“Eye-opening research” presented for important stakeholders in Espoo, Finland

By on 23.09.2015 in Public dissemination

After four years of research funded by the Academy of Finland for the project Parents and School Choice, researchers Sonja Kosunen, Piia Seppänen, and Professor Hannu Simola had the opportunity of presenting their findings for an important group of stakeholders in the city of Espoo. On spot were principals, members from the Education Committee and a member of the Board of Education in Espoo.

“This is a real eye-opener”, said Kaija Kalliola, a Member of the Board of Education in Espoo, “the research is truly praiseworthy, and the findings are extremely important for us. Although, this is not what we have been trying to achieve.”

Espoo 1

Anne-Marie Rapo, Principal at Espoo International School, and Sonja Kosunen, Researcher in JustEd team 1, caught in a discussion about school choices in the city of Espoo.

During the afternoon session there were intense discussion about the research findings, and there were honest concerns in the air about the development of parental logics of action in local school choice space in the city.

The research showed how parents choose specific lower-secondary schools for their children even though achievement in all schools in Espoo, as well as in the whole country, is relatively high and relatively equal in comparison with other OECD countries.

Some rejected classes, no ‘bad’ schools

The research found, among other things, that there were rumors about ‘bad’ classes, but not ‘bad’ schools, among parents.

“Even though some of the parents chose a selective class specifically to avoid socially mixed peer groups in the neighborhood school, many still avoided classes with the most prestigious reputations and highest amounts of instrumental and expressive social orders”, said Sonja Kosunen during her presentation.

Professor Hannu Simola pinpointed that this phenomenon is identified in different fields of education in the Finnish context, and is referred to as “the ethos of good-enough”, the overall message being that ‘good-enough’ is good enough. “This seems to be a characteristically Finnish phenomenon – not to strive for excellence”, Simola said.

“Many parents view the transfer to secondary school as fraught with risks, a time in which concerns about making a ‘bad’ choice are related to fears about their child’s future education and future in general”, Sonja explained. “Generally, parents supported the idea of equal education for all, and trusted the quality of the educational system and its strenghts.”

The reputations of schools differ both between and within institutions, and seem to affect parental logics of action. “Parents use tactics and find strategies enabling them to avoid the undesirable school”, said Sonja. In this sense, the inner logics of action in the city’s school choice space reproduced stigmatization.

Researcher Piia Seppänen, Sonja Kosunen and Hannu Simola presented their findings for an important group of stakeholders in Espoo, Finland.

Researcher Piia Seppänen, Sonja Kosunen and Hannu Simola presented their findings for an important group of stakeholders in Espoo, Finland.

Reproducing social distinction?

The focus of the research is on whether the discussion on parents choosing between schools is too superficial, the factors that influence the choice process, and the inner logics of action that might reproduce social distinction in a Finnish urban context.

“This is a question of education policy, it’s not in the hands of the principals,” said the Executive Superintendent of Basic Education Ilpo Salonen

“We can’t, and we don’t want to, systematically build a segregated education system, nor a segregated society. Thanks to this research we now know where we stand, and it is not where we wanted to be.”

Hannu Simola pointed out the importance of making conscious decisions about the future of school choices, “we know that if this trend continues, it will get worse”.

 

Read more about the research on parental school choice and school reputations.

Sonja Kosunen, Piia Seppänen and Hannu Simola are part of JustEd team 1 Politics & Governance in Justice through Education.

Executive Superintendent of Basic Education Ilpo Salonen bought a handful copies of the recently published book ‘Lohkoutuva peruskoulu: Perheiden kouluvalinnat, yhteiskuntaluokat ja koulutuspolitiikka’ by Piia Seppänen, Mira Kalalahti, Risto Rinne, and Hannu Simola.

Executive Superintendent of Basic Education Ilpo Salonen bought a handful copies of the recently published book ‘Lohkoutuva peruskoulu: Perheiden kouluvalinnat, yhteiskuntaluokat ja koulutuspolitiikka’ by Piia Seppänen, Mira Kalalahti, Risto Rinne, and Hannu Simola.

 

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Journalist currently working as Communications Specialist at the Nordic Centre of Excellence "Justice through Education in the Nordic countries" and in NordForsk's programme "Education for Tomorrow". .

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