23 SES 11 C, School Inspection Policies and Practices
In recent decades governing processes of education in Europe and beyond has been influenced by neo-liberalism and new public management, involving policies such as decentralization, choice and competition. A far reaching marketization trend has been evident in where schools compete over students as consumers and customers (Rose 1999; Ball 2009, 2012). Alongside this trend of marketization, European countries and education systems are also witnessing increased trends of evaluation and state control through, for instance, national school inspections (Power 1999; Hudson 2011). In Sweden these trends have been remarkable with the introduction of school choice and free-schools, free of charge and state funded, in the 1990s. This has resulted in a growing school market with the unusual arrangement where free-schools also can retrieve profit from tax-funded education (Erixon Arreman & Holm 2011). With the decentralization of education, including the introduction of goal-related governing in education, state control seemed to decrease but this picture changed as national school inspections were reinstated in 2003. This reintroduction was meant to uphold educational equivalence, improve quality and pupil performance and these efforts were also reinforced with the new National Agency for School Inspection in 2008 (Hudson 2007; Rönnberg 2012). Underlying these justifications for increased control through inspection is also the belief that more control leads to a better market with more informed customers and the Inspectorate has recently introduced changes in the inspection of free-schools, such as joint inspections of educational companies and concerns and increased control of establishing a new free-school. The exciting and largely unexplored intersection of marketization and central state control in the Swedish education policy context is at the focus of this paper.
The aim is to analyze and critically discuss how the need for changes in the inspection of free-schools in Sweden is framed and represented. The research questions concern how these inspection policies are represented, what their purposes are, how the efforts are legitimized and motivated, what is unproblematised and what interests are prioritized? In so doing, I hope that we can reach a deeper understanding of the intersecting and complex governing practices of marketization in terms of competition and choice and increased national state control through school inspection. Although the Swedish marketization of education is unique, making it an interesting case in its own right, these governing practices are present in other national contexts as well, and the paper also aims to facilitate a discussion of these issues relevant to a broader European context.
Theoretically, the analysis draws on literature in the field of marketization of education (Ball 2009, 2012) as well as literature on the wider audit society (Power 1999) and school inspection (Clarke 2008; Ozga, et al. 2011; Rönnberg 2012). Mainly my interest lies in the aspect of governing and the argument that we as subjects are governed not by policies themselves but by problematisations. And that how we think about an issue or phenomenon shapes the ‘problem’ and the solutions put forward (Bacchi 2009).
Bacchi, C. L., 2009. Analysing Policy. What's the problem represented to be? Frenchs Forest, N.S.W.: Pearson. Ball, S. J., 2009. "Privatising Education, Privatising Education Policy, Privatising Educational Research. Network governance and the ‘competition state’." Journal of Education Policy. 24(1): 83-99. Ball, S. J., 2012. Global Education Inc. New policy networks and the neo-liberal imaginary. London: Routledge. Clarke, J., 2008. "Perfomance Paradoxes: The politics of evaluation in public services". I Davis, H. & Martin, S. (red.). Public Services Inspection in the UK. Research highlights in social work 50. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Dean, M., 2010. Governmentality. Power and rule in modern society. Thousand Oaks: SAGE. Erixon Arreman, I. & Holm, A.-S., 2011. "Privatisation of Public Education? The emergence of independent upper secondary schools in Sweden." Journal of Education Policy. 26(2): 225-243. Foucault, M., 1991. "Governmentality". I Burchell, G., et al. (red.). The Foucault Effect. Studies in Governmentality. London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Hudson, C., 2007. "Governing the Governance of Education. The state strikes back?" European Educational Research Journal. 6(3): 266-282. Hudson, C., 2011. "Evaluation – the (not so) softly-softly approach to governance and its consequences for compulsory education in the Nordic countries." Education Inquiry. 2(4): 671-687. Ozga, J., et al., (red.). 2011. Fabricating Quality In Education. Data and governance in europe. London: Sage Power, M., 1999. The Audit Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Rose, N., 1999. Powers of Freedom. Reframing political thought. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rönnberg, L., 2012. "Reinstating Swedish National School Inspections. The return of the state." Nordic Studies in Education. 32(2): 69-83.
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