23 SES 04 D, Local Education Policy
Parallel Paper Session
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948) sets two determining principles of law directing the admission and selection in basic education.
On the one hand, basic education is outlined as basic human right assured by nation states: “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.” (Article 26.)
On the other hand, the declaration requires nation states to respect the educational freedom of parents by allowing them to choose and establish private or alternative educational institutions for their children: “Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children” (Article 26).
Different emphases and interpretations of aforementioned rules of law are determining principles of the admission and selection in basic education. The balance between these principles is flexible and fluid: constantly open to changes and alterations, both temporally and spatially. Since 1980s, numerous education reforms over the Europe have sought to dismantle centralised bureaucracies and replace them with devolved systems of schooling, emphasising parental choice and competition between increasingly diversified types of schools. In decentralised operational environments, new education policy initiatives have been implemented and adapted in very different and even contrary means on the sub-national level. These changes in local–central relations have produced a shared repertoire of structural and relational changes including deregulation, decentralisation and devolution, along with marketisation, consumer choice and individualisation (Ozga et al. 2011; Green et al. 1999).
Administrative reforms, based on principles of decentralisation and deregulation, have reduced direct national control and allowed more authority also for Finnish municipalities to determine their own government and the ways in which to produce services they are in charge. Traditionally, the model of Finnish basic education has been built on principle of equality, and the provision has been governed by school districts. The 1999 Basic Education Act (628/1998) obligates municipalities only to assign to a child of elementary school age a neighbourhood school or some other appropriate place where education is given. As a result, local authorities have developed distinctive policies and practices concerning local models of admission and selection (with various potential to exercise parental choice), specialisation and diversification of schools, competition between schools and principles of local allocation of resources, among others. (Varjo & Kalalahti 2011; Ylonen 2009; Seppänen 2006.)
The aim of this presentation is to outline and analyse the various ways in which local education authorities (i.e. municipalities in Finland) are balancing between the two aforementioned principles while providing basic education. Our emphasis will be given to the matters that are characteristically under municipal authority and jurisdiction: local models of selection and admission, specialisation of schools and principles of local allocation of resources. What kind of explicit admission policies and practices are pursued to safeguard the Right to Education; and, then again, what are developed for the sake of Freedom of Education? What are the possible consequences in terms of equality of opportunity?
Basic Education Act (628/1998). Green, A., Wolf, A. & Leney, T. 1999. Convergence and Divergence in European Education and Training Systems. London: Institute of Education. University of London. Ozga, J., Dahler-Larsen, P., Segerholm, C. & Simola, H. (eds.) 2011. Fabricating quality in education. Data and governance in Europe. London: Routledge. Seppänen, P. 2006. Kouluvalintapolitiikka perusopetuksessa. Suomalaiskaupunkien koulumarkkinat kansainvälisessä valossa. [School Choice Policy in Comprehensive Schooling. School markets of Finnish cities in the international perspective.] Finnish Educational Research Association: Research in Educational Sciences 26. UN 1948. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Paris: The United Nations. Varjo, J. & Kalalahti, M. 2011. Koulumarkkinoiden institutionaalisen tilan rakentuminen [Constructing institutional space for the local school markets]. Yhdyskuntasuunnittelu [The Finnish Journal of Urban Studies], 49 (4), in press. Ylonen, A. 2009. Specialisation within the Finnish comprehensive school system: Reasons and outcomes for equity and equality of opportunity. Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller.
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