Helping hands? : Exploring school’s external actor-networks

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Helping hands? : Exploring school’s external actor-networks


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Title Helping hands? : Exploring school’s external actor-networks
Author Ideland, Malin ; Axelsson, Thom ; Jobér, Anna ; Serder, Margareta
Date 2016
English abstract
During the last decade, the “failure” of the Swedish educational system has been frequently reported in the public debate. Due to this, a large edu-political apparatus has been implemented in a tremendous pace, for instance teacher legitimation and new curricula. Aside from these politically organized reforms, we can see a growing apparatus of “helping” actors, changing the educational landscape in Sweden as well in Europe. On the international arena McKinsey & Company, the OECD and Pearson Education are examples of big international edu-business, influencing national school systems all over the world (Gorur, 2011; Tröhler, 2009). Meanwhile, there is an emerging field of “helping” actors on a national level, for instance The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise´s (CSE) and private companies’ support of the teacher education Teach for Sweden, learning game developers, companies organizing and assessing schools, homework companies, teaching materials developed by Non Governmental Organizations. These actors come into being in a discourse of knowledge-based economy (Ball, 2012; Lawn & Grek, 2012) and a school crisis. School’s failure becomes translated into an underused potential to foster employable, internationally competitive and flexible citizens, inviting different actors, often lacking formal educational expertise, to “help”. The discourse of a Swedish schools crisis has come into being through a set of neoliberal ideals shaping common sense ways of imagining and practicing schooling (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010; Savage et al, 2013), such as “transparent” testing and rankings (Ball, 2012; Connell, 2013) with certain implications on educational system as well as other sectors of society, producing strategies, activities as well as subjectivities (Simons & Masschelein, 2008; Popkewitz, 2011; Serder & Ideland, 2015). As well, in the heart of neoliberalism lies the idea that individuals are free, but also obliged, to create their life trajectories through informed choices and life-long learning (Kaščák & Pupala, 2011). This opens up for edu-business activities also in students’ leisure time. In a recently started project we study “helping” actors and practices on a national level to show a Swedish example of the current transformation of education in Europe. We look at the phenomenon as an actor-network unfolding outside the formal edu-political systems, in a myriad of connections (Fenwick, 2011). The marketisation of education and the impact of knowledge economy have been extensively studied on a macro-level, with a neoliberal agenda pointed out and criticised for everything from school profits to emerging poverty (Connell, 2013). Here we leave the well-studied macro-level for near-sighted investigations of how the educational crisis in the knowledge economy unfolds in an unruly landscape outside formal educational systems. The purpose of the overall project is to study with what aims, under what conditions, in what forms and with which consequences non-educational actors engage in Swedish schools. This will be done through exploring enactments and negotiations of the discourse of Swedish school in crisis in and through contexts and activities outside the formal edu-political system. However, this specific paper presents results from the first part of the project, a pre-study in the shape of a network analysis built on netographic and ethnographic investigations of different actors in the external network. The questions are: How are edu-political discourses translated and materialised through different practices and negotiations in the network? What kinds of different actors are trying to “help” Swedish school and how are they linked to each other? What kinds of problems are they offering solutions to and with which means? In what ways do they legitimate their “help”? The study contributes to the understanding of politically un-governed enactments of the well-described marketisation of school, how the marketization in combination with an experienced crisis open up for new actions and actors.
ECER 2016 Leading Education: The Distinct Contributions of Educational Research and Researchers (22-26th of August 2016 : Dublin, Ireland)
Link (external link to publication)
Publisher EERA
Language eng (iso)
Subject actor-network theory
Michel Callon
educational companies
educational business
public/private state work
Stephen Ball
Humanities/Social Sciences
Research Subject Categories::SOCIAL SCIENCES
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