Governance and power shifts in the education sector – the autonomy and collective influence of the profession. Policy briefing

Fundamental questions about which kind of education system we want cannot be disassociated from the question of which kind of society we want. It is about equity, quality and democratic and political decision-making.

Governance and power shifts in the education sector – the autonomy and collective influence of the profession

Read the norwegian version of the policy briefing: Styring og maktforskyvning i utdanningssektoren

Chapter 1 Introduction

Fundamental questions about which kind of education system we want cannot be disassociated from the question of which kind of society we want. It is about equity, quality and democratic and political decision-making.

In this policy briefing we will be looking more closely at governance issues in the education sector in a power shift perspective. We will discuss how the autonomy and collective influence of the profession are affected by various trends in society. We will then examine these issues in the context of the wider goal of equitable, high-quality education as well as the desire for – and necessity of – democratic control of the education system as a social institution. The questions of who exerts influence over the design of our education system and who holds the power of definition with regard to the quality of education are both of significance to the development of the education system and society as a whole.

We will seek to describe international trends that affect overarching governance policy in the public sector in general and in the education sector in particular. By presenting examples of governance practices in the education system and changing structures in the labour market, we will aim to demonstrate how the sum of isolated changes in different areas paints a bigger picture of a systematic power shift – from practitioners towards the education authorities at various levels, from employees towards employers, and from elected politicians and professionals towards various private stakeholders. Governance trends and changing structures in the labour market are putting pressure on teachers' professional freedoms and altering the basis for trade union influence.

In this briefing we will be looking at governance practices and power shifts that affect the profession's autonomy (Chapter 2) and its collective influence (Chapter 3). This is then used as a backdrop to a discussion on alternatives to current governance practices (Chapter 4). The alternatives will be examined with particular reference to the goal of equitable education for all, the need for democratic control of the education system, and the value of professional input in order to ensure development and quality in the education sector. The alternatives must be able to ensure appropriate distribution of power and influence between different stakeholders and to underpin the far-reaching social mandate of education.

The aim of this policy briefing is to help create a basis for further debate and policy development surrounding governance in the education sector. It is part of a series of publications addressing governance and quality in the sector, and it builds on previous briefings on quality, management by objectives and privatisation.

Fotnote: quality in the sector

A system evaluation of education in Norway – how can evaluations help improve compulsory education? (Policy briefing 9/2011) The quality concept in Norwegian education. What is it all about? (Policy briefing 3/2012), Management by objectives – challenges and opportunities (Policy briefing 4/2013), The method of open co-ordination in the EU – does it extend to Norwegian education? A closer look at kindergartens, primary and secondary schools (Policy briefing 6/2013), Privatisation and quality in education – a broad social mandate and the role of the teaching profession (Policy briefing 8/2013), School owners' financing of compulsory education. Criteria models and the importance of employee co-determination (Policy briefing 2/2014), Changing conditions for school leaders. Framework conditions for developing the learning environment (Policy briefing 3/2014)

1.1 Relevance

The 2014 teachers' strike – a crisis of confidence in the education sector

In the summer of 2014 members of the Union of Education Norway (UEN) went on strike. The strike was triggered by a disagreement over working hours for teachers employed in the local and regional government sector. It later became clear that the strike was about more than just working hours. In this briefing we will look at the strike in a power shift perspective. Both before and during the collective pay negotiations the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) signalled that it wished to transfer decision-making powers on matters that previously required consensus between the parties to the employers' organisations alone. KS argued in favour of exercising more control over teachers' working hours in order to compel them to co-operate more, a move that would have curtailed teachers' power to decide when and how to do their job.

The Union of Education Norway (UEN) argued that the flexibility granted to teachers in respect of how to practise their profession is crucial in order to give pupils a good education and to allow teachers to work closely with different partners, including parents. It also emerged that the teachers felt that local authorities, in their role as employer representatives, have for some time been acting in a way that suggests a lack of confidence in the teaching profession – demonstrated by attempts to micromanage their day-to-day work. At the same time the very nature of the governance exercised by local authorities can be seen to be dismissive of the factors that the profession itself considers important to promote the quality of education. The teaching profession's lack of confidence in KS can, amongst other things, be seen in light of the fact that the profession is not sufficiently involved when local authorities develop governance and quality control systems. We will look more closely at these issues later in this briefing.

Fotnote: co-operate more,

Recent figures from the TALIS survey show that Norwegian teachers already co-operate more closely than do teachers in most OECD countries, and they spend more time in school in addition to their own teaching hours than teachers in many other countries (OECD 2014b).

