23 SES 09 C, Higher Education
This paper examines how national education policy is created in the riptide of national interests and cross-border cooperation. It examines policy documents as discourse and does so by using both agenda-setting theories and Michel Foucault´s theory of discursive practices.
In this paper, policy is examined as being not just texts, but productions of power relations that set the limits to what can be said, by whom and by which authority (Ball 1994, 21). This view is largely influenced by the theory of discursive practices of Michel Foucault. Hence, this paper applies Foucault´s thinking in its analysis and will, in particular, focus on the two key concepts of the discursive practices, namely that of “truth” and “position”. The former concept refers to “what can be said”: the idea that there are socio-historically constructed limits to our thinking and speaking. In other words, the things we hold to be “true” are relative and bound to time and space. The second concept refers to who can speak and with which authority. (Alhanen 2007; Bacchi 2010; Ball 2013; Ball 1992; Foucault 2002; Gale 2006)
This paper aims to combine the policy as discourse approach with agenda-setting-theories, in order to understand how something is taken up on the policy agenda while other issues fall out in the course of time. Political scientists, Kingdon (2003) in particular, have long showed that on the contrary to how it may seem to the public eye, political decision-making does not begin with a problem and proceed to finding a solution. Instead, several solutions exist before an issue is problematized and raised to the political agenda. No matter how great an idea may be, if it is not answering to a particular problem, it will not make it to the political agenda. Moreover, since all policies in themselves are proposals for change, they always contain implicit representations of ´problems´ (Bacchi 2009,1).
In the education policy making of today, it has become a trend that decisions are legitimized by comparative data. (Lingard & al 2012; Novoa & Yariv-Mahal 2003; Wiseman 2006) Cross-border information has never been so important to the national ministries, says Lawn et al (2011, 18). But as the national experts are using cross-border data to legitimize their decisions, this “may lead to outsourcing of rational, high-skilled strategic thinking from national to supranational level” Lawn et al point out (2011, 18)
This paper analyses how issues are problematized and solutions legitimized with cross-border data in higher education policy-making in Finland. It focuses in the creation of the new national future vision called “Finland 100+”. The work to create a new vision for the future of Finnish higher education started in the beginning of 2017. In the end of 2017, the Ministry of Education published the new vision and set working groups to develop this vision further into actual action steps. This work continues throughout the year 2018. Though the vision is presented to be profoundly rooted to the national, from the very beginning legitimatization for a need of it was sought from the global context. It is an excellent example of national policy making influenced by cross-border information.
-What kind of ´problems´ are in these policy documents presented to be in Finnish and European higher education today and in the future? What kind of solutions are suggested to these problems?
-How are these problems legitimized with national interests and global/European operational environment? How is cross-border data used in this process?
- What kind of national and global power relations may one see in this process of policy-making?
This paper applies “What´s the problem presented to be?” (WPR) inspired approach in its analysis. The paper aims to identify the main problematisations presented in the policy in question (the new vision for the future of higher education) and applies particularly the questions 1 and 3 of the WPR are approach, namely: -What is the ´problem´ presented to be in a specific policy? -How has this representation of the ´problem´ come about? (Bacchi 2009, Bacchi 2014) In answering these questions particular attention is given to any references to cross-border data. To answer the second question the analysis will go back to both the data on the process behind Finland 100+-vision (written and audio/video material on workshops, presentations, gatherings, summaries of the two online brainstorm sessions) and to the higher education policy documents that preceded this vision (previous national strategies, visions, plans). In addition to the national data, cross-border data will be included in the analysis when applicable, particularly the data to which there are direct references in the new vision.
The vision has been given a name that refers to the past 100 years of history of Finland as an independent nation-state. The visions roots are in the current government program called “Finland 2025- built together”, which echoes a wish for a united country built in co-operation with all levels of society. However, already in the beginning of this work, the need for a new vision for was largely justified by foreign and security policy issues, issues of economic growth and global competition, and European co-operation in higher education. Hence the vision is an excellent example of policymaking on a national-level in today´s European parliamentary democracies, influenced and shaped by the European and global operational environment. It also shows how closely linked education has become with economic, political and social status of modern nation-states (Wiseman 2010, 1). Also, earlier research has pointed out that Finland is in many ways striving to be a model pupil to both OECD as well as the EU, adopting many of the policy suggestions coming from these supranational agents. Hence, one may expect that excessive cross-border data has been applied to both create the problems and to legitimize the solutions in “Finland 100+”-vision.
Alhanen, K. 2007. Käytännöt ja ajattelu Michel Foucault´n filosofiassa. Gaudeamus. Helsinki. Bacchi, C. 2014. The Turn to Problematization: Political Implications of Contrasting Interpretive and Poststructural Adaptions. In Open Journal of Political Science. Vol.5: 1-12. Bacchi, C. 2010. Policy as Discourse: What does it mean? Where does it take us? In Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 21:1, 45-71. Bacchi, C. 2009. Analysing Policy: What´s the problem presented to be? Pearson Australia. Frenchs Forest. Bacchi, C. 2010. Policy as Discourse: What does it mean? Where does it take us? Ball, S. 2013. Foucault, Power and Education. Routledge. New York. Ball, S. 1994. Education reform: a critical and post-structural approach. Open University Press. Buckingham. Ball, S. 1992. What Is Policy? Text, trajectories and toolboxes. In Discourse 13:2: 10-17. Foucault, M. 2002. The Archeology of Knowledge. Routledge. London and New York. Gale, T. 2006. Policy Trajectories: treading the discursive path of policy analysis. In Discourse: Studies in Cultural Politics in Educatio. 20:3, 393-407. Kingdon, J.W. 2003. Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies. 2nd ed. Longman. New York. Lawn, M., Rinne, R.& Grek, S. 2011. Changing spatial and social relations in Europe. In Ozga, J., Dahler-Larsen, P. Segerholm, C. and Simola, H. 2011. Fabricating Quality in Europe: Data and governance in Europe. Routledge. New York. 11-18. Lingard, B., Creagh, S.& Vass.G. 2012. Education policy as numbers: data categories and two Australian cases of misrecognition. In Journal of Education Policy, 27:3. May 2012: 315-333. Nóvoa, A.& Yariv-Mahal, T. 2003. Comparative research in education: A mode of governance or a historical journey? Comparative education, 39 (4), 423-439. Wiseman, A.W. 2010. The Uses of Evidence for Educational Policymaking: Global Contexts and International Trends. In Review of Research in Education. Vol. 43: 1-24.
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