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Welfare state education in change: A historical analysis focusing on a research-policy agora and globalization in the politics of knowledge. At the Panel Session Comparative Education Research at the Education Policy Agora: On Globalizing Tandem Processes in Nordic Welfare State Education Policy and Research

Konferensbidrag (offentliggjort, men ej förlagsutgivet)
Författare Gun-Britt Wärvik
Publicerad i CIES, March 2018 in Mexico City.
Publiceringsår 2018
Publicerad vid Institutionen för pedagogik och specialpedagogik
Språk en
Länkar https://cies2018.org/cies-2018-prog...
Ämnesord Education, restructuring, agora
Ämneskategorier Pedagogik


In this paper, we take Sweden as an example on educational change after WW2, involving the research-policy agora and changes in the politics of knowledge (Nowotny et al, 2003) in a globalizing context (A3 and X, 2008). Whose knowledge about the school is what matters and on what grounds? The inquiry is identifying events and actors over time with a focus on epistemic attitudes (von Wright, 1983) in policy and research discourses that are internationally homogenizing over time, however translated in national contexts (A1 and Y, 2011). More recently, international large scale assessments have come to play an important role and to understand these processes of homogenizing educational change, including which knowledge is regarded as valid, we need to look at the development of national educational systems. Importantly, general principles of Swedish educational policy since the 1950s are that all citizens should have access to equivalent education regardless of age, gender, social class, and geographic background and that this education should be free of charge. These ideas have among other things been manifested in a mass education system that was rapidly expanding during the postwar period, and embracing all levels, from pre-school to higher education. The principles are still valid, however over the years they have been based on different assumptions on how valid knowledge about the school should be produced. The paper discusses how such changes fundamentally have altered the conditions for Swedish educational policy making. The changes include increasingly intertwined relations between discursive powers of policy production, research, and international rankings and comparisons accompanied by analyses of education, combined with weakened political parties. As a consequence, formation of education based on political ideologies has been toned down, and instead an elite-driven agora of diverse interest groups and their agendas has entered the educational scene, however somewhat amorphous and invisible in its character. Three governmental commissions form a point of departure for the analysis: The first is the Swedish School Commission of 1946 (SOU 1948: 27) concerning the long term development of the school. The problem of differentiation was at the centre, including how long the period of schooling should be. A context was societal demands on higher competencies among the population in general. There was a strong believe in the idea of organised market of the so called “Swedish Model”, including social engineering. Thus, it was anticipated that pressing societal problems could be solved and regulated by political interventions, administrative solutions and by scientific methods – and for the school –manifested in a very detailed and prescriptive national curriculum that should be modified in accordance with research results in a growing sector of education science, based on trust. The second is The Study of Power and Democracy in Sweden (SOU 1990:44), appointed in 1985. The qualities of Swedish welfare state (“the Swedish Model”), were not any more seen as unequivocal or had even disappeared in a globalizing society, characterized by societal transformations that over the decades gradually had been growing. Among other things, tensions between the laymen and professionals, the roles of the state, and the rule by the expert (including education scientists) and other interest groups were pointed out. Instead, the citizen should be placed at the forefront, however in a context of opening up a space for a manifold of interest groups. The centralized school system was facing far-reaching ideas of individualization, including free school choice and the raise of independent schools. The schools were expected to adapt to pressure from parents and students in order to increase quality, “more output for less input”. Sweden began participating in international large-scale assessments, and making municipalities and schools accountable for results against national standards and expectations. The third is the Swedish School Commission of 2015 (SOU 2017:35). Learning outcomes had been declining and it was anticipated that the Swedish school system had serious systemic weaknesses. However, instead of differentiation, the concerns now were improved knowledge, quality of teaching, and equality. The educational system in Sweden, once considered to be rather homogenous and well integrated was now characterized as fragmentized. A conclusion is that indicators of large scale assessments have got the status of intermediary agents as the solution to the problems of the school, replacing the myth of the “rational production” of the Swedish Model, however instead based on mistrust. The school has been opened up to new stakeholders, national and international, to influence with their own more narrow interest in mind, and based on different kinds of knowledge, thus creating dissonances in the manifold of voices. References Nowotny, H., Scott, P. and Gibbons, M. (2001). Re-thinking science: knowledge and the public in an age of uncertainty. Cambridge, UK: Polity SOU 1948:28. 1946 års Skolkommissions betänkande med förslag till riktlinjer för det svenska skolväsendets utveckling. (The 1946 School Commission report, suggested guidlines for the development of the Swedish educational system). Stockholm: Ecklesiastikdepartementet. SOU 1990:44. Demokrati och makt i Sverige. (The study of power and democracy in Sweden). Stockholm: Stadsrådsberedningen. SOU 2017:35. Samling för skolan – Nationell strategi för kunskap och likvärdighet. (National strategy for knowledge and equivalence). Stockholm: Utbildningsdepartementet. von Wright, G.H. (1983). Practical reason. Philosophical papers, vol 1. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

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