The teachers' organisations won the strike with professional arguments that resonated with public opinion. Both politicians and parents expressed understanding for the fact that teachers require professional freedom in order to fulfil their social mandate and safeguard the quality of the education they provide. This can be a stepping stone from which to further develop a governance system that ensures the involvement and influence of the profession.

Political decision-making

In this briefing we will seek to outline a picture of international trends relevant to several sectors, including in Norway. By providing selected examples we will attempt to demonstrate how individual factors form part of a greater whole. Such trends do not occur out of nowhere. They reflect the choices made by politicians at various levels. Greater emphasis on quantifiable results, control, privatisation and a more fragmented labour market are some of the consequences of such choices. It is the sum of many small adjustments that create big changes at a system level. Holistic and alternative policies must therefore be based on a clear definition of what kind of society we want to create. It is about political decision-making. There is an ongoing debate in the education sector about which decisions should be made centrally and which should be made locally. At the same time it is becoming increasingly clear that there is a lack of coherence between political ambitions at a national level and how these ambitions are put into practice locally.

At present there are major cross-sector processes underway that will have an impact on the way in which power and influence are distributed in society in general and in the education sector in particular. The government-appointed Productivity Commission has been tasked with putting forward proposals on how to increase productivity in the Norwegian economy, both in the private and public sectors (Productivity Commission 2014). The goal of the Norwegian government's local government reform is fewer and larger municipalities. Along with the recommendations of the Productivity Commission, this reform will have an impact on equity in education, on the co-determination of the profession, and on the scope for exercising power and influence.

Inequality on the agenda

Inequality is a frequently recurring theme in the ongoing debate about what creates a good society. In 2009 the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better (Wilkinson and Pickett 2009) helped raise awareness of the interrelationships between economic inequality in society and a number of parameters linked to issues such as health, violence and quality of life. One of the book's key conclusions was that having only minor differences between rich and poor is better for everyone – including the richest in society. In 2014 Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Piketty 2013) placed renewed focus on inequality, both nationally and internationally. His book concludes that inequality between people is on the increase – including within most countries. The international discourse on inequality is also having an impact on the domestic debate, both in relation to productivity levels and taxation and wealth distribution policy. Organisations such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) are now challenging the Norwegian government's wealth distribution policy on the basis of analyses that largely concur with Piketty's conclusions.

Fotnote:  including within most countries

This is essentially because the return on capital is increasing faster than the return on labour, contrary to what most economists have always thought. It is also the case that capital is becoming more concentrated, partly because inequality is passed on by inheritance. In turn, this concentration of capital is posing a democratic threat because politics is increasingly governed by capital and by the influence of private interests.

If more equal wealth distribution and only limited inequality are good both for a country's productivity and for its citizens, then more even wealth distribution should become an overarching political goal. This is about employment, wages and taxation, but also about how freedom of choice is distributed – in terms of access to welfare services, for example. A key issue in this perspective is to preserve kindergartens and schools as inclusive community arenas, partly in order to prevent segregation and the sustenance of inequitable distribution. In other words, education is a fundamental element in the wider public debate about inequality, development and productivity.

1.2 Definitions and delimitation

In this briefing we use the word power to describe how a stakeholder in the education sector is able to impose its will on other stakeholders, for example. Stakeholders described in the briefing include democratically elected politicians at both national and local levels, private commercial interests, bureaucrats, employers, trade unions and practitioners. A power shift occurs when one stakeholder acquires power at the expense of another.

The notion of quality in education is not a clear-cut concept. It has been investigated by the UEN in further detail in a previous policy briefing (2012). What is considered quality will depend on who is defining the concept and on which quality perspectives are applied to the definition, for instance. In this policy briefing we are looking at quality in education in a societal perspective. Quality in this context primarily refers to the quality of education at a system level. Quality is also linked to the social mandate of education.

International organisations, agreements and programmes have an impact on Norwegian education policy in a number of ways. The OECD's PISA survey and other international surveys along with issues concerning the optimisation of education for the labour market through the so-called Skills Strategy have been subject to particular debate (OECD 2012a, 2014a). The efforts to draw up the TISA and TTIP trade agreements are other examples of international processes that may come to have a significant impact on the content and design of education in Norway. This type of international influence will not be addressed especially in this policy briefing, however.

