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In Event: Roundtable Session (Tuesday VII)
In Refereed Round-Table Session: Education reform and privatization in diverse contexts
This study is based on an interest in the interplay between science and society, conceptualized as an agora with different positions and actors (Nowotny et al, 2001) in contextualizing and relevancing research. Our case is Sweden as a Nordic Welfare state, transforming a centralized, state-driven reformistic welfare state education system into a highly restructured system in terms of privatization, decentralization and deregulation, including school choice based on vouchers. International large scale assessments (ILSA) such as the OECD PISA studies and the IEA TIMSS program are vital in current public discourses on education, and supranational organizations such as the OECD are asked by the government advice how to deal with the problems and gaps indicated by PISA results (Lindblad, Pettersson & Popkewitz, 2018).
We focus on the public opinion as part of the education agora problematic. We ask what are the views considering different aspects of school restructuring and about the uses of ILSA in governing and standardizing school? Are there groups with contradictory views and what are their locations in the social and political demography of the opinion?
Data for our analyses were collected and organized by the SOM-institute at the university if Gothenburg in their annual national polls in Sweden. We put forward a set of questions on education quality and governance in the polls. A response ratio of 55 percent (n=1700 individuals) was obtained from a national sample of respondents at the end of 2017. These data are combined with data from previous studies at the SOM-institute.
Considering views on schooling the trust in as an institution and in teachers is rather stable and rather high over the years, but a common view is that the quality of the school is getting worse. Considering different aspects of educational restructuring the public opinion is mostly taking a negative stance – no more privatization or profits in school business, and more of state governing. To analyze the demography of the public opinion we identified four distinct clusters: (A) supporters of reformistic welfare state schooling (34 percent), (B) disappointed supporters of welfare state schooling (15 percent), (C) uninformed opponents of welfare state schooling (n=30 percent), and (D) radical opponents of reformist welfare state schooling who instead strives for further restructuring (21 percent). Thus, the public opinion is disjointed and polarized in their views on schooling, which in turn corresponds to positions in the social structure and political preferences, where e.g. clusters C and D are to a large extent including conservatives and right-wing populists, while clusters A and B include more of social democrats and the green party. ILSA is regarded as significantly more useful for governing schooling in cluster C and most of all in cluster D.
This study increase our understanding of the current education agora with a disjointed and somewhat polarized public opinon, where governing by ILSA in the current welfare state context is a position presently occupied by restructuring proponents and the political right, with its emphasis on school results, efficiency and schooling for international competition.