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Policy Knowledge and Lesson Drawing in Nordic School Reform in an Era of International Comparison (POLNET)

This research project  employs comparative network analysis to explore how school reforms are formulated,  developed and renewed by the production and use of policy knowledge and expertise within and across five Nordic countries. 

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About the project

In an era of international comparison, policy makers are expected to learn from experiences from elsewhere, apply international standards propelled by international organizations and review "best practices." Do they do so?  What counts for them as evidence and expertise? How do they draw on national, regional/Nordic and/or international expertise in issuing school reform within their country? A comparison of policy documentation from the Nordic countries will explore temporal, factual and social dimensions which drive the renewal of reforms in particular directions.


The outcomes will enable both policy researchers and experts to:

  1. Understand changes in the use of national, regional and international policy knowledge over the period 1988 - 2020 across five Nordic countries.
  2. Determine shifts in references to systems and knowledge about "best practices" or "international standards".
  3. Trace how influential transnational policy shifts associated with key problems such as accountability and equity are interpreted and translated across contexts.
  4. Contribute to foundational policy research on the nexus between local, national, and global policy.
  5. Explore the application of network analysis as a methodological and analytical tool for understanding governance in an era of international comparison.


Concretely, the study examines whether and how policy makers and policy experts involved in reform making processes have “learnt” from experiences in other countries and how they have “translated” that knowledge into their own country with the intention of improving their national educational system. Notions of policy learning, borrowing or reception on one hand, and translation, local adaptation, or re-contextualization on the other, represent key concepts for the interpretive framework of the study.

The study combines text-based social network analysis and semantical (content) analysis to compare the reception and translations of international, regional, and national policy knowledge across three distinct school reform periods in Norway (school reforms of 1994/97, 2006, 2020) as well as in five Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden).

The time frame is Sep 1st 2018 to Sep 1st 2023.


The Norwegian Research Council (11,9 million NOK)


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Published Aug. 2, 2018 4:22 PM - Last modified Nov. 28, 2022 6:34 PM