Fotnote: TTIP

The EU and the US are in the process of negotiating a free trade agreement called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Fotnote: TISA

After the WTO negotiations over trade in services ended, some countries (Norway included) begun negotiating a free trade agreement for services (including welfare services). This agreement is referred to as the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA).

When we use the word teacher we mean teachers in both kindergartens and schools. Most of the examples we have used are taken from kindergartens and schools, but the general trends will be familiar to practitioners working elsewhere, too. The problems we address are applicable to the entire education sector as well as to large parts of the public sector and the Norwegian labour market in general. 

Chapter 2 Professional autonomy

Practitioners in both kindergartens and schools fulfil their social mandate on the basis of legislation, curricula and the ethical platform of the teaching profession. The profession is therefore committed to and responsible for the social mandate of our kindergartens and schools. The objectives of kindergartens and schools are founded on a number of core principles that the profession as a whole must work together to give practical meaning to, and teachers must strive to adhere to these principles when practising their profession.

Teachers enjoy extensive professional autonomy. They have traditionally been considered to possess particular qualifications that are necessary in order to achieve the desired quality in kindergartens and schools. The context in which practitioners are working has been acknowledged as being professionally demanding, complex and unpredictable. This requires particular skills. Teachers carry out their duties according to the situation-specific and individual needs of the children and pupils and using their professional and ethical judgement, something which makes a degree of autonomy necessary. Teachers must be able to decide for themselves how to teach their pupils or how to organise activities in kindergarten. This is an important part of what we could describe as teachers' professional autonomy. This autonomy is now being challenged in several quarters.

Below we will highlight a few examples from the education sector. We will be looking more closely at the power shift away from practitioners and towards those in governing positions at different levels in the education system, and away from practitioners towards representatives of various private, commercial interests. We have grouped the examples under individual headers, some of which overlap. Many of the examples could therefore have been mentioned several places in the text. The examples do not provide exhaustive descriptions of the different situations.

2.1 Standardisation and disregard for professional judgement

One common denominator of many of the trends we are seeing in kindergartens and schools is standardisation. Standardisation is the unambiguous description of an object or method. It may be an express aim in itself or an unintended by-product of other measures. It also implies an understanding of quality in education as something that can be evaluated according to whether or not we are working to established standards. In this perspective the quality of the education is assessed according to given specifications. The standard approach is that quality is absolute, that it can be quantified, and that outcomes can often be expressed in numbers (Union of Education Norway 2012). One divergent approach to this is pedagogy as a complex relational activity involving autonomous practitioners who, by virtue of their extensive expertise, practise their profession on the basis of the social mandate of kindergartens and schools. When we pit these two approaches against each other it becomes clear that standardisation will come to challenge professional practice and professional freedom in a number of ways.

One example is political overruling of teachers' judgement in respect of pupil assessments in favour of a standardised assessment model. The municipality of Sandefjord made a political decision for primary school pupils to be assessed using a multiple choice model citing “below average, satisfactory or above average attainment” (Union of Education Norway 2014a). The teachers felt that it should be up to them to use their professional judgement to assess each pupil in accordance with the Assessment Regulations, legislation and national curriculum and that the multiple choice model with its implicit grading scale did not serve the pupils' interests and did not promote learning. It was also pointed out that this form of marking is in breach of the Assessment Regulations. For their part, the teachers carried out thorough half-yearly assessments and gave formative feedback to pupils and parents in line with legislation. And yet the teachers who refused to use the adopted form for pupil assessment were threatened with dismissal by the local authority on the grounds that they refused to obey orders. With the support of the UEN, the teachers eventually succeeded in making the local authority reverse its decision. In the winter of 2014 the school and kindergarten committee in the municipality of Sandefjord resolved not to continue the half-yearly assessment model, and it was decided that teachers should be free to choose whether or not to use the half-yearly assessment forms in their present format. It was also agreed to involve the profession in the process of designing new assessment systems to be implemented in the autumn of 2014 (Union of Education Norway 2014c).

There are further examples of the overruling of teachers' professional judgement in other parts of the education sector, too. Some municipalities are seeking to establish more control over the work of the educational psychology service (PP). We have seen examples of municipal executives requesting to review and approve expert assessments before they are released. Elsewhere local authorities are putting pressure on the PP service not to disclose the extent of special needs provision in their expert assessments, nor to reveal how the special needs education is being organised. This contravenes government guidelines that requires the PP service to do just that. This way professional judgement is being overruled.

