Magnus Hultén

Governing educational expectations: Swedish standards-based education since 1919, a history that matters

The aim of this project is to study the history of objectives in educational governance in Sweden. We see the use of objectives as a central part of the development of public education in the early 20th century, as well as in today’s marketized school system. Standards are, we argue, at the centre of what education has become, and in the struggle over what education should be. Research on standards-based education, in which objectives play a key role, has primarily focused on the development since the 1980s, linking it to the introduction of new forms of management in the public sector, primarily new public management. However, recent research shows that standards-based education goes back to late 19th century. In line with Pierson (2004), we argue that the institutional history matters, and that there is a need to review the current uses of objectives in the light of the longer history studied in this project. Research on the Swedish case can help us better understand the historically strong position of objectives in educational governance globally and the interplay between education and other policy arenas. Thanks to Sweden’s parliamentary committee tradition, and its archives, there exist unique material in tracing this history back in time. Theoretically, the project draw on the neo-institutional perspective and historical institutionalism. We have preliminary discerned four different periods in the history of objectives that we will focus, from 1919 until today.
Grant administrator
Linköpings universitet
Reference number
SEK 3,614,000.00
RJ Projects