Right and wrong in the school – exercise of public authority and evolving tensions between professions

Research project
Inactive research
Project period
2013 - 2016
Project owner
The Department of Education and Special Education, University of Gothenburg

The Swedish Research Council

Short description

The aim of this project has been to study the process of juridification in the Swedish school. Juridification signifies that legal rules and procedures are disseminated to different social arenas, in this case to the school. Here it signifies the process when activities in school in an increasing degree are regulated, interpreted in a legal discourse and handled in accordance to legislation. Especially the institution of the Swedish Schools Inspectorate and the Education Act from 2011 (SFS 2010:800) has strengthened the process of juridification in school. When the legal regulation concerning school becomes more extensive, there is a change in the function of school and legislation to enhance the individual needs and rights. It is mainly manifested in the increasing possibilities for pupils.

About the project

Teachers work in schools can be studied as an example of professionals with knowledge within a certain area fulfilling a public mission that they have a political legitimacy to execute. An important constituent of their profession are based on judgement and discernment. Decentralization and deregulation in combination with the establishment of independent schools have reinforced the development of a more extensive legal regulation for schools in order to guarantee the legal rights of the pupils. The strengthening of individual rights concerning education is manifested in the quantity as well as the categories of complaints from pupils and/or parents to the Swedish Schools Inspectorate and to the  Child and Pupil Representative. The extensive legislation and the increasing use of legal measures against school employees and school authorities have contributed to tensions between education and legislation in those areas where they represent different perspectives and solutions. Simultaneously you can also observe a change in the apprehension of education, from being considered a public good to be understood as an individual right, a private good.

What we are going to study is how the increased legislation are handled in school. More precisely we want to analyze how teachers, school leaders, school authorities, the Swedish Schools inspectorate and the legal system handle the boundaries of legal and pedagogical aspects of education. With an interdisciplinary point of departure our ambition is to study how different institutional logics emanated from the judicial system, and educational professions, cooperate and how possible contradictions arise in the meeting between jurisdictional logic and the competences and ethics of the educational professions are manifested in the management of school.


Research questions

  • How can the change of the relation between legal governance and control of school vis-à-vis the legitimacy and responsibility of teachers and principals be understood?
  • How is school as institution in relation to the legal system affected when different institutional logics are supposed to cooperate.