Other municipalities, too, place much emphasis on standardisation. Oslo, for example, has expressed a wish to standardise education. City Council report no. 1/2013 states that:

The City Council is of the opinion that standards and examples of good tuition, class management etc. can be important tools for improving learning outcomes […]. The City Council is seeking to […] launch research-based trials with a standardised school structure placing great emphasis on developing fundamental skills in the core subjects" (City of Oslo 2013).

The imposition by the education department of specific procedures for how teachers should organise and give their lessons represents a curtailment of their professional autonomy.

Many of the programmes and tools being introduced in the education sector originated outside our kindergartens and schools. Lean is an example of a tool now being launched as an instrument for ongoing improvements. Lean was first developed by Toyota to improve its car manufacturing process (Lean Forum 2014). The method was first developed in the 1950s, but since the 1990s it has enjoyed a renaissance as a popular efficiency model in both the public and private sectors in many countries (Ingvaldsen et al. 2012). Lean has now reached the education sector but has yet to gain wider currency (Bedre skole 2013). Lean attaches particular importance to rationalisation, and the standardisation of processes is a key element in cutting the use of resources. Standardisation requires an accurate description of the processes in question, and each employee's duties must be carried out in accordance with specifications. Research shows that efficiency improvements can come at a significant “human cost” as a result of narrow spans of control, low levels of autonomy and high work pressure (Ingvaldsen et al. 2012). The Norwegian Civil Service Union (NTL) has been a vocal opponent of the introduction of lean at the University of Oslo (NTL University of Oslo 2011). The NTL points out that lean implies a quantification of work processes where it is likely that each employee will be monitored according to set targets. In practice this could easily result in management by objectives at an individual level whereby professional autonomy is restricted. (Ibid.) There is one further risk associated with simplifying complex pedagogic processes in the form of standardisation. It will generate a power shift away from practitioners towards those setting the standards.

Other examples from higher education include the development of a national qualifications framework and the use of learning outcome descriptors. Thanks to the Bologna Process, issues surrounding higher education curricula have led other national and international players to enter the arena and gain more power to influence content in higher education institutions. The qualifications framework represents a shift away from focus on content towards focus on learning outcomes, and away from subject and institution-based curriculum descriptors towards standard descriptors. This represents a power shift in terms of the definition of the content of higher education away from the profession towards technocrats and stakeholders working outside universities and higher education institutions (Karseth 2009).

2.3 Pedagogic programmes

There are numerous pedagogic programmes and methodology packages being offered to kindergartens and schools. Examples include TRAS, ART, The Leader in Me, The Incredible Years and SWPBS. Some of these programmes have been developed and are being sold by private, commercial enterprises, while others have their origins in public institutions. The use of these programmes can be seen as problematic for a variety of reasons. In many cases the decision to adopt a given programme is taken at a superior level with the result that teachers are told to implement the programme without having participated in the decision-making process. The teachers' professional judgement and critical assessments are therefore being disregarded. New programmes and methodologies will often describe a problem that can be solved and offer a product that promises to provide a universal solution. These products usually constitute recipes and procedures that must be followed in order to achieve the desired result. This implies that professional judgement is set aside in favour of predefined categories to which pedagogic reality must adapt (Pettersvold and Østrem 2012). One Norwegian tool that has been the subject of debate in recent years is TRAS (early screening of language development), designed for use in kindergartens. The UEN is very clear that one-sided focus on such tools for documentation and evaluation is not in line with good professional practice. The UEN believes that the diverse experience base that is so crucial to a good kindergarten education is being constricted and that the kindergarten learning environment is becoming poorer. Tools such as these do not pick up on the complex processes and fundamental challenges faced by each child in their learning (Union of Education Norway 2009).

Fotnote: SWPBS

SWPBS stands for School-Wide Positive Behaviour Support.

Fotnote: ART

ART stands for Aggression Replacement Training.

Fotnote: TRAS

TRAS is an acronym for Tidlig Registrering Av Språkutvikling (early screening of language development).

