Academic journal article NAER - Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research

The Impacts of Individualization on Equity Educational policies/Impacto De la Individualizacion En Las Politicas Educativas De Equidad

Academic journal article NAER - Journal of New Approaches in Educational Research

The Impacts of Individualization on Equity Educational policies/Impacto De la Individualizacion En Las Politicas Educativas De Equidad

Article excerpt

DIFFERENCES

1 INDIVIDUALIZATION AS AN EQUITY POLICY STRATEGY

European Comparative research (Dupriez & Dumay 2004; Mons, 2007) considers the integrated school model with automatic promotion implemented in the Scandinavian educational systems the most effective model for an equitable education policy. Furthermore, in the opinion of scholars such as Mons (2007), the individualization teaching strategies implemented in these educational systems have strongly contributed to equity within this school model.

However, research studies published in the 2000s in Sweden (Dovemark, 2004; Vinterek, 2006; Francia & Moreno Herrera, 2008; Skolverket, 2009a) show a more complex perspective regarding the effects of individualized teaching strategies on equity. Comparative Education research on Education priority policies (Demeuse, Frandji, Pincemin, Greger, & Rochex, [Eds.], 2008) confirms the risk of individualization strategies based on reduced and differentiated curricula for minority groups in different European countries. These curriculum designs have often dismissed the claim for some kind of minimum equal educational standard guaranteed on a national level.

This contribution discusses individualization ideology impacts on equity with a particular focus on the reduced and differentiated curricula for students of foreign origin. Seeking to illustrate these impacts, our article begins with a comprehensive overview of the individualization policy applied in Sweden. It also discusses research studies about differentiated curriculum practices according to students' ethnicity, their mother tongue, gender and religious background. Even though this analysis focuses on the Swedish experience, it can lead to a better understanding of the impacts caused by individualization strategies in other European countries and, consequently, contribute to European Comparative research on equity.

2 FROM UNIFORMITY TO INDIVIDUALIZATION

The introduction of a public common compulsory school system in 1962 can be considered the starting point and the foundation of educational equality policies in Sweden. The "one school for all students" educational model based on a strongly centralized steering and a vision of standardized equality aimed to reduce social, cultural and gender differences in education during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s (Francia & Moreno Herrera 2008). However, this homogeneized education model failed to take into account the cultural and individual differences among students and provide a truly equal education. Moreover, it regarded diversity in education as a problem and thus significantly hampered the integration and achievement of ethnic minorities (Sjogren, 1995; Lahdenpera, 1997). At the same time, this model functioned as an instrument for the legitimization of differences in students' academic performance (Wallin, 2002).

However, this uniform and standardized equality policy was interrupted by the neoliberal reform of the late 1980s. The replacement of the concept of equality with that of equity in the legal texts introduced by this reform can be seen as a measure to guarantee diversity in the Swedish educational system (Francia, 1999). The reform was based on a vision of democracy that proposed individual freedom and local democracy as central values for the Swedish society (Englund & Quennerstedt, 2008). Therefore, in order to transfer power to the individuals, this reform introduces free choice, decentralization and privatization in the name of children's right to an equitable educational system. It additionally emphasizes the development of individualization as a strategy of respect for diversity and equity (Francia & Moreno, 2008).

Even though this neoliberal education policy stipulated the same education compulsory goals for all students at the public and independent compulsory schools it emphasized the subordination of teaching to students' interests and needs in order to guarantee school success for every child. …

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