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Choose us, we are so different!: Free schools’ self-descriptions and positioning on the Swedish school marke
University of Borås, Faculty of Librarianship, Information, Education and IT.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5315-452x
2018 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Since the beginning of the 1990‘s, Swedish parents have had the possibility of choosing schools for their children freely by taking publicly funded school vouchers to the chosen school. At the same time free schools started to develop, competing for the pupils and the school vouchers. Even though the free schools are a part of the school system, obligated to follow the same laws and curricula as the public schools, they describe themselves as something else, something “outside the system inside the system”.

The aim of the paper is to identify, analyze and discuss the different strategies of inclusion/exclusion in the educational system that are used in the self-descriptions of the free schools. The paper is theoretically and methodologically informed by Luhmann’s (2002)⁠ social theory, which allows to study how social systems (the free schools) describe – and establish – themselves in relation to other systems and society. To describe and analyze the different ways of differentiation, economical theory is used. Porter’s (1980)

generic strategies for reaching competitive advantage and Mintzberg’s (1996)⁠ strategies for differentiation are used as analytical framework.

The data for the study is based on official information that can be found on the three largest free schools‘ websites including introductions, welcoming words, presentation of the staff, teacher recruitment sites, statistics etc etc.

The data is analyzed using semantic-analysis (Andersen 2003)⁠ which allows to study and discuss how meaning is made inside social systems and how they construct and relate to their environment .

It will be discussed and compared how the different free schools describe themselves on the one hand as legitimate and worthy parts of the Swedish educational system at the same time as they – for reasons of competition and marketing – differentiate themselves from other players.

The introduction of the free schools have been a major reform in Sweden which impact has not yet been studied intensively. Educational research has had more focus on the marketisation of the school system, than the free schools in their own right. This study is to be understood as a first step in a forthcoming larger study about free schools in Sweden and their impact on the educational system and society.

References

Andersen, Niels Åkerstrøm. 2003. Discursive Analytical Strategies - Understanding Foucault, Koselleck, Laclau, Luhmann. Bristol: The Policy Press.

Luhmann, Niklas. 2002. Einführung in die Systemtheorie. Herausgegeben von Dirk Baecker. Heidelberg: Carl Auer.

Mintzberg, Henry, Joseph Lampel, James Brian Quinn, und Sumantra Ghoshal. 1996. The Strategy Process: Concepts, Contexts, Cases. Harlow: Pearson Education.

Porter, Michael E. 1980. Competetive Strategy - Thechniques for Analyzing Industries and Competitors. New York: Free Press.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2018.
Keywords [en]
free schools, differentiation, systems theory, Sweden
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hb:diva-15737OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hb-15737DiVA, id: diva2:1287361
Conference
NERA 2018, Oslo, March 8-10, 2018
Available from: 2019-02-11 Created: 2019-02-11 Last updated: 2019-02-13Bibliographically approved

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Billmayer, Jakob

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