Finland – NPM resistance or towards European neo-welfarism in education?

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Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Michael Uljens, Lili-Ann Wolff, Sara Frontini
Editors: Helen M. Gunter, Emiliano Grimaldi, David Hall, Roberto Serpieri
Place: London
Publication year: 2016
Publisher: Routledge
Book title: New Public Management and the Reform of Education: European Lessons for Policy and Practice
Start page: 39
End page: 52
ISBN: 978-1-138-83381-4
eISBN: 978-1-315-73524-5


In the year 2000, Finnish comprehensive education rose unexpectedly and unintendedly to the global agenda. The reason was top achievements in the PISA test. Finland moved from a peripheral position into the core of the global educational dialogue (Frontini, 2009, Uljens, 2009). This international awareness about the educational level in Finland would have passed without notice both within and beyond the country, had it not been for the neoliberal take on educational evaluation by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). However, what became the real puzzlement was the unexpected insight from this measurement practice, namely that an exceptionally high level and coherent school performance level was perfectly achievable within a state driven comprehensive school system governed by a national curriculum common and equal for all, where the national evaluation system applied sampling methods rather than kept track of individual schools‘ performance level (Uljens, 2007). With regards to its educational architecture, the system in Finland was informed and inspired by a traditional Keynesian, post-war social-democratic approach to citizenship and professional education introduced since the mid-1960s. Although this orientation was not stronger than in other Nordic countries, it obviously went deeper requiring a contextual and historical analysis to be understood. Our claim is that from an NPM perspective, Finland‘s success became an aporetic occurrence as it provided evidence that orthodox NPM policy was obviously not required for success. According to the logics of NPM, the means by which Finland reached success is more or less incomprehensible. How should the above be explained?


Educational leadership

Last updated on 2020-02-06 at 04:10