28 SES 16 A, Tracing the Formation and Utilization of Policy Knowledge and Research in Nordic Education Policy
Over the past twenty years, researchers in educational policy have critically examined the claims of evidence-based planning in the public sector. They have succinctly documented the changing role of the state and its move towards outcomes-oriented governance (Maroy, 2012). As a result of this shift, governments often commission policy-relevant educational research with a strong preference for studies that draw on international large-scale student assessments, reviews of “best practices,” and impact evaluations (Waldow & Steiner-Khamsi, 2019). Critics of evidence-based policy planning have pointed out that, in practice, this move entails a (pseudo) rationalization or scientification of political decisions, is driven by, and at the same time exacerbates governance by numbers and steering at a distance. The façade of rationality has been thoroughly dismantled in policy studies and includes critics who shed doubts on whether governance by numbers is less political or more rational than other modes of regulation. Even though many have scrutinized evidence-based policy planning, the focus has been on educational researchers who carry out commissioned work for the government and are therefore suspected to manufacture evidence in line with their political mandate. In contrast, whether and how government officials produce and use scientific knowledge is relatively underexplored.
Our international research project intends to fill this gap. Three features of our comparative policy study deserve special mention: (a) context-sensitive cross-national comparison, (b) the empirical study of policy transfer in the Nordic region, and (c) the introduction of social network analysis as a useful method of inquiry for policy studies. The symposium establishes the context, background, and importance of studying evidence-based policy and the role of expert bodies in the field of education. Key questions of the project are as follows: In an era of international comparison, how do policymakers in the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden) draw on domestic, regional, and international knowledge? How do they use evidence and expertise when setting reform agendas, developing new or modified policy options, or issuing new or revised school reforms?
The presentations draw on comparative network analysis, which combines bibliometric and content analysis as a useful research strategy for empirically studying the use of “evidence” in the policy process. Each of the five national research teams has identified the key policy documents as well as policy-relevant studies or commission reports for the most recent school reform in their country. These texts, along with those references listed in the policy documents, studies, and reports, have been entered into a bibliometric database. The database is extensive and includes 231 references for Denmark, 677 for Finland, 193 for Iceland, 2,312 for Norway, and 1,421 for Sweden. For detailed information about the research design, see Steiner-Khamsi, Karseth and Baek (2020).
This proposed symposium consists of four papers that examine the use of evidence across national contexts (within the five Nordic countries), across function systems (science versus politics; expert commission reports versus government policy documents), and across levels (national, regional, international). The first paper discusses the practice of evidence-based policymaking in each Nordic country in relation to country-specific institutionalized policy mechanisms and reform contexts. The second paper examines political translation of knowledge from the scientific level (advisory body) to the political level (decision-making authority) and points to the changing role of advisory commissions in today’s policymaking. The third paper explores the nexus between global, regional, and local by focusing on the OECD’s role as a knowledge broker in the Nordic region. The last paper pays closer attention to the transfer of Nordic knowledge and cooperation within the region and introduces the notion of “Nordic Other.”
Maroy, C. (2012). Towards post-bureaucratic modes of governance: A European perspective. In G. Steiner-Khamsi & F. Waldow (Eds.), World yearbook of education 2012: Policy borrowing and lending in education (pp. 82-99). London: Routledge. Steiner-Khamsi, G., Karseth, B., & Baek, C. (2020). From science to politics: Commissioned reports and their political translation into White Papers. Journal of Education Policy, 35(1), 119-144. Waldow, F. & Steiner-Khamsi, G. (eds.) (2019). Understanding PISA’s Attractiveness: Critical Analyses in Education Policy Studies. London: Bloomsbury
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
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