23 SES 09 B, What is the ‘Public’ in Public Education? Mapping Past, Present and Future European Educational Imaginaries
The organisation of education is indicative of overarching political prioritizations of democratic ideals such as inclusion and equity, social relations, distribution of resources and power (Apple, 1997). The Nordic countries are often described as social-democratic welfare-states. While there is some historical truth to this, all the Nordic countries have taken steps towards market-oriented approaches to conceptualizing and organizing education (Dovemark et al., 2018). In an international perspective, Sweden is an extreme case and its development often described as a paradigm shift, moving from viewing education as a matter of welfare-state, public-good to a market-system and a private-good (Englund, 1998). However, this historical development has roots far back in time, and has been pushed by both left-wing and right-wing governments (c.f. Hwang, 2002; Wedin, 2018). Thus, the neoliberal imaginary of education is not a question of left vs. right, but rather a matter of political consensus albeit with different emphases or terminology. In that sense, we are “…witnessing the unchallenged hegemony of neo-liberalism with its claim that there is no alternative to the existing order. (Mouffe, 2005, p. 31) The aim of this paper is to illustrate how this hegemony has evolved and been enacted by governments of different political nominations. Here, an analysis of Swedish government statements from 1994-2019 is presented, using an analytical framework combining concepts from Bacchi (1999) and Popkewitz (2009). The analysis shows that governments of different political nominations view education both as a tool to amend societal problems of the future and as a problem in itself. The definitions of problems are often inherited from previous governments and seen as matters of future macro-economic competition and the needs of the employment market. When education is discussed in terms of individuals, it is primarily viewed as a private good, a tool to prepare individuals for employment and competition and as a matter of individual choice and preference. The solutions are ear-marked resources, comprehensive curricular reforms, increased demands and external inspection. Conclusions are drawn about the consequences of the perpetuation and reproduction of the increasingly narrow and reductionist view of education as a machinery for and of the market. This is particularly problematic as Sweden struggles with increasing problems of segregation and decreasing inclusion and equity within the education system and the hegemonic consensus of the market model suffocates alternative solutions rather than questioning of the market as a model for education.
Apple, M. W. (1997). Education and the conservative restoration: Moral logics and genetic explanations. In Nilsson, I. & Lundahl, L. (Eds.), Teachers, curriculum and policy. Critical perspectives in educational research. (pp.11-28) Umeå, Sweden: Umeå University Press. Bacchi, C. (1999). Women, Policy and Politics. The Construction of Policy Problems. London: Sage Publications Dovemark, M; Kosunen, S., Kauko, J. Magnúsdóttir, M; Hansen, P. & Rasmussen, P. (2018). Deregulation, privatisation and marketisation of Nordic comprehensive education: social changes reflected in schooling. Education Inquiry, 9(1), 122-141. Englund, T. (1998a). Utbildning som “public good “ eller “private good”? [Education as “public good” or “private good”?]. In T. Englund (Ed.), Utbildningspolitiskt systemskifte? [Paradigm shift of education politics?] (pp. 107-142). Stockholm, Sweden: HLS förlag Hwang, S-J. (2002). Kampen om begreppet valfrihet [The struggle for the concept freedom of choice]. Utbildning och Demokrati, 11(1), 71-110. Mouffe, Chantal, (2005). On the Political. London: Routledge. Popkewitz, T. (2008). Cosmopolitanism and the Age of School Reform. Science, Education, and Making Society by Making of the Child. New York, NY: Routledge. Wedin, T. (2018). The Aporia of Equality. A Historico-Political Approach to Swedish Educational Politics 1946-2000. Diss. Gothenburg: University of Gothenburg.
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