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Gustavsson, Erik
Publications (3 of 3) Show all publications
Gustavsson, E. (2018). Justice and the value base of school choice: Discursive displacements in Swedish school choice policy 1975-2018. In: : . Paper presented at ECER 2018 “Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research?”, 3 – 7 September,Bolzano, Italy..
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Justice and the value base of school choice: Discursive displacements in Swedish school choice policy 1975-2018
2018 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Is school choice fair? The main argument is to give citizens greater influence over their lives and to promote a more pluralistic and pedagogically innovative education system through competition. At the same time, research as well as OECD-reports show that some choice and school funding arrangements tend to strengthen the segregation within and between schools (Ambrose, 2016; OECD, 2012a, 2012b; Trumberg, 2013). Ultimately, school choice concerns issues of what education pupils should have access to, where, and how this should be decided. From this point of view, school choice is to be regarded an issue of justice. Justice, however, is certainly an essentially contested concept, with Gallie’s (1956) terminology. The essence of the concept, as well as the approaches to explore it, varies greatly. One could though, with education philosopher Harry Brighouse (2004), claim that the most fundamental task of a theory of justice concerns: “assigning relative weights to different values to decide exactly which value should prevail and how in particular situations” (Brighouse, 2004, s. 4). A central aspect of exploring the justice dimensions of school choice therefore has to do with identifying the values underpinning it, then arguing how these values should be weighted in relation to each other. The subject of this paper can be described as the value base of school choice (cf. Schüllerqvist, 1996). School choice, in some form, is present in most European education systems. Sweden, however, constitutes a historically interesting case, since the education system during the past 50 years has undergone a shift from strong state control to a deregulated choice system with great freedom of establishment for independent schools. The Swedish case is also especially relevant from a policy perspective, since the reform can be described solely as a policy reform, and thus not a result of religious or historical traditions. The aim of the paper is to characterize the value base of school choice in Sweden during the period 1975-2018, with the following research question: What discursive shifts and continuities can be seen in the debate on school choice and independent schools when studying policy documents from the investigated period? Discourse here refers to a certain way of speaking of something, here represented by the values obtaining recognition and legitimacy in a certain time (cf. Foucault, 1993). Given Apple’s (2004) understanding of the education system as ideologically and politically contested, I view policy documents as valuable empirical assets, since their inherent discourses can be viewed as carriers of these contentions. The paper constitutes an empirical step in a thesis project with the overall purpose of exploring and critically discussing the justice dimensions of school choice. At this point I explore the "public discourse" of school choice, identifying the values historically and currently supporting school choice policy in Sweden. Following this, I will later critically discuss the value base from a philosophical point of view, using three conceptions of justice. I will apply John Rawls’ (1971/2005, 2001) theory of justice as fairness to examine education and school choice as fundamental rights within the society’s basic structure. Amartya Sen’s (1980, 1992) and Martha Nussbaum’s (2011) capability approach will provide a discussion on how education contributes to functions and capabilities in people’s lives and whether school choice could promote or inhibit them. Finally, Nancy Fraser’s (2008; Fraser & Honneth, 2003) principle of parity of participation will complement the distribution-oriented theories with a perspective on recognition. The analysis is based on a comprehensive reading of policy documents (government bills, motions, official reports and other policy texts). The search and selection of documents was made mainly through the Swedish Parliament's website, and based on certain keywords (independent school, individual schooling, individual education, school choice). In the selection, I also used the concept of intertextuality (Fairclough, 1992), searching for the chain of meaning and content between different texts. From a practical point of view, this mean that I have continuously supplemented my material with documents frequently referred to in my first text selection. Since emphasis is put on characterizing the value base of school choice, and not particularly to outline the views of specific political parties, government bills and official reports of the government have been prioritized in the analysis. The government bills are usually based on one or a few reports, which contains policy suggestions as well as statements from different stakeholders. The distinction 1975-2018 is made due to the official report conducted 1973-1975 with the subject of civil rights and freedoms (SOU 1975:75). In the after play of the investigation, political voices were raised to claim the constitutional right for parents to choose school for their children (Mot. 1975:75:2553). The presentation will cover this issue, as well as other prominent discussions on school choice and independent schools in Swedish politics. To emphasize the global perspective and the influence from transnational policy actors, the presentation will also include OECD reports. The