Two intensive and succesful days – the JustEd Conference gathered 150 participants

“We are part of a silent social movement,” said Professor Heidi Safia Mirza in her opening keynote speach at the JustEd pre-conference “Actors for Social Justice in Education” on the International Women’s Day 8 March in Helsinki. Approximately 120 professionals and students who had gathered in Helsinki 8-9 March to take part in the JustEd Conference.

Issues concerning diversity and education were examined and discussed during the two days. On 9 March Director General Anna Ekström from the Swedish National Agency for Education, Director General Aulis Pitkälä from the Finnish National Board of Education and Professor John B. Krejsler from Aarhus University discussed whether the Nordic educational systems are fair and equal for all students.

Fritjof Sahlström moderates the discussion. In the panel Aulis Pitkälä. Anna Ekström and John B. Krejsler.

“Every school reform for many decades have had the aim to encrase equality, but this is something we have not achieved,” stated Anna Ekström when presenting the current situation in Sweden.

The house was filled with 150 researchers, students, policy makers and other professionals during the discussion.

The room was filled with 150 researchers, students, policy makers and other professionals during the discussion.

The educational system in Sweden has led to a significant increase in the between-school-variation. “The main reason is the housing segregation which means we get bigger school variations,” Anna Ekström explained. “We have free school choice based on the voucher system which has added to the increase in the variation. There is a hot political debate in Sweden going on right now about this, and it is somehting we need to discuss. We got a recommendation from OECD to look at what other countries with more controlled school systems have done.”

 

Another topic raised was the situation for the immigrant children. Professor Joron Pihl, Oslo and Akershus University, pinpointed that 30 percentage of the immigrant students go to 4 percentage of the schools.

“In the 1980’s a paradigmatic shift took place, which made education a product on the market. Some of the problems we see now in Sweden is a product of the choices made, which resulted in segregated school systems,” Joron Pihl said.

Excellence through equite

The Finnish educational system differs from the Swedish; “No school shopping and free public comprehensive education for all,” said Aulis Pitkälä, and added that the key message from OECD/PISA is “excellence through equite”.

“It is not a trade-off between equity and quality, investing in equity pays off. In PISA 2000 Finland has been continuously on top or close to the top of ranking,” he stated.

Of course, there are problems in the Finnish system too. “There are dark clouds on the horizon; the regional differentiation challenges equal opportunity, pupils with migrant background are lagging behind and, even though the influcnce of socio-economic background on learning achievement is relatively small, it is growing,” Aulis Pitkälä added.

Fritjof Sahlström, Hannu Simola and Aulis Pitkälä continued discussing after the event.

Fritjof Sahlström, Hannu Simola and Aulis Pitkälä continued discussing after the event.

 

 

 

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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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