23 SES 02 B, Policies and Practices of Inclusion in Global Setting 2
The Swedish and English school systems have undergone fundamental transformations since the end of the 1980s. In in the early 1990s, Sweden with long tradition of centralistic, egalitarian, universalistic education shifted into the direction of a decentralised, marketised, individualised project, with significant elements of New Public Management ideas (Bunar 2012). Political decisions introducing student choice and favourable conditions for private actors have resulted in a fast expansion of “free schools” and a more market-like situation than in most other countries. Recent studies indicate that such policies contribute to increased segregation between schools and between students (Skolverket 2012; Östh, Andersson and Malmberg 2012), contradicting central intentions of Swedish education. There is still political consensus regarding the Swedish school system’s socially compensatory task and striving for equity and inclusion. Furthermore, the far-going decentralisation of responsibilities to the local level means that the ways that municipalities and schools try to balance the demands of being competitive and socially inclusive may show large variations. The United Kingdom, and England in particular, followed a similar trajectory of market driven reforms introduced in the late 1980s, combined with sophisticated systems of data management and central control of academic targets (Ball 2008, Jones 2003). ‘Inclusion’ in English schools, has been a long standing agenda since the 1990s, but it is a concept open to interpretation and defined by the marketised context schools operate in, and the high pressures for academic standards.
How municipal and school actors in the two countries understand the concepts of inclusion and competition, how they interprete and practice them, is very much shaped by the institutional histories of their municipality/school, but also what the policy context makes possible.
This presentation draws on a research project, funded by The Swedish Research Council, that focuses on how competition, performance and inclusion demands on upper secondary school are enacted at the local level, that is, how these policies are interpreted and translated and what strategies and practices emerge as responses to new/current policy context.
The paper aims to explore and understand similarities and differences in the ways Swedish and English municipal and school actors at the local level respond to the simultaneous demands of being competitive and inclusive.
The concept policy enactment (Ball, Maguire & Braun 2012) is used as a theoretical framework, a concept which emphasises the importance of multi-faceted contexts and that policies are discursive strategies (e.g. the construction of “an upper secondary school for all” and a school quasi-market). Putting policies into actions is a complex process in which various enactors with various interests and power take part. In a decentralised school system - which applies for the two countries - local actors, including municipalities and schools, are responsible for the realization of the national education policy.
At the same time, how education is actually constructed at the local level is sparsely highlighted in the research literature (however, see Hudson & Lidström 2002) – not least the issue of how inclusion is maintained in a market-oriented context.
Ball, S. (2008) The Education Debate: Policy and Politics in the Twenty-First Century, The Policy Press. Ball, S. Maguire, M. & Braun, A. (2012). How schools do policy. Policy enactments in secondary schools. London & New York: Routledge Bunar, N. (2012) The Free Schools “Riddle”: Between traditional social democratic, neo-liberal and multicultural tenets. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. 52: 4, 423-438 Hudson, C. & Lidström, A., eds. (2002). Local education politicies. Comparing Sweden and Britain. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave. Jones, K. (2003) Education in Britain, Polity Press. Silverman, D. (2010) Doing Qualitative Research, Third Edition, Sage. Skolverket (2012). Likvärdig utbildning i svensk grundskola? En kvantitativ analys av likvärdighet över tid. Rapport 374. Stockholm: Fritzes Östh, J. Andersson, E. & Malmberg, B. (2012). School Choice and Increasing Performance Difference: A Counterfactual Approach. Urban Studies published online 26 July 2012. http://usj.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/07/26/0042098012452322
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