All municipal schools and kindergartens in Larvik have adopted the ART programme. The programme was developed in the US in the 1980s to help children in the 12–17 age group displaying chronic aggression. The programme has been translated into Norwegian and is now used by several local authorities as a universal programme for all children. Researchers (Pettersvold and Østrem 2012, Løvlie 2013) have criticised the universal application of the programme for several reasons. Firstly, the programme was originally intended for a defined group of children who had particular issues concerning anger management. The universal application of the programme is highly time-consuming for both schools and kindergartens and is seen as a misdirected use of the tool. Another aspect is that teachers in kindergartens and schools are being instructed in how to address the issue of social competence. By rolling out the programme as a universal standard for how teachers in a municipality should do their job, the teachers are robbed of their autonomy in respect of their role as educators. Løvlie (2013) criticises programmes such as ART and SWPBS for being too focused on behavioural moderation, something which has traditionally been associated with a behaviourist view of learning rather than the sociocultural approach on which the Norwegian education system is built. The imposition of such programmes can in other words lead kindergarten and school teachers to take a more instrumental approach to teaching than would have been the case had they been able to retain their autonomy in this particular area. Solbrekke and Østrem (2011) claim that growing calls for standardised programmes are forcing teachers into a new position of responsibility, one in which professional responsibility is distinguished more by a form of answerability and reporting of attainment levels than by professional judgement and professional autonomy.

2.3 Testing and constricting the social mandate

When various stakeholders such as central or local education authorities give much prominence, relatively speaking, to results from standardised tests such as national tests and the PISA tests, this can also put teachers under compulsion in terms of how they practise their profession. Quality in education can quickly become synonymous with achieving high scores in such tools. This is part of an international trend, described by Diane Ravitch thus:

Fotnote: Diane Ravitch

Diane Ravitch was an education adviser to former US president George Bush Sr. and was at the time an advocate of more testing and more competition in schools. She is now a professor at New York University and has changed her position on testing, competition and marketisation in the education sector.

…students must be constantly tested, and that the results of these tests are the most important measures and outcomes of education. The scores can be used not only to grade the quality of every school, but to punish or reward students, teachers, principals, and schools” (Ravitch 2010).

Quality can in other words be linked to testing so that quality in respect of each teacher is assessed on the basis of the test results of his or her pupils. Several Norwegian municipalities have resolved to score higher than average in national tests. The results from each school are frequently compared with those of the neighbouring school, and municipalities will compare themselves with other municipalities. This means that the test results become a goal in themselves rather than a means of promoting learning.

The mandate of our schools is broad, and it is therefore not possible to quantify all aspects of a school's activities using standardised tests. There is a risk that it is the things that are easy to quantify that are being assessed, while those that are more difficult to identify are not given the same amount of attention. Learning outcomes are not seen as qualitative phenomena that should be subjected to professional, competent judgement, and the learning is reduced to what can be quantitatively measured by tests (Engh 2012). Another phenomenon is “teaching to the test”, whereby the tuition is tailored to make the pupils perform well in tests at the expense of general learning. This phenomenon exists in many countries. Reports and books have been published in both the US and England in recent years describing the negative effects of a quality assessment system that places great emphasis on testing and on making test results public. In England the Cambridge Primary Review published its final report in 2010 (Alexander 2010). It points out that too much prominence has been given to the parts of the syllabus on which the pupils are being tested, with the result that their education has become narrower than what the curriculum prescribes. The parts of the syllabus not subjected to testing are being squeezed out. The report's authors conclude that English pupils are receiving inadequate tuition as a result of the great emphasis placed on testing and of the importance that these tests have gained. In Norway there has been a debate over whether pupils in individual municipalities are revising more than is necessary for national tests (Marsdal 2011). An evaluation of the national tests carried out by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) shows significant variations in how schools prepare for the tests (Seland et al. 2013). There are also examples internationally of systematic cheating with such tests as the tests gain more prominence (Morgenbladet 2014). The evidence cited above shows how aspects of governance information emphasised at a system level can have direct consequences for individual practitioners' ability to do their job in line with their social mandate since there are strong incentives to curtail this mandate.

2.4 Individualisation of the profession

The teaching profession has a collective focus whereby each teacher's knowledge, experience, ethical reflections and professional practice can be discussed and tested in conversation with colleagues. It is the body of staff, comprising teachers and managers, who together are tasked with developing good teaching practices and with promoting and further developing teacher professionalism (Lærerprofesjonens etiske plattform 2012). In order to achieve improvements in kindergartens and schools, managers, teachers and other staff must have a common understanding of what constitutes a good education, of what is required of each employee and of the staff as a whole, and of which framework conditions are required. The profession's collective professional and ethical foundations are being challenged by various trends with the one thing in common that they individualise responsibility in one way or other.

