The passing of radical educational legislation in the 1990s in Finland has had far-reaching impacts on the comprehensive school system. Along with parental choice, schools were able to specialise by dedicating more hours to different subjects. This thesis discusses the phenomenon of specialisation of the comprehensive school using the analytical lens of equity and equality of opportunity. This has not been sufficiently investigated and analysed in the Finnish context. The key questions are: first, what influences the interpretation of national educational policies regarding choice/diversity and equity/equality of opportunity at the local level; second, why and how schools in the case study city have specialised; and third, what impact this has had on equity and equality of opportunity. A small scale, qualitative case study approach was adopted, focusing on one municipality in Finland. Interviews with staff in four schools and with education policy makers were carried out. These were supplemented with an analysis of policy documents at both national and local levels. The findings emphasise decision-making with regard to specialisation and parental 'choice' at schools, education boards and offices, which reflects the particular economic and demographic circumstances in the municipality as well as concerns about social justice. Decisions on further specialisation were affected by financial constraints on the one hand, and concerns about inequities deriving from the introduction of elements of market-oriented reforms on the other. External factors were important in relation to the initial introduction of specialisms, with the municipality requesting schools to take up specialism; internal motives were less significant. The outcomes of some of the educational decision-making - also manifested as a specific interpretation of national education policy priorities and trends - were found to increase inclusiveness, equity and equality of opportunity rather than exclusiveness and selection.
Journal of Further & Higher Education; Feb2010, Vol. 34 Issue 1, p97-104, 8p
HIGHER education, AMBASSADORS, EDUCATIONAL accountability, LEARNER autonomy, and SOCIAL groups
The Aimhigher programme is one of the Labour government's initiatives to widen participation in higher education (HE) for under-represented groups and is related to the government's target of increasing HE participation among 18- to 30-year-olds to 50 per cent by 2010. In effect, these policies date back to the recommendations made by the Dearing Committee in 1997, which investigated the state of HE in the United Kingdom, including widening participation, and to the earlier Robbins Report in the 1960s, which demonstrated the gap in HE participation across different socio-economic groups. Widening participation initiatives focus chiefly on raising aspiration and attainment among young people of the target group - it is within this context that student ambassadors (SAs) play an important role. SAs undertake both short-term and longer-term work through one-off or sustained activities, which include helping out on Aimhigher events such as summer schools and going to schools to give talks or to mentor individuals or groups of children. This article argues that the role of SAs can be seen to be underscored by various underlying tensions and complexities, which, given the continued role of SAs in UK HE institutions, require further investigation and analysis. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
Educational Studies; February 2010, Vol. 36 Issue: 1 p1-12, 12p
This paper explores the introduction of market-oriented reforms into school-based education in England and Finland. The contexts into which reforms were introduced differed, with a fully comprehensive system being in place in Finland but not in England; the motives were also different; and different trajectories have since been followed. Whilst there are apparent similarities, with choice and diversity having a high political profile in each country, the policy mix varies: two different models can be discerned, with the Finnish reforms being characterised by more regulatory control in relation to school access and choice, but less in relation to the financing of schools by local authorities. It is argued that the mediating role played by local authorities in jurisdictions with high levels of decentralisation means that the legislative framework needs to be taken into account when examining policy implementation and educational outcomes.