analysis is of a more conceptual kind, aiming to generate useful value concepts that can be used for further philosophical thought in relation to the justice conceptions mentioned. The discussion will therefore center around the broader historical strokes. Excerpts from the documents will be used to highlight the characteristics of the value base as well as the discursive shifts and continuities that can be seen during the investigated period of time. The value base of school choice is characterized by three core values: equality, pluralism and individual freedom (cf. Godwin et al., 1998; Perry, 2009). These values are present during the entire period, but with a change of meaning and status due to a discursive displacement from a "public good" to a "private good" discourse on education. In the 70s and 80s, until the actual reform in 1992, school choice was part of a more democratic and public agenda. The introduction of school choice was considered a way of decentralize the state's decision power over people's lives. By extended governmental grants to independent alternatives - with the requirement of charge-free education - the idea was to create a more equal education system where all families could exert influence over their education. That school choice could create a more pluralistic orientation was also framed as a somewhat collective argument, meaning that pluralism revitalizes the school system as a whole, benefiting everyone. During the 00s, the value base is defined with regards to a more individualistic conception of education, emphasizing the individual responsibility as well as the "private good" side schooling. Choice is here viewed more or less as something fundamental in Western democracies. In the documents, this means that choice is primarily there for individual life projects. Within this line of thought, pluralism is regarded as important mostly because it enables a wider range of individual opportunities of choice. In the policy documents of recent years, a shift towards a strengthened (in)equality discourse can be seen. This applies to both domestic and transnational actors (OECD, 2015; SOU 2017:35) and concerns especially the possibility of using school choice to counteract segregation. It is worth noting, however, that the confidence in rational choices and market mechanisms remains strong.

National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-77968 (URN)
Conference
ECER 2018 “Inclusion and Exclusion, Resources for Educational Research?”, 3 – 7 September,Bolzano, Italy.
Available from: 2018-09-24 Created: 2018-09-24 Last updated: 2019-02-22Bibliographically approved
Gustavsson, E. (2018). The value base of school choice: A historical and discursive perspective. In: : . Paper presented at NERA 2018, Educational Research: Boundaries, Breaches and Bridges, 8-10 March 2018, University of Oslo, Norway.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The value base of school choice: A historical and discursive perspective
2018 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Research Topic During the development of school choice policies in Sweden the values of pluralism, parental influence and equal education for all children where present in different ways. Since the reform in 1992, the idea of parental choice in education has reached almost a level of political consensus. However, due to declining PISA-results and increased school segregation, the political debate on school choice in Sweden nowadays has heated up after having maintained status quo since the middle of the 90s. One example is the latest report from the Swedish School Commission, which on the basis of OECD-recommendations suggests school choice-targeted solutions for balancing the values mentioned above (OECD 2015, SOU 2017:35). The aim of this paper is to characterize the value base of the school choice debate during the period 1975-2017, with the following research question: What discursive shifts and continuities can be seen in the debate on school choice and independent schools when studying political documents from the investigated period? Theoretical and methodological framework My overall understanding of the education system take departure from curriculum theory, i.e. I view the curriculum as ideologically and politically contested (Apple 2004). In this presentation, the focus is directed to how the value base of school choice is discursively constructed and changing, emphasizing the values and “truths” that obtain recognition and legitimacy over time (Schüllerqvist 1996). The analysis is based on a comprehensive reading of political documents (motion, government bills, official reports and policy texts). The searching and selection of documents was centered around some key words as well as the principle of intertextuality (Fairclough 1992). I will provide a brief summary of the values and arguments discussed in the 70s and 80s, but the presentations main focus will be on the present. Excerpts from documents will be used to highlight the characteristics of the value base of the school choice debate. Findings and relevance for Nordic educational research The Swedish school choice debate circles around four values: parental influence, diversity and pluralism, equal education and the tension between public and private good. The most significant trend over time is perhaps a narrowing of the democratic and pedagogical goals of school choice. However, during the 2010s, a small shift can be seen, putting stronger emphasis on how to use school choice to counteract school segregation. The actual right to choose, however, still seems uncontested and is considered “here to stay”. The relevance for Nordic education research is mainly tied to the possibility of comparing what values have shaped the Nordic education systems over time, but also in gaining understanding of how transnational policy actors more and more seems to define domestic politics. 

