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                                        

The conference takes place in Zoom April 22-23 2021

The conference was originally scheduled to April 2020, but due to the Covid-19 virus and associated travel policies it was rescheduled to April 22nd and 23rd 2021. The deadline for registration expired on April 19th.

Program and abstract book


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?

Conference program

Thursday 22. April

08.30 - Registration and practical questions

09.00 - Opening – by Tore Rem, Director UiO Nordic and Inga Bostad, project leader NordEd, University of Oslo (UiO)

09.30 - The Nordic Model and The Educational Welfare State in a European Light – Between Social Problem Solving and Hidden Spiritual Ambitions

  • Keynote by Professor Mette Buchardt, Centre for Education Policy Research, Aalborg University

10.30 - Break

10.45 - Invited lectures

Pillar 1: What is knowledge in Education? Changing ideals in Norwegian education policy. 

  • Lecture by Professor Mariann Solberg, University of Tromsø. Comments by Lars Løvlie and Inga Bostad, UiO. 

Pillar 2: Science wars? How conceptualisation of knowledge in education has become the centre of the debate over Sweden's poor Pisa-scores.

  • Lecture by Magnus Hultén, Linköping University. Comments from Jesper Eckhardt Larsen and Harald Jarning, UiO.

12.00 - Lunch break

13.00 - Paralell session 1 (Overview / Pillar 1 / Pillar 2 / Pillar 3 / Pillar 4 / Pillar 5)

14.30 - Break

14.45 - Paralell session 2 (Overview / Pillar 1 / Pillar 2 / Pillar 3 / Pillar 4 / Pillar 5)

16.15 - Day ends

Friday 23. April

09.00 - Invited panels and lectures

Pillar 3: Schoolteachers and the Nordic Model – book presentation with discussant.

  • With the editors: Jesper Eckhardt Larsen, University of Oslo, Fredrik W. Thue, Oslo Metropolitan University, Barbara Schulte, University of Vienna. 

  • Discussant: Kim Helsvig, Oslo Metropolitan University.

Pillar 4: The Limits of Schools Reforms and their De-limiting power.

  • Kirsten Sivesind, UiO, Christian Ydesen, University of Aalborg, Daniel Petterson, University of Gävle. Panel led by Berit Karseth, UiO

Pillar 5: Ideals of the Nordic childhood: Civilising missions in changing times.

  • Lecture by Eva Gulløv, University of Aarhus. Discussion led by Ingrid Smette, UiO.

10.15 - Break

10.30 - Models of Lifelong Learning and their Social and Economic Outcomes. How Distinctive is the ‘Nordic Model’ Now?

  • Keynote by Professor Andy Green, Institute of Education, University College London

11.30 - Lunch break

12.30 - Paralell session 3 (Overview / Pillar 1 / Pillar 2 / Pillar 3 / Pillar 4 / Pillar 5)

14.00 - Break

14.15 - Closing reflections by Professor Daniel Tröhler, University of Vienna

15.00 - Conference ends 


Professor Mette Buchardt, Centre for Education Policy Research, Aalborg University, will speak on the topic:


The Nordic Model and The Educational Welfare State in a European Light – Between Social Problem Solving and Hidden Spiritual Ambitions


The state education systems across Europe have since the late 19th century been central political tools in not only state crafting but also in the solving of social problems. This is not least the case with regard to the Nordic states, where an education system, allegedly ‘for all’ evolved along with the modernization and consolidation of the five Nordic nation state at present and with the development of what was since the mid-20th century often labelled as ‘the Nordic welfare state model’.

In the wording of welfare state historian Mary Hilson the Nordic model is however historically to be understood as a model with five exceptions, each of the state in question being an exception. Also it can be questioned to which degree the Nordic model of e.g. education is exceptional and to which degree the Nordic education reforms from late 19th century and during the 20th century are either following same traces or at least sought to develop answers to the same questions and challenges as was the case in other parts of Europe.

