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The Hierarchist Way of School Development in Sweden

Ulf Blossing (University of Gothenburg, Sweden)

The Emerald Handbook of Evidence-Informed Practice in Education

ISBN: 978-1-80043-142-3, eISBN: 978-1-80043-141-6

Publication date: 31 January 2022


Sweden is characterised by high social regulation and an overall high social cohesion of context and structural elements of the school system and thus could be described as a hierarchist system. This position is strong and longstanding in Sweden and, with the exception of a short period of decentralisation and deregulation from the 1980s to the beginning of the 1990s, it has strengthened during the past two decades. However, diversifying elements threatening the social cohesion have been observed in Sweden. Severe school segregation is observed, which undermines the democratic values for a school for all. It is plausible that the deregulation during the 1980s and 1990s enabled successful schools to develop, meaning that teachers and school leaders could make use of research in relation to local needs and preconditions. However, this also meant that the deregulation worked as a barrier to evidence-informed practice within unsuccessful schools, as they were left alone. Since their improvement capacity was low and they lacked professional networks, teachers and school leaders got segregated and isolated when it came to making use of research. This situation paved the way for a wave of re-regulations aiming at supporting unsuccessful schools. Successful schools seem to use these regulations for enabling improvement; however, it is questionable how it works for unsuccessful schools. The regulations on a national level concerning curriculum, marking changes, and a clear focus on professional learning and instruction, seem to have enabled the national goal achievement. Nevertheless, there are a large group of schools where the regulated and national support work as a barrier to challenge the local school culture and enable change.



Blossing, U. (2022), "The Hierarchist Way of School Development in Sweden", Brown, C. and Malin, J.R. (Ed.) The Emerald Handbook of Evidence-Informed Practice in Education, Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 97-106.



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Copyright © 2022 Ulf Blossing. Published under exclusive licence by Emerald Publishing Limited