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.

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The conference has been rescheduled to April 21-23 2021

The Norwegian authorities implemented strict policies to tackle the Corona virus which implied that the conference had to be postponed. It has now been rescheduled to April 21st to 23rd 2021. The conference will take place digitally or semi-digitally. This implies that it will be possible to participate from anywhere through Zoom. If the Corona situation permits it will be held in a hybrid format with physical participation for those who are able to meet in Oslo. People who were scheduled to present are offered the opportunity to sustain or revise their paper abstracts by November 1st. New participants are welcome to register and submit their abstract by the same date

Deadline for revising or submitting conference paper abstract: November 1st.


Paper abstract submission

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?


Program pre-conference/ early career researcher workshop

Wednesday 21. April

14.00 - Coffee

14.15 - Welcome!

14.20 - Introduction and reflections on the Nordic education Model.

  • Lecture by Professor Inga Bostad, followed by discussion

14.45 - Project/paper presentations with discussion*

16.20 - Break

16.35 - Project/paper presentations with discussion*

18.00 - Pizza and drinks

* More information about the format of the presentations will be provided by e-mail.

Program main conference

Thursday 22. April

09.30 - Coffee and registration

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

10.30 - 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

11.30 - Lunch (at your own cost)

12.30 - Invited panels and 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 panel led by Harald Jarning, UiO. Participants: Magnus Hultén, Linköping University, Jesper Eckhardt Larsen, UiO

13.45 - Coffee and fruit

14.15 - Parallel paper session 1

15.45 - Break

16.00 - Parallel paper session 2

17.30 - Reception

Friday 23. April

09.00 - Invited panels and lectures:

Pillar 3

Nordic teacher ideal-types

  • Panel led by Jesper Eckhardt Larsen, UiO.
  • Participants: Johannes Westberg, Örebro University, Sølvi Mausethagen, Oslo Metropolitan University, Kim Helsvig, Oslo Metropolitan University

Pillar 4

The Limits of Schools Reforms and their De-limiting power

  • Panel led by Berit Karseth, UiO
  • Participants: Christian Yddesen, University of Aalborg, Daniel Petterson, University of Gävle, Kirsten Sivesind, UiO

Pillar 5

Ideals of the Nordic childhood: Civilising missions in changing times

  • Lecture by Eva Gullöv, University of Aarhus

10.15 - Coffee

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 (at your own cost)

12.30 - Parallel paper session 3

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


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.


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. 22, 2020 12:02 PM