In late 19th century and early 20th century, a groundbreaking period for Nordic education reforms, not least the so-called social question – how to handle poverty while still retaining class society and difference in social status and income – was a key political question cutting across the nation-states and (declining) empires of Europe. Education politics, often overlapping with social politics, was seen as a main tool to find new strategies to solve this political challenge. However, the political efforts concerning the social question did not only address social difference, but also e.g. religious difference, something which was increasingly seen as a cultural question. Also here the education systems were considered a means of creating social and cultural cohesion which in different ways was aiming at shifting religion from a churchly matter into a cultural and social glue of the state, and across the Nordic states young modern so-called Cultural Protestant public intellectuals was, together with not least Social Democratic state crafters, central actors in developing such new approaches and strategies.

Through the examination of late 19th- and early 20th-century education reforms in the Nordic states and comparing them with reform efforts from other parts of Europe, the lecture will deal with how we can understand the demands put on and the role of the welfare state education systems as educator of welfare state mentalities as a corner stone in schooling into citizenship, including how welfare state education also aims at educating into and thus simultaneously co-produce social imaginaries of religious, cultural and social difference and cohesion in present-day Europe. On this basis, the lecture will also address the question of weather, and if so, how to define an exceptional Nordic model for educating citizens in a democratic and allegedly secular society.


Mette BuchardtMette Buchardt is full Professor and Head of Centre for Education Policy Research, Dept. of Culture & Learning, Aalborg University (Aalborg & Copenhagen) as well as visiting professor, at the Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious studies, Umeå University. Mette Buchardt is currently working on the interdisciplinary research project “The Child and Curriculum” on life philosophy in the Swedish Curriculum 1960s to the present and is head of the historical research dimension of this project. She is also currently engaged in the project “FLOW, Global flows of migrants and their impact on Northern European welfare states” with a special focus on policies on education and labour market.

Recent book publications include: ”Kulturforklaring: Uddannelseshistorier om muslimskhed” (2016), ”Pedagogized Muslimness: Religion and Culture as Identity Politics in the Classroom”(2014), and ”Education, state and citizenship” with co-editors: Pirjo Markkola and Heli Valtonen (2013).


Professor Andy Green, Institute of Education, University College London, will speak on the topic:

Models of Lifelong Learning and their Social and Economic Outcomes. How Distinctive is the ‘Nordic Model’ Now?


Comparative political economy has traditionally identified different regimes of capitalist economy and welfare systems in groups of countries distinguished by different histories and forms of socio-economic organisation. Theories generally characterise the most distinctive regimes as: ‘Social Market’ (typically German-speaking countries); ‘Social Democratic’ (Nordics); and ‘Liberal’ (English-speaking countries), with East Asian and Mediterranean countries considered to have different (although less distinctive) types of regime. Literature on education systems and their educational and socio-economic outcomes have also identified distinctive models of lifelong learning, broadly corresponding to these different regime types. Regimes types are generally seen as subject to a degree of ‘path dependency’, which accounts for their reproduction over time, but they are also subject to changes at key conjunctures. Are we now at one of these transitional moments and how far can we still talk about a distinctive ‘Nordic model’?

This presentation re-examines the traditional models of lifelong learning systems and their socio-economic effects, asking how these are changing and what new models are emerging. The analysis draws primarily on the data on skills levels, qualifications, training, employment and values for the 34 countries and country regions in the first and second rounds of the Survey of Adult Skills. Repeated cross-sectional data from PISA and other sources are used to identify the key characteristics of primary and secondary educational systems and to track changes in aggregate skills outcomes over time; whilst the data from SAS are used to identify characteristics of upper secondary and adult education and training systems. The SAS data is used to compare skills levels and distributions at different ages across countries and, in conjunction with comparable data on Literacy from the Internal Adult Literacy Survey, to disaggregate life course and period effects on skills.

The analysis of the international survey data, alongside the findings from the comparative political economy research, suggest both continuity and change in models of lifelong learning. Education systems are having to adapt to major shifts in demographics, technology and work organisation in societies which are becoming increasingly unequal in wealth and incomes. However, their education systems respond in different ways to these common global socio-economic forces. Different models of lifelong learning, with distinctive educational and societal effects, can still be identified, although in each case with significant internal variation amongst countries associated with each model, and increasing evidence of hybridization. A distinctive ‘Nordic’ model of lifelong learning can still be identified in Norway, Sweden and Finland, with Denmark suggesting the emergence of a new hybrid model sharing features of the social market model and the Nordic model. Analysis of recent interviews with policymakers in Singapore will explore a further example of hybridisation, suggesting the need to refine the traditional typologies of lifelong learning.


