A new regime of understanding. School leadership in Norwegian education policy (1990–2017)
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonNordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy. 2023. 10.1080/20020317.2023.2208258
Analyses of policy documents and interviews with three Norwegian politicians revealed differences in how school leaders were described, positioned and ascribed responsibility in Norwegian education policy between 1990 and 2017. While how politicians positioned school leaders changed substantially during the period, a stable trait was vague descriptions of school leaders’ responsibility. In 1990, school leaders were envisioned in a managerial position, above teachers, as employers. A more recent White Paper, from 2017, positioned school leaders closer to the teaching profession. The interviews showed that after the PISA-shock in 2001, politicians united across party lines in a 'new regime of understanding', downplaying traditional conflicts between Norwegian politicians. While Parliamentary politicians rhetorically disagreed, there was, underneath the policy discourse, a growing realpolitik consensus in questions of education policy. The study investigates policy descriptions of school leaders after 1990, when Management by Objectives was introduced in education. To position Norway in the international policy context, we draw on Stephen Ball’s concepts fabrication, managerialism, magical solutions and neoliberal performativity. Three periods, with simultaneously appearing residual and emerging tendencies were identified. In conclusion, we question an apparent lack of ambitions for school leadership in Norwegian education policy. The article contributes with new insights into education policy fluctations.