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Professionalism and New Public Management in Teachers' Work: a comparative study on teachers' work experience in Sweden and Finland

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Katarina Samuelsson
Sverker Lindblad
Publicerad i Paper presented at the Emerging Researchers’ Conference at ECER 2013, Istanbul, Turkey, September 2013
Publiceringsår 2013
Publicerad vid Institutionen för pedagogik och specialpedagogik
Språk en
Ämnesord institutional logics, teacher culture,
Ämneskategorier Utbildningsvetenskap


In focus of this text is the correlation between two different steering mechanisms and school results in Sweden and Finland. These two Nordic countries have similar educational systems, but different results in international comparisons such as PISA. Finland has been in the top league over the years, while Sweden’s result started lower and then decreased. Many studies use these results and try to explain them by a different constellation of factors. However, as Simola (2005) argues, it is not enough to explain these differences with differences in teacher education or teacher excellence, a wider perspective need to be taken and this is a contribution to this discussion.

In this text we discuss prerequisites for different teaching cultures analysing a survey from 2005 (Sohlberg et al, 2007) using Freidson’s (2001) institutional logics: the logic of the market and the logic of the profession. The institutional logics are seen as different steering mechanisms. They are important since they set the limits as for what is possible for us to see and act upon. Both Sweden and Finland have gone through major restructuring. The countries traditionally have had a steering with a focus on the logic of the bureaucracy and the logic of the profession, but lately traces from the logic of the market also increases. It is of importance to see how these logics are experienced and acted upon in teachers’ working life, since they are part of their way of acting, thinking and their leeway in everyday situations.

The tentative results show that Finnish teachers experience less of the logic of the market/NPM and more traces of professionalism than the Swedish. This is not expected in terms of the rhetoric among efficient steering with NPM. That Finnish teachers display more of a logic of professionalism is, however, not surprising, given this has been an important issue in Finland for a long time (Simola, 2005). It is however, interesting in respect of the intention of late Swedish political reforms, which all have had as a goal as making teachers more professional, that the experiences of Swedish teachers seem to point in another direction (Foss Lindblad & Lindblad 2009).

We, in accordance with e.g. Simola (2005) Uljens (2005) and Coffield (2012) want to show that it is important not just claiming that the logic of the market/NPM means improved results in education. For now on we see our study and our results as an interesting way of discussing different institutional logics and their potential relation to national teaching cultures. Perhaps it is time to rethink education governance in relation to teachers’ work?


Coffield, F. (2012). Why the McKinsey reports will not improve school systems. Journal of Education Policy, 27(1), 131-149.

Freidson, E. (2001). Professionalism, the third logic. Oxford: Polity Press.

Goodson, I.F. and Lindblad, (Eds). (2011). Professional Knowledge and Educational Restructuring in Europe, 1-10. Sense Publishers.

Foss Lindblad, R. & Lindblad, S. (2009). The politics of professionalising talk on teaching. In S. Maarten, M. Olssen, & M. Peters (Eds.). Rereading educational policies: Studying the policy agenda of the 21st century. Rotterdam: Sense Publisher.

Johannesson, I.A. et al. (2002). An Inevitable Progress? Educational Restructuring in Finland, Iceland and Sweden at the Turn of the Millenium. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research 46(3):325-39.

Lindblad, S. & Popkewitz, T. (Eds). (2004). Educational Restructuring: International Perspectives on Traveling Policies. Information Age Publishing Inc.

Simola, H (2005). The Finnish Miracle of PISA: Historical and Sociological Remarks on Teaching and Teacher Education. Comparative Education 41(4): 455-79.

Sohlberg et al. (2007). Professional expertise under restructuring: Comparative studies of education and health care. The survey study. EU Sixth Framework Programme Priority. Contract no.: 506493.

Uljens, M. (2005). PISA-resultaten I Finland: perspektiv på och förklaring till Framgången [PISA results in Finland: perspectives on and exposition of success]. ttp://vasa.abo.fi/users/nuljens/pdf/PISA.pdf

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