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From local conditionality to complexity reductionism? Exploring national evaluation policy in educational reforms in Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science. Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of applied educational science.
2016 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The demand for evaluation and monitoring in governance is well known. A development that has taken different forms in different countries, this paper focusing on Sweden and the educational sector. Even though evaluation is an old practice within the government of Sweden, different times have called for different kinds of evaluation (see e.g. Vedung 2010). In the late 1980s the governing of the education system was reformed to a system of management by objectives and results, hence demanding new functions for evaluation in the governing of education. This could be seen as a shift into governing by evaluation (see Foss Hansen 2013). But how this takes shape can be expected to be a constant struggle since the question of what evaluation is, and should be, in a specific governing setting is a political question in a world of symbols, ideologies and power relations (Hanberger 2012). Therefore, how evaluation is perceived, what is being evaluated and how and whom having a voice are matters concerning governing of evaluation. The argument here being that by focusing on, and scrutinizing, evaluation policy these kinds of questions can be explored, questioned and possibly criticized. With evaluation policy being defined as the formal and informal rules, routines and norms that is used to shape, conduct or change decisions and actions regarding evaluation. This means that both explicit and implicit evaluation policy can be studied.

The aim of the paper is to explore and describe how evaluation policy is formed and steered within the educational sector in Sweden during two periods of intense educational reforms (1988-1994 and 2008-2014). Drawing on a policy design framework different design elements is identified from empirical material such as governmental and educational agencies documents, and by mapping of evaluation systems and evaluations conducted by responsible agencies. The analysis show that the amount of evaluations and evaluation systems has increased over the years. Today, the Swedish education system rely extensively on evaluations of different kinds as a way to control and enhance quality and performance in education and schooling but also to enable competition and support school choice on the Swedish education market. But while more measuring and evaluation could possibly widen the debate the preliminary results indicate that ‘complexity reductionism’ rather being the case. More performance measurements and use of indicators and to a larger extent relying on international student assessments to value the national educational system while stand-alone evaluations adhering to the complex nature of education taking the backseat. The preliminary findings thus indicate that evaluation policy could be one possible way to enhance our understanding of the relationship between evaluation and governance. Making it possible to question the role and function of evaluation in governance. And thus, to explore governance of and by evaluation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016.
National Category
Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalisation Studies)
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-166706OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-166706DiVA, id: diva2:1381144
Conference
12th EES Biennial Conference (EES2016) : Evaluation Futures in Europe and beyond. Connectivity, Innovation and Use, Maastricht, Netherlands, Aug 26 - Sept 30, 2016
Available from: 2019-12-20 Created: 2019-12-20 Last updated: 2020-01-02Bibliographically approved

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Benerdal, Malin

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