23 SES 03 D, Privatisation and the Private Sector
This paper investigates Norwegian education policy for private schools over the last 50 years, in particular, the study examines how global pressures and national policy is positioned in the political debate for privatization in education during this period, e.g. with regards to public funding of private schools. The aim of the study is to look at the historical development of private education policy in order to understand how education policy for private schools is legitimated in Norway over the last 50 years. In addition the paper’s scrutinizes how the political debate on private schools is interconnected with international references; or conversely, how the political debate engages in resisting the international references. I understand international references as the reference to transnational entities e.g. international organizations and their documents or other countries (Ringarp & Waldow, 2016). The main research question is: How has Norwegian private education policy been legitimated over the last 50 years?
Norway can be identified together with other Scandinavian countries as part of the Nordic model of education which is characterized by high priority on equity of education, e.g. by using a large share of the state budget on education. In the last decades, this model has been challenged by the era of globalization and neo-liberalism supported by international organizations (Telhaug, Medias, & Aasen, 2006). Freedom of choice, an assumption based on neo-liberal ideology, may be gaining space in the educational sector also due to the fact that the Nordic model is less homogenous and increasingly multi ethic, multi religious and multi linguistic (Prøitz & Aasen, 2017). However, within the Nordic model, these neo-liberal and international pressures have affected the Scandinavian welfare systems in different ways (Sivesind & Saglie, 2017). The case of Norway is particularly interesting because from 2002 to 2017 private school attendance in the Norwegian education has increased by 106,5% (Statistics Norway, 2017), while at the same time Norway is renowned for protecting the welfare state, the comprehensive school model and hesitant towards neo-liberal policies (Wiborg, 2013).
One way to study international references in national policy is through the concepts of legitimacy. Legitimization is a concept that comes from the works on political authority of Max Weber, however nowadays the concept can be used to explain a larger spectrum of phenomena, for instance, policy agenda (Waldow, 2013). A general definition of legitimacy was found by Suchman (1995): legitimacy is a “generalized perception or assumption that the actions of an entity are desirable, proper, or appropriate within some socially constructed system of norms, values, beliefs, and definitions” (Suchman, 1995, p. 574). Therefore, in order for a policy to get legitimization, it needs to be recognized desirable, proper and appropriate in line with the values embedded in the society. It appears that the process of social construction is determinant for triggering legitimacy for a policy.
Another approach that can be useful to understand how international references may function as a legitimacy device is through the externalization thesis by sociologist Niklas Luhmann (in Waldow, 2013). It has been demonstrated that contested reforms at home, as for instance privatization of education or new accountability policies, are more likely to be legitimized by referencing other systems of education (externalization) (Steiner-Khamsi, 2004). However, it does not imply that through reforms something is actually transferred, externalization suggests that there is a reference to an external point, which could be a set of values, international organization or discourse.
The study will apply a combination of document analysis and content analysis in order to examine the international references within the private education acts over the last 50 years: “Law on grants to private schools” (Kulturdepartmentet, 1970); “Law on grants to private comprehensive schools and private schools that provide further education” (Utdannings-og forskningsdepartmentet, 1985), the Private Education Act 2002/3 (Kunnskapsdepartementet, 2003). The study examines policy texts in order to retrieve contextual and historical information and to trace change and development (Bowen, 2009). In addition, the same methodology will be applied in the study of the reports from the committees responsible to follow the policy process for private education in order to analyze the reasons behind the presence or absence of international references in the political debate of private education, e.g. public funding for private schools. Documents of education policy for private schools prior to 2003 were obtained through the database Lovdata Pro while the latest policy, the Private Education Act (Kunnskapsdepartementet, 2003) is publically accessible.
Preliminary findings has shown that the Private Education Act may use international organizations as sources for legitimization. The way private education legislation uses international points of reference changed over the last 50 years: e.g. there was no international references in private education legislation “Law on grants to private schools” (Kulturdepartmentet, 1970) and “Law on grants to private comprehensive schools and private schools that provide further education” (Utdannings-og forskningsdepartmentet, 1985). However, Human rights and United Nations have been part of the public debate since the 1960s (Tveiten, 2000), but it was not before the Private Education Act from 2002/3 – after which, the private school attendance increased with 106,5%, partly due to relaxation of requirements (e.g. no longer need to be religious or offer alternative pedagogy) for allowing private schools - that explicit international points of references were used: the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the United Nations. It is important to take in consideration that the Private Education Act is also a political matter, which potentially depends on the national governments. In fact, the different private policy Acts from 1969 to 2002 are all proposed and implemented by governments with a coalition from the Conservative party, the Central party and the Christian Democratic party. However, the legal framework seems to highly regulate how private schools are allowed to operate.
Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method. Qualitative Research Journal Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27–40. Kulturdepartmentet. Act on grants to private schools, Pub. L. No. nr. 4 (1970). Retrieved from https://lovdata.no/pro/#document/NLO/lov/1970-03-06-4 Kunnskapsdepartementet. Lov om frittståande skolar (friskolelova) - Lovdata, Pub. L. No. LOV-2003-07-04-84 (2003). Retrieved from https://lovdata.no/dokument/NL/lov/2003-07-04-84 Prøitz, T. S., & Aasen, P. (2017). Making and re-making the Nordic model of education. Routledge Handbooks Online. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315695716.ch16 Ringarp, J., & Waldow, F. (2016). From ‘silent borrowing’ to the international argument – legitimating Swedish educational policy from 1945 to the present day. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 2016(1), 29583. https://doi.org/10.3402/nstep.v2.29583 Sivesind, K. H., & Saglie, J. (Eds.). (2017). Promoting Active Citizenship: Markets and Choice in Scandinavian Welfare (1st ed. 2017 edition). New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2004). The Global politics of educational borrowing and lending. New York: Teachers College Press. Suchman, M. C. (1995). Managing Legitimacy: Strategic and Institutional Approaches. Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–610. https://doi.org/10.5465/AMR.1995.9508080331 Telhaug, A. O., Medias, O. A., & Aasen, P. (2006). The Nordic Model in Education: Education as Part of the Political System in the Last 50 Years. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 50(3), 245–283. Tveiten, A. (2000). Friskolen - enhetsskolens gjøkunge?: forholdet mellom de private skolene og det offentlige skoleverket på 1900-tallet. Oslo: Lunde. Retrieved from http://urn.nb.no/URN:NBN:no-nb_digibok_2009042300049 Utdannings- og forskningsdepartementet. Act on grants to private comprehensive schools and private schools that provide further education, Pub. L. No. nr. 73 (1985). Retrieved from https://lovdata.no/pro/#document/NLO/lov/1985-04-26-21 Waldow, F. (2013). Standardisation and Legitimacy. In G. Steiner-Khamsi (Ed.), World yearbook of education 2012: policy borrowing and lending in education. Wiborg, S. (2013). Neo-liberalism and universal state education: the cases of Denmark, Norway and Sweden 1980–2011. Comparative Education, 49(4), 407–423. https://doi.org/10.1080/03050068.2012.700436
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