Andy Green is Professor of Comparative Social science at the UCL Institute of Education, and Director, since 2008, of the ERSC Research Centre on Learning and Life Chances (LLAKES). He was formerly co-founder and co-director of the UK Government-funded Wider Benefits of Learning Centre (1999-2004) and has directed and co-directed a number of major comparative research projects addressing both economic and social impacts of education and training, including Education and Training for a High Skills Economy (ESRC, 1997-2000); Globalisation, Education and Development (DFID, 2004-6); Convergence and Divergence in Education Systems in Europe (EC, 1996-7). He has frequently acted as consultant both to international bodies, such as CEDEFOP, the European Commission, OECD and UNESCO, and to UK Government bodies, including the DFES National Skills Task Force (1999-2000) and Skills Task Force Research Group (2002), the Ministerial Skills Strategy Steering Group (2003) and the House of Lords Select Committee on Social Mobility (2015).

Andy Green has published widely on a range of social and education issues, with major works translated into Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. His major books include: Regimes of Social Cohesion: Societies and the Crisis of Globalisation, Palgrave 2011; Education and Development in a Global Era: Strategies for ‘Successful’ Globalisation, DFID, 2007; Education, Equality and Social Cohesion, Palgrave 2006; Education, Globalisation and the Nation State, Palgrave, 1997. A new and extended edition of his prize-winning 1990 book was published in 2013 as Education and State Formation: Europe, East Asian and the USA. His latest book, published on open access by Palgrave in 2017, is entitled: The Crisis for Young People: Generational Inequality in Education, Work, Housing and Welfare.


Parallel sessions

Parallel session 1 – Thursday 13:00-14:30

Time Pillar 1 Pillar 2 Pillar 3 Pillar 4 Pillar 5
Chair Inga Bostad Harald Jarning & Sverre Tveit  Jesper Eckhardt-Larsen Bernadette Hörmann Kristinn Hegna

Elin Rødahl Lie (University of Oslo)

Gender Equality, third, fourth or fifth act? A critical analysis of Nordic educational discourses on gender equality

Bjørn Smestad (OsloMet) and Hilde Opsal (Volda University College)

(Research on) New Maths in the Nordic countries – a systematic review 

Fredrik W. Thue (OsloMet)

Preaching and teaching: The religious origins of Nordic teacher cultures

Hilde Marie Madsø-Jacobsen (University of Oslo)

Mentoring of Newly Qualified Teachers: Norwegian policy intentions and implications for school leadership

Teresa Aslanian (University of South-Eastern Norway)

Ideals of the Nordic childhoods: Schoolchildren’s memories of kindergarten: embedded values in the unique learning environment of Norwegian kindergartens 


Hilde Bondevik & Inga Bostad (University of Oslo)

Being at home – being at school: Ideals of education for children with special needs at two institutions in Norway 


Brit Marie Hovland (NLA University College)

Textbook revisions, revised narratives and international networking - Inter war and inter play 

Sølvi Mausethagen (OsloMet)

The Discourse on Professionalism in Teacher Education

Gørill Warvik Vedeler (The Arctic University of Norway)

Collaborative Autonomy-Support – A Pivotal Approach in School–Home Collaboration in Norwegian Upper Secondary Schools

Tuva Skjelbred Nodeland (Uppsala University)

Children of the revolution: socialist upbringing in the Norwegian labour movement, 1910-1940.


Ilmi Willbergh & Turid Skarre Aasebø (University of Agder)

The Bildung of students by cultural references in teaching 

Beatrice Partouche (University of Roma Tre)

The revision of school texts in the 20s and 30s of the twentieth century: the international movements and the Norwegian and Italian case.