Management by objectives (MBO) can be practised in a number of ways to facilitate good professional practice to greater or lesser extent (Union of Education Norway 2013a). It is becoming increasingly common to break down targets to an individual level, and systems are being created that oblige staff to meet their targets. The performance-based contracts with headteachers in Oslo is one example of this. Kindergarten heads, meanwhile, are being assessed on whether they meet their budgets, on the outcomes of user surveys amongst parents, and on sickness absence amongst staff. Other forms of MBO have been introduced by local authorities whereby targets are set for employees within given deadlines (Kommunal rapport 2014). This form of management by objectives at an individual level is an element in what is often referred to as “hard HRM” and is associated with American management styles. Some of the consequences of introducing MBO at an individual level, or of hard HRM as a management principle, are that the demand for loyalty to the management and to the targets shifts power upwards in the organisation, and it restricts professional freedom since it limits the employees' opportunity to apply their expertise (Stugu and Nordrik 2012). MBO at an individual level is not compatible with the core idea of MBO as originally described (Union of Education Norway 2013a). The performance-based headteacher contracts in Oslo were also kept secret, and headteachers' salaries were linked to the meeting of secret targets. Oslo no longer rates its headteachers on the basis of the targets achieved under the contracts (City of Oslo 2014), but the arrangement whereby school leaders are assessed according to set targets is being continued in a different format (City of Oslo 2014, Malkenes 2014).

Such management by objectives at an individual level is problematic for several reasons. Firstly, it is clear that the pupils' performance levels in different tests may vary for reasons unrelated to the performance of the individual school leaders. Another issue is that such secret contracts challenge the ethical platform of the profession. It is highly problematic when teachers are unaware of any contractual attainment targets for the school that the headteacher may have accepted. It also does away with existing arenas for argumentative testing of views and values. This is detrimental to the teachers' ethical obligations and to co-operation between colleagues. In order to fulfil the social mandate granted to schools, all teaching staff must be given the opportunity to discuss what their school should be, which targets are legitimate, and how to work towards these goals. This ethical dimension can also be related to Skjervheim's (1976) description of the “instrumentalist mistake”, which implies that pedagogic actions are interpreted using a model for instrumental actions. This means that we evaluate the extent to which an action is working on the basis of whether or not we meet the target. The ethical aspect, in the sense that this is about relationships between people, is not taken into consideration. Humans are objectified, and in this particular context other humans become instruments for reaching our own goals.

Another facet of the increased individualisation resulting from such management by objectives is that this practice is at odds with the knowledge that autonomy at work boosts motivation. Professor Kuvaas at BI Norwegian Business School puts it like this:

 “Empirical data shows that perceived job autonomy is king in the workplace. It gives people the feeling of job variety, opportunities for growth and development, a feeling of being part of a bigger whole. Micromanagement by target-setting does not place trust in the employees or allow them to think for themselves or make independent decisions. It kills off their inner motivation.” (Kommunal rapport 2014)

Performance-related pay (PRP) for teachers is mooted at irregular intervals by various players as an incentive for motivating teachers. It was proposed by the Chief Executive of the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise, Kristin Skogen Lund, at the confederation's annual conference in 2013 (NHO 2013). The Aftenposten newspaper has also run leaders advocating PRP as a way of retaining talented teachers (Aftenposten 2014b). The PRP model has been trialled and introduced in various guises in countries such as the US and England (TES 2013). PRP is usually linked to quantifiable indicators designed to provide a picture of the teacher's performance on the basis of learning outcomes. In a Norwegian context, examples of indicators include the pupils' scores in national tests or exams. No correlation has been documented between school systems using PRP for teachers and PISA results (OECD 2012b). The UEN maintains that PRP, just like management by objectives at an individual level, is demotivating for teachers (Union of Education Norway 2014b). The linking of pay to often predefined quantitative indicators associated with pupil performance also poses ethical, professional and didactic concerns.

2.5 Decentralisation in the education sector

The decentralisation of power and/or responsibility is another international trend affecting professional freedoms. We are seeing how decentralisation in many cases moves responsibility from a national to a local level, and in some cases as far as to an individual level. There is also an ongoing debate over what should be governed at a national versus a local level. This is rendered relevant by the perception that there is a lack of coherence between political ambitions at a national level and how these ambitions are actually put into practice locally. The most far-reaching consequence could be that individual teachers are held responsible for ensuring that all objectives and targets for the tuition are being met in the case of each child and each pupil, including where the framework conditions for achieving this are not present. This puts the teacher in a particularly vulnerable and difficult position. If democratic governance of education at a national level is weakened, we may see a big gap opening up between national objectives of equitable education and the ability of teachers to realise them (Hultqvist 2014, Bergh 2014). Sweden has gone far in municipalising its schools (Lewin 2014). The evaluation of this process shows that it has had consequences both for framework conditions for the profession and for equity in education. The transfer of additional powers to local authorities has contributed to declining performance levels amongst pupils and to more inequality. Working conditions for teachers have become more difficult, and the workload has increased. School leaders are also finding themselves in a more difficult position, partly because local authorities are increasingly making decisions that intervene in and encroach on their professional freedoms (Ibid.).

