Policy of suspiciousness –mobilization of educational reforms in Sweden

Ninni Wahlström and Andreas Nordin examine the transfer and translation of policy ideas and knowledge by analyzing the bibliographic references in the policy documents from OECD and Swedish School Commission.

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The authors find that knowledge base for the respective policy document was highly internal and self-referential. However, OECD’s ideas and proposals were selectively transferred and translated into domestic knowledge base, and this process was facilitated by the four policy discourses (distrust, standardization, low expectations, and comparability) that built up the pressure for the Swedish school reform.

In this article, we explore the processes of transfer and translation of education policy in a study focusing on the relationship between the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Sweden. The purpose of the study is to investigate how selective borrowing occurs both in terms of references to different types of knowledge sources underpinning the arguments and shared discourse formations. The data were obtained from two policy reports: an OECD review report of the Swedish school system and a Swedish follow-up report proposing actual school reforms. The method was twofold: first, mapping, categorizing, and counting all the textual references in the two documents; second, critically analyzing the discourses emerging in the two policy texts. The results show that international references play a significant role in substantiating arguments for Swedish education policy. Both policy texts share a policy discourse characterized by suspiciousness toward the professionalism exercised by teachers and local education authorities.


To cite this article:
Ninni Wahlström & Andreas Nordin (2020): Policy of suspiciousness –mobilization of educational reforms in Sweden, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, DOI: 10.1080/01596306.2020.1822294

Tags: Policy borrowing, externalization, policy discourse, Sweden, policy knowledge By Ninni Wahlström, Andreas Nordin
Published Mar. 1, 2022 3:28 PM - Last modified Mar. 1, 2022 3:28 PM