23 SES 05 D, Local Education Policy
Parallel Paper Session
In past decades, comprehensive school systems across Europe have gone through some major changes that followed the similar trajectories of deregulation, decentralisation and devolution that change for example the mechanism of school markets and parents’ role as individual consumer of education (Ozga et al. 2011; Green et al. 1999). In Nordic countries the formation of more open school choice policy has been significantly salient by reason of Nordic Model in Education that has strongly emphasized the equality of opportunity in admission and selection to basic education (Antikainen 2006). Diminishing direct national control has meant more space for local authorities to develop distinctive admission policies with the varying emphasis of specialisation and diversification of schools (Varjo & Kalalahti 2011; Ylonen 2009).
In the novel context, the local education authorities face pronounced conflicting obligations. On the one hand, the municipalities in Finland, while providing basic education, try to ensure the equality of opportunity, to guarantee that they fulfil everyone’s right to education as declared also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN 1948, Article 26). On the other hand, they have to fulfil the other right manifested in the same declaration: the right for parents to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. In local school choice policies, the central issue is balancing between the principles of the “neighbourhood school” and open enrolment.
Policy changes are more beneficial to some social classes than others. Like local authorities, also families confront conflicting obligation whether or not to choose the “neighbourhood school” or to select a specialised school for their children. In general, parents may endorse the equality of opportunity and the “neighbourhood school” principle, but still act as an individual education consumer and choose the best possible school for their own child (Swift 2003). Family preferences and choices are related with the family’s values and ability to make choices: school choice as a mechanism is connected to the capitals of families (Reay & Ball 1997; Lauder et al. 1999).
From this perspective, this presentation defines and outlines the differences in the educational strategies families use in varying institutional school choice spaces. The overarching objective is to identify and analyse a range of family positions and educational strategies covering school choice within the political, social and educational contexts of Finland. First, we outline school choice dynamics in Finnish context and define what kind of action can be seen as “opting out” choice, acting according to the principle of the Freedom of Education (of individual choice); and what can be seen as choosing the “neighbourhood school”, acting according to the principle of the Right to Education (for all). Grounding on these different educational strategies we complete the picture of family strategies by analysing class differences on these educational strategies. The aim is to explore how far, under what conditions and why do parents living in different conditions act or do not act upon their right to choose their child’s school?
Antikainen, A. 2006. In Search of the Nordic Model in Education. Scandinavian Journal of Educational research 50 (3), 229–241. 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. Lauder, H., Hughes, D., Watson, S., Waslander, S., Thrupp, M., Strathdee, R., Simiyu, I., Dupuis, A., McGlinn, J. & Hamlin, J. 1999. Trading in Futures: Why Markets in Education Don`t Work. Buckingham: Open University Press. Ozga, J., Dahler-Larsen, P., Segerholm, C. & Simola, H. (eds.) 2011. Fabricating quality in education. Data and governance in Europe. London: Routledge. Reay, D. & Ball S. J. 1997. ´Spoilt for Choice´: The working classes and educational markets. Oxford Review of Education 23, 1: 89-111. 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. Swift, A. 2003. How not to be a hypocrite. School choice for the morally perplexed parent. London: Routledge. 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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