23 SES 08 A, The Nordic Vision of a School for All Meets the Neo-Liberal Education Policy. Part 1. Reports from Five Countries
Symposium, Part 1
The quest for equity in education in Finland has the roots in the 19th century project of nation-building. Education was regarded as a national public good, and therefore a duty of all people, also the commoners. Universally accessible elementary school was established as a product of national awakening. However, only under the auspices of the welfare state hundred years later in the 1970s, the basic school became sufficiently extensive and truly a school for all through a pivotal comprehensive school reform. School is contingent on social change. Post-industrial turn, the rise of new middle classes and the import of neo-liberal ideas led to a new pivotal turn in school politics in the 1990s. Deregulation, decentralisation and the introduction of free parental choice of school made local comprehensive schools into a school market, where education was sought as an individual asset instead of a public good. In the post-comprehensive era the comparative evaluation of learning outcomes was regarded essential. Finnish schools excelled in the OECD-conducted PISA measurements, and equity was offered as an explanation. However, since 2009 PISA results indicated local polarization of schools in regard to learning results. Equity of education seemed to deserve reconsideration.
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