Nordic Modes of Bildung, Schooling, and Upbringing - The interplay between individualism, collectivism, and institutionalized lives

Conference organized by the two UiO:Nordic projects “The Nordic Education Model” and “Living the Nordic Model”.

Eple oppå bokstabel. Foto.

Photo: Pixabay                                        

Images of the modern Nordic societies are often paradoxical: Strongly socially cohesive but renowned for their liberal social values; Equal rights and opportunities for all blended with collective demands and duties; Strong trust and solidarity but less responsibility for helping your neighbor.

The Nordic countries have historically shown both strong collectivist traits epitomized in social democratic concepts like “folkhemmet” (S) or expressions like “raising a building together” (DK) as well as strong individualist traits of universalized individual rights to social goods and services. In the Nordic model of education ideals of a common “folkskola” and of “folkeoplysning/folkbildning” have included both more communitarian as well as more individualistic conceptualizations of “dannelse” (Bildung).

In the field of education individuals are currently urged to optimize their contribution to society. Lifelong learning under the banner of employability is no longer just a possibility but has almost turned into a duty. The strong “welfare states” make equality more possible – but does the turn to strong “competition states” also indicate a new more coercive collectivism?

In the light of these tensions, we aim in this conference at examining historical and current ideals, practices, and institutions related to the formative aspects of Nordic citizens’ lives—their childhoods, parenting values, schooling, education, and lifelong learning. We invite researchers that are engaged in the study of the institutions and arenas in which children and youth are brought up and educated. How have aims and expectations changed over time both in the Nordic settings and worldwide? Are there specific Nordic traditions in Bildung, education, and upbringing? Are they more rooted in common ideals of equality and communitarianism than in other Western and global societies? How are these ideals expressed, justified, and institutionalized in a more globalized era?

Call for papers and panels

We invite interested scholars to submit a paper proposal. Proposals should include a max 500 words abstract and a 150 word personal bio.

Papers and panels for the conference will be within these five areas:

1) Theories of ethical and political "Bildung" in the history of Nordic common schooling. This area of interest will address fundamental questions in education; The responsible individual, independence, interdependence, individualism, and collective responsibility. Everyday life and practices that inhibit and promote inclusion and exclusion. We wish to address how different ideals of equality and views on individuality can be articulated and justified today and what is it that promotes and impedes the realization of the school's value-based purpose?

2) National curricula and school subjects in the transition from folk schools (folkskola) to long comprehensive schooling. Social dimensions and goals are often highlighted in research on common schooling in the Nordic countries. Reforms and political and professional settlements to establish compulsory as well as post-compulsory schooling are, however, characterized by curricular changes, and innovations mediating between earlier and later stages of a comprehensive curricular. This area invite contributions on historical and more contemporary curricular changes in Nordic education, as seen in overall goals and knowledge profile, as well as through key school subjects or in broader areas.

3) Nordic teacher ideal-types. Are the teachers primarily “teachers for individuals” or “teachers for collectives”? Teacher roles have evolved from folk-teachers with a national mission, to socially integrative comprehensive teachers (“enhedslæreren”), and finally into the more specialized professional experts of individualized learning. This area of interest will address teacher cultures and teacher education from social, discursive, and political perspectives.

4) Nordic school reforms and beyond: Knowledge, governance and areas of tension. This area of interest will address the changing modes of education governance within contexts of global agendas, national policies, and institutional practices. Due to conflicting rationales, areas of tensions in school reform evolve.  We welcome papers that analyze these areas of tensions and points to how governance modes shape practices and the lives of school leaders, teachers and students.

5) Ideals of the Nordic childhoods: What has often been looked upon as “The Nordic Model” of childhood, gender, and family politics is in the paradoxical situation of being severely challenged on the one hand and being acclaimed and seen as highly attractive on the other. But do the values or ideals that the model is widely thought to embody still exist in the lived experience of its current and future citizens? Faced with more multicultural societies and globalized educational models, what are the ideals of the Nordic childhoods held by today’s parents and educational institutions?  Are there tensions between expectations, freedom, and responsibility in the institutionalization of childhood and youth in the Nordic countries today?

For questions: or

Follow the links to read more about  "The Nordic Education Model" and "Living the Nordic Model".

Published Aug. 2, 2019 2:12 PM - Last modified Sep. 13, 2019 10:24 AM