Perspectives on Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Education in Four Nordic Countries

Perspectives on Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice in Education in Four Nordic Countries

Hanna Ragnarsdóttir (School of Education, University of Iceland, Reykjavik, Iceland)
DOI: 10.4018/IJBIDE.2018070101
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The article addresses some fundamental values in education and their implications in the Nordic countries, such as equity, democracy, social justice and inclusion, while its main aim is to introduce and discuss main findings from case studies in pre-, compulsory and upper secondary schools that are part of the Nordic research project; Learning Spaces for Inclusion and Social Justice: Success Stories from Immigrant Students and School Communities in Four Nordic Countries. The aims of the research were to 1) to understand and learn from the experiences of immigrant students and children who have succeeded academically and socially; and 2) explore and understand how social justice is implemented in equitable and successful diverse Nordic school contexts and other learning spaces. The research is grounded within theories of critical multicultural education and culturally responsive pedagogy. Findings reveal a variety of successful educational practices on all three school levels while some challenges also exist.
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Background And Context: Fundamental Values In Education In The Nordic Countries

The concept “Nordic model” and its implications have been discussed widely and often related to Nordic welfare systems and economics (Andersen et al, 2007; Einarsdóttir & Wagner, 2006). The idea of a Nordic model in education has also been addressed (Blossing, Imsen & Moos, 2014a; Horst & Pihl, 2010; Telhaug, Medias & Aasen, 2006). Blossing, Imsen and Moos (2014b, p. 1) argue that, “historically, the Nordic model of education has been based on a vision that schools should be inclusive, comprehensive, with no streaming, and with easy passages between the levels.” They claim that in general the Nordic model is based on an egalitarian philosophy and it has been considered the state’s duty to “provide equal educational opportunities for all children, regardless of social background, abilities, gender and place of living” (p. 1). They also note that the development of the comprehensive educational system for all children has had both economic and social motives; “more and better education for all has been considered a prerequisite for economic growth, and bringing children with different backgrounds together physically was seen as a way to reduce social class differences in society at large”. The aims of schooling were thus “to develop social justice, equity, equal opportunities, participative democracy and inclusion, as those were pivotal values in Nordic state thinking” (p. 1).

The main factors and values in education in the Nordic countries which appear in acts and curricula are equity, democracy and inclusion (Mennta- og menningarmálaráðuneyti, 2011a, 2011b; Wagner & Einarsdóttir, 2006). Two examples of how these appear in policy documents include, first from Iceland:

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