The ‘spirit of the times’: Fast policy for educational reform in Finland

Ian Hardy*, Hannu Heikkinen, Matti Pennanen, Petri Salo, Tomi Kiilakoski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This article examines the nature of neoliberal influences upon educational policy making in the Finnish education system in recent times. The article draws upon key policy documents, government reports, journal articles and media articles about reforms in the early childhood, basic/compulsory school and vocational education and training sectors to evidence these processes. Analytically, these reforms are understood as instances of what has been referred to as ‘fast policy’. Methodologically, we draw upon principles of zeitgeist analysis to reveal the features and effects of these fast policy influences as they relate to educational provision in Finland. These features and effects include intensification and fragmentation of educational reform processes, increased individualisation and decontextualization of the educational reform agenda, and a trend towards increased instability, privatisation and reduction in funding for educational provision. The article foregrounds the features and effects as reflective of the ‘spirit of the times’ in which such reforms are undertaken, and cautions against these fast policy effects for the problematic consequences they appear to be having upon policy making processes, educational outcomes in Finland and the ‘spirits’ of Finnish educators.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalPolicy Futures in Education
Publication statusPublished - 23 Nov 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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