23 SES 09 A, Market Ideas and Practices I: School Choice in Finland
As a part of market-related education reforms, school choice has become a major policy adopted by compulsory education in many European countries. The Finnish comprehensive-school system has had a school-choice policy for more than a decade now while it was introduced in the big cities of Finland in the mid 1990s. (Seppänen 2006.) Finnish school-choice policy is very much in hands of the local authorities, because of the school system that seems to be the most decentralized system in Europe (Rinne, Kivirauma & Simola, 2002; Varjo, 2007).
There has been increasing number of alarming reports of that parental choice policy may increase inequality within the school-system. According to Piia Seppänen (2006) it has been seen that the higher the education and professional position of Finnish mother, the more predisposed the child is to applying to a school other than the local one. Distinctions between family background and school choice were even sharper when they were connected to the popularity of schools defined by application statistics. The pupils whose mothers or both parents had higher education were more likely to apply to the most popular schools. (Seppänen 2006.) It has been noted that parents are oriented culturally and materially in different ways towards the education market and they expect different things from it (Ball, Bowe & Gewirtz 1995). For middle class parents schools are expected to contribute to the cognitive development and intellectual ranking of their children, to their personal development, and to their social integration (van Zanten 2003). The middle classes will utilize their economic and cultural resources to ensure the continued reproduction of their children's educational advantage and it is mothers who are at the front line, ensuring the hard work of reproduction gets done (Reay 2005).
According to Diane Reay and Stephen Ball (1998) there are only few literature which looks at how educational decisions are made within families – the consultations, compromises and at times conflicts that lies at the centre of school the school-choice process (see also Ball 2003). However, international research argues that especially mothers are deeply involved in their children’s education and compulsory schooling (David, Davies, Edwards, Reay and Standing 1997; Reay 1998; 2003). It is also primarily mothers who help children with schoolwork, talk to teachers and network in order to cover relevant information which will ‘give their children headstart (Reay and Ball 1998; see also Reay et al. 2008).
The objective of this paper is to ask: How educational decisions of comprehensive schooling are made within Finnish families and what kind of role educated mothers have in these decisions? The material used in this study is gathered as a part of the national research project entitled ‘Parents and school choice – Family strategies, Segregation and Local School Policies in Finnish Comprehensive Schooling’ (2009-2012). The project explores the impact of school-choice policies and practices in the cities Vantaa and Turku. The results of this study will a part of my recently started doctoral theses.
Ball, S.J, Bowe, R. & Gewirtz, S. 1995. Circuits of Schooling. A sociological exploration of parental choice of school in social class context. The Sociological Review 43 (1), 52-78. Ball, S.J, 2003. Class Strategies and the Education Market. The middle classes and social advantage. London: RoutledgeFalmer. David, M., Davies, J., Edwards, R., Reay, D. & Stanging, K. 1997. Choice with Constraints: Mothers and School-ing. Gender & Education 9 (4), 397-410. Reay, D. & Ball, S. 1998. “Making Their Minds Up”: Family Dynamics of School Choice. British Educational Research Journal 24 (4), 431-448. Reay, D. 1998. Engendering Social Reproduction: mothers in the educational marketplace. British Journal of So-ciology of Education 19 (2), 195-209. Reay, D. 2005. Doing the dirty work of social class? Mothers’ work in support of their children’s schooling. The Sociological Review 53 (2), 104-116. Reay, D., Crozier, G., James, D., Hollingworth, S., Williams, K., Jamieson, F. & Beedell, P. 2008. Reinvigorating democracy?: White middle class identities and comprehensive schooling. The Sociological Review 56 (2), 238-255. Rinne, R., Kivirauma, J. & Simola, H. 2002. Shoots of revisionist education policy or just slow readjustment? The Finnish case of educational reconstruction. Journal of Education Policy. 17 (6), 643-658. Seppänen, P. 2003 Patterns of “public-school markets” in the Finnish comprehensive school from a comparative perspective. Journal of Education Policy 18 (5), 513-531. Seppänen. P. 2006. Kouluvalintapolitiikka perusopetuksessa -suomalaiskaupunkien koulumarkkinat kansainväli-sessä valossa. [School Choice Policy in Comprehensive Schooling – School markets of Finnish cities in the international perspective]. Turku: Painosalama Oy. van Zantén, A. 2003. Middle-class parents and social mix in French urban schools: reproduction and transforma-tion of class relations in education. International Studies in Sociology of Education 13 (2), 107-124. Varjo, J. 2007. Drafting Education Legislation for the Competitive State. The Parliament of Finland and the 1990s Change in Education Policy. Helsinki: Yliopistopaino.
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