A Recent Swedish Attempt to Weaken State Control and Strengthen School Autonomy: The Experiment with Local Time Schedules
2007 (English)In: European Educational Research Journal (online), ISSN 1474-9041, Vol. 6, no 3, 214-232 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
In 1999, after a series of far-reaching reforms aiming at decentralisation, deregulation and increased local autonomy in Swedish education, the Government decided to introduce a five-year experiment, which would develop these reform efforts even further. Even though Swedish compulsory schools already were the most autonomous in Europe with regard to decision making on school time, an experiment which allowed schools to freely decide time allocation and time management was launched. At least on paper, the experiment indicates a shift from state control to local autonomy, allowing school professionals to be free to make decisions on time distribution previously controlled by the state. The aim is to analyse and discuss whether the experiment has affected school autonomy or not and how this can be understood. The theoretical point of departure is a two-dimensional view of autonomy, where both freedom of action and capacity for action need to be taken into account. The freedom of action (the discretionary space for local actors) provided within the experiment is analysed through three properties of the experimental programme: programme clarity, division of responsibilities and control mechanisms. The schools' capacity for action concerns the extent participating schools make use of the discretion provided within the experiment. This is analysed in three schools with reference to their ability to organise themselves in a flexible way, as well as to what extent the schools have shown previous capacity for action and readiness for reform. Based on this analysis of the experiment, it is concluded that if reform efforts are made to increase school autonomy, they should not one-sidedly be focused on increasing local actors' freedom of action (such as abolishing the national time schedule). Such efforts should also be accompanied by measures to reinforce local actors' capacity for action. Unless local actors can make use of the discretion given to them by a superior (political) body, local autonomy will be far less than was intended, since freedom to act exceeds the actual capacity to act.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 6, no 3, 214-232 p.
Pedagogical Work Educational Sciences
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-17076OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-17076DiVA: diva2:156749