23 SES 12 C, Examining Educational Change Within and Between National Policy Spaces Using Discursive Institutionalism
This paper explores how DI can be used to frame how municipal/district education leaders choose to position themselves in a mediational process, acting in a tension between given economic conditions and curricular as well as political expectations. How do districts solve the challenges of living up to established and recognized equal rights of citizens and students. According to discursive institutionalism Schmidt (2008), policies, programs and philosophies contain two types of ideas. Cognitive ideas explore “what is and what to do” while normative ideas show “what is good and bad about what is” (Schmidt, 2008). Cognitive and normative ideas differ depending on what level of society and politics one tries to understand how national curricula function. In this study the principles of DI are applied as follows. In a societal situation featuring neoliberal policy, freedom of choice is an important value. In a school-context human freedom of choice refers predominantly to making decisions concerning the individual’s educational path. However, although promoted by existing policy, these individual rights may conflict with the Government Program (2011), given the objective of the Finnish education and cultural policy. These objectives are “ to guarantee all people- irrespective of their ethnic origin, background or wealth – equal opportunities and rights to culture, free quality education, and prerequisites for full citizenship. A second set of “ideas” in the Government Program intended, in a coordinative discourse among the political elite, to reduce the costs for the general upper secondary schools with a substantial sum, 30 million euros. In Finland education is by law arranged by the municipalities with state subsidies. Given the economic cuts it would be difficult for the municipalities to live up to the expectations and intention of the National Curriculum, that is, to provide the agreed number of courses for the students to choose between. Freedom of choice has become the Zeitgeist in contemporary political discourse and has impact on many parts of the society without being questioned (Mehta, 2011, p.26) also influencing the education field. The tension between the funding and the expectation presents itself as a challenge for the municipalities. The equal opportunities were endangered. The district leaders faced a communicative discourse in their municipalities and used their ideational background abilities and foreground discursive abilities to change their institutions (Schmidt, 2017), changes that could be followed empirically.
Mehta, J. (2011). The Varied Roles of Ideas in Politics. In Béland, D. &Cox, RH (ed.) Ideas and Politics in Social Science Research. New York: University Press. Schmidt, VA. (2008). Discursive Institutionalism: The Explanatory Power of Ideas and Discourse. Annual Review of Political Science. 2008. 11:303-26. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.polisci.1111060606.135342 Schmidt, VA. (2017). Theorizing Ideas and Discourse in Political Sceice: Intersubjectuvity, Neo-Institutionalism, and the Power of Ideas. In Critical Review. September 2017. DOI: 10.1080/08913811.2017.1366665 Program of Prime Minister Jyrki Katainen´s Government http://vnk.fi/documents/10616/622966/H0311_Programme+of+Prime+Minister+Jyrki+Katainen%E2%80%99s+Government+2011.pdf/41e14454-a2c2-4ed0-8179-e46801a37541?version=1.0 (downloaded 24.1.2018) Finnish National Board of Education http://www.oph.fi/utbildning_och_examen/gymnasiet/undervisningens_innehall_och_laromedel/kurser (downloaded 24.1.2018)
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