Towards a New Professionalism in School? A Comparative Study of Teacher Autonomy in Norway and Sweden

Sep. 20, 2007

Source: European Educational Research Journal, Volume 6, Number 3,  2007, pages 232-249.

Local autonomy is one of the recent trends in reforms of compulsory education. However, several parallel trends such as individual accountability, performance and visibility challenge professional autonomy. The aim of this article is to explore how accountability and transparency reforms affect teacher autonomy in Norway and Sweden.

The authors argue that both individual teacher autonomy at the local workplace and autonomy at the national level embracing teachers as a collective group are important in analysing teachers’ professional autonomy. In comparing teachers’ professional autonomy they differentiate between processes of individualisation and collectivisation. Their analysis indicates, although intra-national differences, that the difference between Norwegian and Swedish teachers is striking.

While the Swedish teachers experience a high degree of individual autonomy, their influence on national policy processes seems weakened. This leads to the assumption that professional autonomy as a result of transparency and accountability reforms, even if the teachers report individual professional autonomy, reduces the authority of the profession at the national policy-making level.

The analysis indicates that Norwegian teachers are characterized by old professionalism. The strong input regulations in Norway limit individual teacher autonomy. Even with weakened individual autonomy, teachers still manage to supply conditions for national education policy making.

This means that teachers still are autonomous at the collective level. Moreover, the findings indicate that national standards and control in education are accepted as tools for securing professional knowledge and status.

Updated: Feb. 03, 2008