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Enacting Contradictory educational ideals: Balancing marketization and social inclusion in practice
Mälardalen University, School of Education, Culture and Communication. (SOS-ED)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5079-9581
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Background

The marketization of education is an international phenomenon, with widespread consequences for schools, teachers and pupils. The marketization of the Swedish education system is a particularly interesting and extreme case in the international and European context. The realisation of market ideology in the Swedish education system can be viewed as a success in terms of its implementation and public and political acceptance. For instance, the proportions of pupils attending independent schools and the number of independent schools have grown exponentially, and school choice is seen as a democratic right and supported by most established political parties. However, there are several problems. Most importantly, market elements have contributed to increased segregation related to pupils’ background, the provision of special support, and of attainment. This is a real dilemma for a system that has emphasised social inclusion and education for all, egalitarian views that are seen as a point of departure for the Swedish education system. Thus, Swedish education lives with a tension of two educational ideologies, an individualistic-market educational ideology and a collectivistic-egalitarian educational ideology. Of course, both ideologies are far from unidimensional and encompass several different values and concepts. 

Several studies conclude or assume that these ideologies – and the policies inspired by them – are contradictory and that market mechanisms will undermine inclusive ambitions. However, this may appear differently in different schools, as policies are interpreted and enacted rather than implemented. While there are examples of policy analyses regarding one or both of these ideologies, and studies regarding their contradictions and incompatibility, there have been few attempts to study empirically the interplay and consequences of their coexistence and enactment in schools. In particular, we know very little about ‘unexceptional’ or ‘ordinary’ schools and their enactment of policies.

The project’s main objective is to develop a theoretical understanding of how these educational ideologies influence school’s work and organisation via policy and the enactment of policy. Using interviews with head teachers, the research questions are:

  • How do head teachers address, define and reflect around the challenges of social inclusion and market oriented policies in their work and in their schools?
  • To what extent do they believe pupils in general, and vulnerable pupils in particular are affected by market mechanisms in education? What are the challenges and/or benefits?

 

 

The theoretical point of departure is inspired by the work of Michael Apple, (2004), Thomas Popkewitz, (2008) and Stephen Ball (1993; Ball et al., 2012). Questions about what education should accomplish, how it is organised and who is to be educated are often implicit in political discourse. Here, educational ideologies are seen as rendering different answers to these questions and thus leading to different implications for educational practice and organisation. It is argued that these ideologies have different conceptualization of society, democracy and even the individual citizen. While public education may historically have collectivistic ideals, the market ideal views the citizen-in-the-making as a consumer rather than as a participant in the shaping of future society. The individual consumer of education is thus to be able to choose schooling according to his/her preferences. This can be opposed to viewing schooling as contributing to social cohesion and inclusion by accommodating a plurality of pupils.

These ideologies in turn find their way to policies, i.e. products of compromises, agendas and influences of various actors at various stages. Often containing contradicting goals and ambitions, policies then have to be interpreted and enacted by schools in a meaningful manner that fulfils the will of regulating and governing agencies as well as appeals to their prospective clients, namely pupils and parents.

 

Method  

For the purposes of this study, head teachers of primary schools have been chosen as respondents. Being in a middle management position, head teachers in Sweden are held accountable for the both the educational and economic situation of their schools. They answer to their principal organiser (PO) regarding economics, whether the PO is a municipality or a private organisation. Simultaneously, they are also accountable for the day to day work, the attainment of the pupils and the organisational situation the teachers work within. Additionally, head teachers are legally responsible for the special educational services and the preventive work against bullying. Finally yet importantly, they are to promote their schools as they compete for pupils (and thus fiscal resources). It can thus be argued that if anyone would see the consequences of market mechanisms and the responsibility of maintaining or achieving social inclusion, it would be the head teachers.

Twenty school leaders from both municipal and independent schools in three municipalities will be interviewed and asked to reflect upon marketization of education and dimensions of social inclusion. They are asked how these ideologies translate into their work, the organisation of their school, their staff, pupils and guardians of the pupils. In addition, documents and policies from each municipality and each school will be analysed.

The selection of municipalities and respondents is strategic. The three municipalities chosen have had different political approaches as regards the acceptance of market influences and thus very different experiences of the introduction of school choice and competition between schools. Municipality A has been very positive towards choice and private actors, for instance, implementing a ‘purchaser-provider’ model in the school sector services for several years. Municipality B has on the other hand been restrictive and attempted to veto the introduction of privately run schools several times. The third municipality is markedly smaller than the other two, and had not had any independent schools up until quite recently. In order to enrich the material with different experiences and perspectives, respondents will be contacted from schools with varying pupil demographics, in areas with varying social situations, and from both publically run schools and independent schools. These semi-structured interviews will take approximately an hour each and will be recorded and transcribed for subsequent analysis, using qualitative content analysis. Other theoretical devices, such as profession theory and organisation theory, may become useful to interpret these results.

