23 SES 01 A, International Knowledge Assessment and National Reforms 1
In recent years international organizations have increasingly set the premises for the governing of education in a lot of countries. With Sweden as a case the intention in this paper is to contribute with knowledge on how national policy initiatives relate to international policy development. The specific aim is to analyze and discusses two characteristics in the development of the Swedish education policy: 1) the increasing influence of international knowledge assessments, and 2) the development of a state regulated system of management by objectives, realized by a strengthened system for follow ups and accountability.
Two decades have now passed since the early 1990s reforms of the Swedish school system, with increasing decentralization ambitions, where among other things a great responsibility was entrusted teachers. After that, from 2006 and onwards, another wave of extensive reforms have been carried through, which in research has been characterized in terms of result oriented steering, recentralization, quality and accountability (Bergh 2010, Sundberg & Wahlström 2012). As a consequence of new forms and new mandates there are considerable changes in how education is thought and governed, both regarding content, structures and agents.
In international contemporary research there is a growing interest among educational researchers in European countries to understand the relation between national and transnational reforms. This is often discussed in terms of Europeanization, with an argument that the main arena for understanding education now is the emerging and common European space (Lawn & Grek 2012). Many researchers have highlighted how the influence from the organizations EU and OECD have promoted a restructuring of horizon of expectation for the member countries (Sivesind, Van den Akker & Rosenmund 2012). However, what is also pointed out is that the formal curricula and their associated pedagogical practices remain largely under-researched as elements in the governing of education across Europe.
The education system is, like other social systems, closed and self-referential which in theory is intended to function within its own limits (Rasmussen 2004). But, when the political system experiences threats and challenges, like declining results in international knowledge assessments, it reacts in various ways. One reaction is to try to create a closer link between education and goal fulfillment. It is therefore natural to see reactions on the declining results being verbalized and carried out through systems of accountability. In this paper these discussion are highlighted through how international knowledge assessments and international discussions about quality enter and change the Swedish educational debate.
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