The governance of the Swedish Educational system was centralized before 1990 and Education was seen as a part of the Welfare state. Many reforms were implemented since then that have made the system decentralized, but goal-oriented and accountable, following the wave of New Public Management inspired reforms that were introduced in many other educational systems. On behalf of the government, the Department of Education sets the educational goals and evaluate the results, while the local authorities, the 290 municipalities, have the main responsibility to organize and deliver the adequate education to the citizens, employ the teachers, following the curriculum and other directives and regulations. The role of the National Agency of Education, has changed overtime. The NEA not only proposes goals to be reached, collects and reports data on school results, but has taken over the years a more active role in school development, developing materials and guidelines, and also distributing supplementary national funding on particular projects. Despite prioritizing Education as a key sector, the performance of the Swedish school system is declining. The results in literacy and mathematics as measured with international assessments has shown the largest dip, compared with other countries. The number of low-performer students has increased and the number of top-performers has decreased in several assessments. The share of immigrants students is 15% in Sweden. The performance decline is not imputable to an increase in their numbers, however. On the other side, the consistent performance gap between immigrant and non-immigrant students is an issue. Although there are policies in place that support the integration, second language learning and mother-tongue tuition of newly-arrived students, there are signals that the educational system is not working optimally for these students. For this reason, the Department of Education launched a project administrated by the NEA, giving additional funding to Language learning, with the aim to increase the efficacy of their schooling. The schools apply for the project and get a reimbursement for each student enrolled, if they offer 105 hours extra tuition in Second Language Learning to the newly-arrived students. The paper will look at the interaction between the national policy and the local practice, doing an analysis of policy and policy realization in a decentralized system, where the policies may be considered as re-created in the contexts of practice. The New Public Management inspired reforms may have influenced the educational system, with several unintended consequences, among others an awakening of traditional humanistic educational values and duties, and of the sense of education as public good. Bureaucratic rationalization and indirect controlling mechanisms may coexist today with fragmentation and flexible adaptations, which may increase the system's complexity and worsen its performance. The general formula of indirect steering through target setting accountability and competition, have been to some extent modified by the re-introduction of central interventions. The paper looks at how the national efforts are interpreted at the local level, and at how the policy seems operating, with reflections about the realization of the intervention aimed at improving the performances of a particular group of students all over the country; a related aim was also to reduce the inequities in the system.
Analyses are performed of the goals and implementation of the policy aimed to improve the school outcomes for the newly arrived students, by mean of national funding for supplementary tuition in Literacy and Swedish Language Learning. The study build upon case studies of schools in nine school districts that applied for the supplementary and earmarked resources, with interviews with teachers, school leaders and students.
The investment was only partially utilized over time. The target group were limited and the rules were restrictive at the start, but these features were changed over time, e.g. allowing to include tuition of younger students and students in the introduction classes. However only a limited number of school districts applied for the supplementary resources. Even in the school districts that applied, not always all the eligible schools were adopting the extra tuition. The decision to apply for the earmarked resources seemed to rest on the initiative of school leaders and engaged teachers at the school level, sometimes with the support of school district managers. In some contexts the resources were regarded by the school leaders as absolutely necessary, while in other they were an option. The educational models and the contents of the education that were offered varied to a great extent among the educational settings: scaffolding writing activities, reading of novels, multimedia production, oral expression, support with homework. However, in all the settings that were visited, the teachers were well qualified for the task and they stated that the activities aimed to a broader range of goals. Since the staff involved considered the supplementary tuition helpful and the students enjoyed to participate, it seems that the intervention might play a role in improving the outcomes for newly arrived students. In this light, the fact that only a limited number of students joined this national investment, out of them that were entitled across the country, can be seen as unfortunate. The large local autonomy of the school districts may contribute to create quality discrepancies and thus inequality in the educational system. The attempt to compensate these differences by mean of national governance and investment may not have succeeded, in this specific case, in generating more equitable outcomes.
EERA Berlin: Freie Universität Berlin , 2016.