The introduction of the Norwegian Knowledge Promotion reform as a governance reform can also be viewed in a power shift perspective. One premise of the Curriculum for Knowledge Promotion was that any changes to school learning should start at the bottom. When evaluating the reform, however, it was pointed out that the autonomy of the profession does not appear to have been strengthened (Aasen et al. 2012, Aasen 2012). The researchers concluded that national political governance during the implementation period became progressively stronger and more activity and action-driven than direction-driven. The implementation of the Curriculum for Knowledge Promotion has therefore resulted in increased tension between centralised and decentralised governance and between political and professional governance (Ibid.)

2.6 The influence of private, commercial interest on education

The freedoms of teaching practitioners' can also be diminished by the introduction of private, commercial interests in the education sector. One obvious example of this is of course ownership. For owners of commercial schools it is an advantage to be able to point to the good grades of their students. In Sweden this has manifested itself in the form of so-called “grade inflation”. This means that pupils from private schools receive higher coursework grades than pupils from state schools. At the same time it has become clear that private pupils are getting relatively lower exam grades than they are coursework grades compared with pupils from state schools. The same tendency has been identified and discussed in Norway (Union of Education 2013b, Grønmo and Onstad 2013, Directorate for Education and Training 2013, Aftenposten 2013). Teachers have spoken up about how they are put under great pressure by the school management to give pupils better coursework grades that can be justified on the basis of their academic performance (Utdanningsnytt 2013, Nordlys 2013, Sundsvalls tidning 2011). This puts pressure on teachers' professionalism and integrity, while their loyalty to the owner and employer is being challenged (Ibid.) A recent review of the grade differences between public and private upper secondary schools in Norway carried out by the Nordic Institute for Studies in Innovation, Research and Education (NIFU) shows that the picture is nuanced. The report found greater discrepancies between coursework and exam grades in private, general schools than in private Christian, private specialist, and state schools (Hovdhaugen et al. 2014).

Fotnote: general schools

General private upper secondary schools offer general study programmes preparing the pupils for higher education. Some of these schools will offer partly exam-focused tuition for private candidates in single subjects and partly ordinary study programmes with exam accreditation involving three years of study and organised in the same way as state schools. The NIFU study covers the latter form of study since students on these programmes will normally be given both coursework grades and exam grades, both of which are necessary in order to carry out an analysis. Many of these schools were licensed under the Free School Act before it was superseded by the new Private Education Act in 2005. This category also includes schools advertising “guaranteed grades”, often in connection with study programmes not covered by the NIFU analysis where the students sit their exams as external candidates in individual subjects (Hovdhaugen et al. 2014).

Another aspect of the influence of commercial interests concerns the use of consultants. Consultants from the private sector are currently being hired in to “clean up” schools. One example of this is Oslo, where Ernst & Young has been contracted to help 13 schools in the city over a four-year period. The schools have been selected on the basis of poor results and challenging pupils. The consultants will be looking at management, pupil behaviour, the structure and organisation of the tuition, skills, and co-operation with parents/guardians. These tasks can be defined as being core tasks for teachers. It would be pertinent to ask what the consultants possess in terms of relevant professional expertise and why the profession itself is not represented by advisory teams or teacher training institutions (Aftenposten 2012a and b). The profession should have been involved as contributors when it has been deemed necessary to seek external help. This is an illustrative example of a power shift away from the profession. In this case it is the consulting industry that is being tasked with defining what constitutes good pedagogic processes. Consultants are used by executives across the entire welfare sector in Norway, and they therefore play a part in defining what constitutes good professional practice. This phenomenon is not unique to Norway. In Denmark the management consulting firm McKinsey has been asked to design and implement large parts of the government's schools reform (Politiken 2014). The Danish government argues that it is useful to obtain external input in order to identify new solutions. On the other hand, the consultants are working on the basis of a particular understanding of what education is, how the education sector should be governed, and how the sector can be made more efficient. The knowledge of the teaching profession as expressed by the teachers' unions is given much less thought. cf. the lockout that Danish teachers suffered in 2013.