Åsa Melander (University of Roehampton)

The Comprehensive Teacher and Social Cohesion. Scandinavian teacher roles 1960-1990

Petteri Hansen (University of Helsinki)

Looking in the same direction (once again)? Contrasting policy futures in Swedish and Finnish basic education before and after the PISA-boom


Parallel session 2 – Thursday 14:45-16:15

Time Pillar 1 Pillar 2 Pillar 3 Pillar 4 Pillar 5
Chair Inga
Harald Jarning & Sverre Tveit 


Bernadette Hörmann Kristinn Hegna

Straume (University
of Oslo)

Peripheral: Doing educational theory in the Nordic region




Harald Jarning
(University of Oslo)

Curriculum changes
schooling for all. National 
Packages across the divide between compulsory and post-compulsory schooling:1960 – 1985 – 2010. 
 Norwegian examples and search for 
commonplaces for Nordic comparisons.





Birgit Schaffar
& Niklas
(University of

“You can go when
you are ready!”
– Reflections
what it is to


Did the
Survive? A comparative-historical analysis of school
reform policy.


Christian Ydesen

Andreas Nordin

Bernadette Hörmann & Kirsten Sivesind

Chanwoong Baek


Victoria de Leon Born, Kristinn 
Hegna & Kristin Beate Vasbø (University of Oslo)

Authority and closeness. New power relations between youth and their parents?


Ingrid Smette (University of Oslo) and
Jake Murdoch (University of Bourgogne)

of migrant
children in schools: A comparative analysis of French and Norwegian approaches 
and notions of equality


Åsa Melin (Karlstad University)

From the parallel school system to a primary school in Sweden: How School reforms were handled at municipal level 1950-1968


Turid Løyte
Harboe (NLA 

Nordic reformulation
of Bildung: impact from
and on

Harriet Bjerrum Nielsen (University of Oslo)

Gender play in time and space 


Thale K. Stalenget (University of Oslo)

Theories of ethical and political "Bildung" in the history of Nordic common schooling. How can education prevent or reduce extremism?

Josefine Jarheie (OsloMet)

School ready minority children or schools ready for minority children? – Danish ECEC teachers’ work of assessing and assuring “school readiness” amongst minority language children

Afshan Bibi (Univeristy
of Oslo)

Nordic paths and international entanglements: Scandinavian teachers’ involvement
in the New Education Fellowship
from 1920 to 1940


Fengshu Liu (University of Oslo)

Modernization as maximization: Three generations of young men and women in China  


Parallel session 3 – Friday 12:30-14:00

Time Pillar 1 Pillar 2 Pillar 3 Pillar 4 Pillar 5
Chair Inga Bostad Harald Jarning & Sverre Tveit  Jesper Eckhardt-Larsen Bernadette
Jin Hui Li

Joakim Berg Larsen (The Arctic University of Norway)

A Relevant Concept Bildung





Nordic models of grading, testing and examination – towards a research overview


  • Harald Jarning & Sverre Tveit 
  • Christian Ydesen  
  • Petteri Hansen
  • Christian Lundahl
  • Daniel Tröhler

Beatrice Cucco (Università degli Studi di Torino)

The Impact of the Nordic Education Model on Teacher Professionalism and Training




Maike Luimes (Kristiania

The enactment of curriculum 
change in Norwegian lower secondary school: Pupils, teachers and heads of schools’ experiences with pre-vocational education 




Changing modes of Danish governance and practice of education and upbringing for migrant children and families since the 1970s.


  • Jin Hui Li
  • Birthe Lund
  • Nanna Ramsing Enemark


Pål Anders Opdal (The Arctic University of Norway)

Learning: What it is and how, and when, you measure it.


Jesper Eckhardt Larsen (University of Oslo)

The Era of “Folk” Teachers in Norway and Denmark: Building a National Knowledge Culture from Below, 1880-1920.


Anniken Hotvedt Sundby & Berit Karseth (University of Oslo)

The `knowledge question` in the revised curriculum in Norway


Sølvi Mausethagen, Cecilie Dalland & Hege Knudsmoen (OsloMet)

Municipal approaches towards inclusive education


Ole Andreas Kvamme (University of Oslo)

Nordic environmental education in the 1990s: the muvin project  




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?


The Nordic Education ModelLiving the Nordic Model & Center for Gender Research

Published Aug. 2, 2019 2:12 PM - Last modified Oct. 11, 2021 3:29 PM