Citizen Ideals and Education in Nordic Welfare State School Reforms
- Christian YdesenChristian YdesenAalborg University
- and Mette BuchardtMette BuchardtAalborg University
Education has long been held to be the nucleus capable of producing national identities, citizenry, and citizen ideals. It is the locus wherein the majority of children and families most actively experience their first encounter with the state and the societal order in the guise of state-sanctioned professionals, practices, culture, technologies, and knowledge. Starting from this observation and making a comparative, historical investigation of continuities and ruptures offers insights into the production of citizen ideals and the purposes of education. The Nordic states—Iceland, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark—have often been characterized as the cradle of the distinct—and, to many people, attractive—Nordic welfare state model known for distributing equal rights and opportunities among the entire population, for instance, by providing education free of charge. In addition, the educational system has been viewed as a means to create a citizenship mentality to support the welfare state program.
A central feature cutting across place and to some extent time is the apparent dilemma that exists between creating social mobility through education and thereby including “all,” while still finding the means to differentiate “under the same school roof” because pupils are individuals and must be taught as such to fulfill the ultimate needs of society’s division of labor. At the same time, the welfare state school must educate its pupils to ensure a level of equal participation and democratic citizenship among them as these youth advance through the system. School must be mindful of retaining different approaches to teaching that can accommodate differing levels of intelligence and learning abilities in the student cohort. The Danish school reforms of 1975 and 2014 are examples of how Denmark’s political leaders answered such challenges. The reforms also reflect a moment in time wherein politicians and administrators worked to resolve these challenges through modifying and recreating welfare state educational policies.