23 SES 16 B, Unpacking Myths of the Nordic Success Story of Education in an Era of Multiple Crises
Background In the 1990s, math and science in Nordic education were part of the push for democratization. These subjects were part of people’s dannelse —the Nordic version of bildung, or liberal education in the German tradition. Progressive forms of pedagogy associated these areas with reflection, critique, and democratic citizenship (Sjøberg, 2005; Skovsmose, 1992). Since the 2000s, the participation in the OECD’s PISA study articulated a change in policy where more and better math and scientific qualifications were associated with boosting productivity, innovation, and competitiveness in global economies. Thus, children’s math and scientific education aligned with neoliberal agendas where these subjects became indicators of individual and social human capital development and progress (Valero, 2017). Objective The aim of this paper is to show how policies in math and science education in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway have been part of the shift from education for democracy, to education for the economy that characterizes recent educational changes in the Nordic countries; and how in(ex)clusions are promoted in these subjects. Theoretical framework The analysis adopts a perspective policy as a technology of government (Valero & Knijnik, 2016), within a Foucaultian analytics of governmentality to show how discursive changes in policy texts steer subjectivities towards neoliberal forms of being and generate in/exclusion. Methods and data sources The analysis is carried out on the subject matter policies in the 1990s and in the 2000s and on PISA results and OECD national reports and directives in the three countries. Results Statements about the function of math and science in society have changed. Besides, deep gaps in school achievement are being promoted between different groups of the population. In particular, the difference between the achievement of “immigrants” and “local” students in these subjects is becoming a source of systematic exclusion in education (OECD, 2006). At the same time, the routes to success through math and science seem to close around certain groups of students belonging to the dominant cultures. The desire and political will for more and better math and science, appealing to inclusion, contributes to the fabrication of neoliberal subjectivities in schoolchildren, and creates big gaps among different groups in society. The result is the erosion of education for all, at the core of the Nordic model.
OECD. (2006). Where immigrant students succeed. A comparative review of performance and engagement in PISA 2003. Paris: OECD. Sjøberg, S. (2005). Naturfag som almendannelse. En kritisk fagdidaktik. Aarhus, Denmark: Klim. Skovsmose, O. (1992). Democratic competence and reflective knowing in mathematics. For the Learning of Mathematics. An International Journal of Mathematics, 12(2), 2–11. Valero, P. (2017). Mathematics for all, economic growth, and the making of the citizen-worker. In T. S. Popkewitz, J. Diaz, & C. Kirchgasler (Eds.), A political sociology of educational knowledge: Studies of exclusions and difference (pp. 117–132). New York: Routledge. Valero, P., & Knijnik, G. (2016). Mathematics education as a matter of policy. In M. A. Peters (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory (pp. 1–6). Singapore: Springer Singapore.
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