Historical Amnesia

On Improving Nordic Schools from the Outside and Forgetting What We Know


  • Eirik Johannes Irgens NTNU




school development, educational leadership, national culture, co-creation


A number of initiatives have been put forth over the last decade to improve quality in Norwegian schools. Many have been nationwide government-initiated programs. However, several studies express concern about the actual effect of these programs, and some also point to a lack of local anchoring and involvement of teachers. In this article, I draw on studies of one such program. Ungdomstrinn i utvikling (Lower Sec-ondary in Development) was a five-year school-based competence development program in more than 1200 lower-secondary level schools. We found that the local start-up phase and the co-determination of the teach-ers were crucial, and few schools drew on knowledge from the 1960s in Norway on how to organize dia-logue seminars so teachers might have a chance to participate in the local design of the program and estab-lish a shared understanding and knowledge of the challenges at hand. Instead, we found examples of a transaction perspective and an “order and deliver” model of competence development. I discuss this as a possible consequence of the influence of instrumental management theory and why the Nordic cooperation model, even though challenging for school leaders, local union representatives and teachers, would be a better approach to school development. Lastly, I argue that we should avoid historical amnesia and that we would probably be better off if we revived the knowledge from the 1960s and after on co-generation and collaboration.


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How to Cite

Irgens, E. J. (2018). Historical Amnesia: On Improving Nordic Schools from the Outside and Forgetting What We Know. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education (NJCIE), 2(2-3), 25–38. https://doi.org/10.7577/njcie.2806