussuunnitelmassa. [Gender segregation in the curriculum of comprehensive school] Helsinki: Yliopistopaino. Lahelma, Elina. (2015) Steps towards a more international Gender and Education journal: a Nordic viewpoint, Gender and Education, 27:2, 106-108, DOI: 10.1080/09540253.2015.1016325 Nyström, Eva. (2009). Nordisk forskning om genus och jämställdhet i skola och utbildning: 2005-2009. [Nordic research on gender and equality in school and education] NIKK 2005. Bibliografiutkast 2005 Forskning med fokus på skola, kön & jämställdhet/likestilling i Norden, publicerad 1990-2005. Oslo: NIKK (www.nikk.no) [Nordic research on gender and equality in school and education]. Oslo: NIKK. St. Pierre, Elizabeth A. (2013). The posts continue: becoming. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 26:6, 646–657. Öhrn, Elisabet. (1991). Könsmönster i klassrumsinteraktion. [Gender patterns in classroom interaction). Thesis. Gothenburg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis. Öhrn, Elisabet (2002) Könsmönster i förändring? En kunskapsöversikt om unge i skolan. Stockholm, Skolverket. Öhrn, Elisabet. (Forthcoming, 2018). Gender and equality in education. Key themes, changes and the contemporary focus on achievement. Accepted for publication in Nordic Network for Research in Music Education Yearbook Volume 19. Öhrn, E & Weiner, G. (2009). The sound of silence! Reflections on inclusion and exlusion in the field of gender and education. Gender and Education, 21(4), 423-430. St. Pierre, Elisabeth (2000).Poststructural Feminism in Education: an Overview. Qualitative Studies in Education, 13(5), 477–515. Wernersson, Inga & Ve, Hildur (1997). Research on gender and education in the Nordic countries. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 41(4), 295-317.
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