Expected outcomes/results

The interviews are to be conducted in the upcoming month. The expected results are assumed to shed light upon how these educational ideologies, namely the individualistic-market ideology and the collectivistic-egalitarian ideology, can influence day to day work in primary schools. A common assumption is that they are incompatible and contradictory, and this is expected to appear in the responses. However, some prior research has shown that they live side by side in practice. That is not to say that one does not influence or diminish the other, rather that schools find ways to balance the two, resolving dilemmas as they arise. Hopefully, the paper can render a more nuanced understanding of these educational ideologies, how the coexistence of them can appear in the local context, and how schools enact seemingly contradictory policies.

Additionally, this research can contribute to an understanding of the role of head teachers as actors within the school system in general, and the individual schools in particular, especially as regards the consequences of marketization of the education system.

Intent of publication 

The results presented here are to be submitted to an international peer-reviewed journal shortly after presentation at the conference.

 

 

 

References  

Andersson, E., B. Malmberg & Östh, J. (2012). Travel to school distances in Sweden 2000-2006: changing school geography with equality implications. Journal of Transport Geography, 23:34-45.

Apple, M. W. (2004). Ideology and curriculum. New York, NY: Routledge.

Ball, S. J. (1993). What is policy? Texts, trajectories and toolboxes. Discourse, 13(2): 10-17. Reprinted in Ball, S.J. (2006). (Ed.) Education Policy and Social Class. The selected works of Stephen J. Ball. New York: Routledge pp. 43-66

Ball, S. J., Maguire, M. & Braun, A. (2012). How Schools do Policy. Policy Enactment in Secondary Schools. London, England: Routledge.

Booth, T., Ainscow, M. & Dyson, A. (1997). Understanding Inclusion and exclusion in the English competitive education system. International Journal of Inclusive Education, 1(4), 337-355.

Dyson, A. & Gallanaugh, F. (2007). National policy and the development of inclusive school practices: a case study. Cambridge Journal of Education, 37(4), 437-488

 Englund, T. (1998a). Utbildning som “public good “ eller “private good”? In T. Englund (Ed.), Utbildningspolitiskt systemskifte?  (pp. 107-142). Stockholm: HLS förlag.

Lubienski, C. (2009). Do Quasi-markets Foster Innovation in Education? A Comparative Perspective. OECD Education Working Papers No. 25, OECD Publishing.

Lundahl, L., Erixon Arreman, I., Holm, A.-S. and Lundström, U. (2013). Educational marketization the Swedish way. Education Inquiry, 4(3): 497–517.

Magnússon, G. (2015). Traditions and Challenges. Special Support in Swedish Independent Compulsory Schools. (Dissertation). Västerås: Mälardalen University.

Popkewitz, T. (2008). Cosmopolitanism and the Age of School Reform. Science, Education, and Making Society by Making of the Child. New York, NY: Routledge.

Rönnberg, L. (2015). Marketization on export: Representations of the Swedish free school model in English media. European Education Research Journal, 14(6), 549-565.

SNAE [The Swedish National Agency for Education]. (2012b). Likvärdig utbildning i svensk grundskola? En kvantiativ analys av likvärdighet över tid. Stockholm, Sweden: The National Agency for Education.

SNAE. (2014a). Private actors in preschools and schools. A mapping of independent education providers and owners in Sweden. Stockholm, Sweden: The National Agency for Education.

 SOU 2013:56. Friskolorna i samhället. Betänkande av friskolekommmittén. [The independent schools in society. Considerations from the independent school committee]. Stockholm, Sweden: Fritzes

Trumberg, A. (2011). Den delade skolan. Segregationsprocesser i det svenska skolsystemet. Diss. Örebro: Örebro Universitet.

 Vlachos, J. (2011). Friskolor i förändring. In L. Hartman (Ed.), Konkurrensens konsekvenser – vad händer med svensk välfärd? (pp.66-110). Stockholm, Sweden: SNS förlag.

Waldow, F. (2009). Undeclared imports: silent borrowing in educational policy-making and research in Sweden. Comparative Education, 45(4), 477-494.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017.
Keyword [en]
Marketization; Inclusion; Educational ideologies; Policy; Policy enactment
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:mdh:diva-36509OAI: oai:DiVA.org:mdh-36509DiVA: diva2:1144410
Conference
ECER 2017
Projects
Att balansera marknad och social inkludering i praktiken - Rektorer om iscensättning av utbildningsideal.
Available from: 2017-09-26 Created: 2017-09-26 Last updated: 2017-09-26

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