National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences, Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-77967 (URN)
Conference
NERA 2018, Educational Research: Boundaries, Breaches and Bridges, 8-10 March 2018, University of Oslo, Norway
Available from: 2018-09-24 Created: 2018-09-24 Last updated: 2019-02-22Bibliographically approved
Gustavsson, E. (2017). Social justice and the free school choice: A theoretical discussion on the policy of free school choice in Sweden. In: : . Paper presented at The 45th Congress of the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA). Copenhagen, Denmark. 23-25 March 2017.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Social justice and the free school choice: A theoretical discussion on the policy of free school choice in Sweden
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Research Topic: Issues of social justice has recently become political dynamite in Europe and in Sweden, especially due to humanitarian disasters and a large reception of refugees. The opportunities for individuals and groups to affect their lives and participate in various communities largely depend on socially equitable arrangements. Thus, the legitimacy of any democratic education system must rest on principles that is considered somewhat socially just (Allen & Rech, 2013; Gutmann, 1999). It is therefore urgent, as Cribb and Gewitz (2003; Gewirtz, 1998) states, to widen reflections concerning the establishment of socially just arrangements in education. One way is to explore implications of theoretical justice conceptions. In this paper focus is directed to the case of the free school choice – a reform, whose segregating effects has been discussed and also critized over recent years, by domestic investigators (IFAU 2014a, 2014b; SOU, 2016:38) and researchers (Blomquist & Rothstein, 2008; Böhlmark & Lindahl, 2007), as of transnational policy actors (OECD, 2015). However, the reform gains strong support by parents, and has barely been questioned by political parties. Aim: The overall aim of this paper is, with inspiration from John Rawls theory of justice as fairness, to conduct a theoretical discussion concerning the justice dimensions of the free school choice. The research question is: How can one understand the social justice implications of the free school choice, when explored from John Rawl’s theory of justice? Theoretical frameworks and research design: The analysis consists of three parts. First, to discuss the philosophical issue of what social justice might be, I present the alternative offered by John Rawls (1971/2005, 2001). I outline the fundamental principles of Rawls theory of justice as fairness, and what aspects of the free school choice policy that becomes critical, given the theory’s concepts. Secondly, with the empirical issues generated by the theory, I conduct an analysis in which I highlight the justice dimensions of the free school choice as they are reflected in policy documents on both national (SOU 2016:38) and transnational level (OECD, 2012, 2015). Finally, I discuss if, and if so how, the free school choice could be understood and organized in line with Rawls difference principle, stipulating that inequalities can be permitted if they also promote the societies least advantaged. The study is based upon a constructivist-discursive view (Jörgensen & Phillips, 2002). Thus, the knowledge claim is not do depict reality ”as it is”, but rather to visualize the justice discources in education policy and the possible knowledge benefits of bringing a philosophical perspective to the table. Expected findings and their relevance for Nordic educational research: The result of the analysis shows the strengths and weaknesses of Rawls theory of justice in relation to the policy of free school choice. The analysis also highlights the discursive interplay between transnational and Nordic educational policy. The main contribution is that the study emphasizes end exemplifies the importance of theoretical reflection regarding justice issues in and for today’s democratic education system.

National Category
Pedagogy
Research subject
Pedagogics and Educational Sciences, Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:lnu:diva-77966 (URN)
Conference
The 45th Congress of the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA). Copenhagen, Denmark. 23-25 March 2017
Available from: 2018-09-24 Created: 2018-09-24 Last updated: 2018-10-30Bibliographically approved
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