Fotnote: professional practice

We can see the criticism of the use of McKinsey's consultants as setting the agenda for the frustration surrounding the hospital merger in Oslo, which was implemented in the face of stark warnings from the health sector that the economic benefits and academic consequences that the consultants cited were not based on adequate background data. The same consultants are also being used to implement the policies that they themselves have drawn up (Kierulf and Slagstad 2011, Slagstad 2012).

As mentioned previously, many of the pedagogic products offered to kindergartens and schools are marketed by commercial interests. One complicating factor in all this is when these commercial interests also have ownership interests in an institution. “The Leader in Me” is one example of this. “The Leader in Me” is a controversial programme designed to train kindergarten children to become proactive, to put work before play, and to think about win-win situations, amongst other things (The Leader in Me, FranklinCovey 2014). Eleven kindergartens have now adopted the tool, which was developed by a management consultancy (Aftenposten 2014, Aftonbladet 2013). The tool was developed by a commercial enterprise where the Norwegian rights are owned by the same person who owns the kindergartens that have implemented the programme. We shall refrain from commenting on the views on children and childhood that this management programme promotes. The problem with commercial kindergarten owners buying such a programme from themselves and compelling their employees to adopt it illustrates how the profession is becoming sidelined and how kindergartens' social mandate is being subordinated to the interests of others. This type of governance of educational institutions represents a distinct power shift away from practitioners towards commercial ownership interests.

Chapter 3 The collective influence of the profession

In this chapter we will look more closely at the power shifts taking place from employees to employers and from trade unions and elected politicians to representatives of various private, commercial interests. Governance trends and changing employment structures are affecting the long-term co-operation between the parties in the education sector. A number of minor changes combine to cause significant consequences for development processes in kindergartens and schools.

There are at least two key aspects of these developments. Firstly, the changing basis for the profession's collective influence and for democratic governance of the education sector will have an impact on equity and quality in education. Secondly, if professional associations, other trade unions and elected politicians lose power and influence over public sector services, we must expect other players to reinforce their positions. It is of great interest to the national debate on education policy to establish who these interests are and which values they represent and promote.

The review given below does not paint a complete picture of changes and challenges in the Norwegian labour market. We have selected general examples, albeit of particular relevance to the co-operation between the parties in the education sector.

3.1 The Norwegian model

The Norwegian model has traditionally been cited as the reason why Norway is doing well in a number of international surveys on quality of life, development and productivity. At a macro level the Norwegian model can be described as a “well organised democratic nation in which the parties in the labour market and in wider society are obligated to each other and help improve welfare for all” (Hernes 2006:13).

Fotnote: The Norwegian model

The Norwegian model is often referenced in the public discourse on the social model that regulates Norwegian society and its labour market. Research literature often uses the term the Nordic model as a common identifier for features that characterise all the Nordic countries. The two terms are used interchangeably in this briefing. The Norwegian model is often divided into a labour market model, a welfare model and an economic model. The labour market model is particularly relevant to the issues raised in this policy briefing.

Both the right and the left of Norwegian politics have embraced the model, despite there being some disagreement over how and why the Norwegian model works. However, there is broad consensus that the cornerstone of the model is the co-operation between different stakeholders centrally and between employers and employees locally (Trygstad and Hagen 2007). The system of agreements that regulates the Norwegian and Nordic labour markets has an impact on rights and on the balance of power, and it has been key to the Nordic countries' ability to combine equality and productivity. The model is also credited with creating steady growth and high employment in the Norwegian economy and labour market. This creates a sense of predictability and security, which is of great benefit to employers, employees and society as a whole. The model also provides a basis for systematic employee-driven development. Furthermore, the fact that the model is built on trust and co-operation has enabled quality control and development in the labour market – at a low cost and with a high level of legitimacy amongst the parties (Hernes 2007).

Good co-operation between employers' and employees' organisations – both in the form of contractual co-determination rights and through formal and informal co-operation between representative organisations – is the backbone of the model. A high level of trade union membership and strong unions are therefore prerequisites for the Norwegian model (Bergene 2012, Hernes 2006).

3.2 Basis for the profession's influence

Just as teachers are the most significant individual factor in ensuring quality in education, the teaching profession – represented by the trade unions – plays an equally important role in further developing and quality-assuring education through representation at different governance levels within the education sector.

The Norwegian macro model for organising the labour market and the welfare state has a parallel in the Norwegian micro model in the business world (Hernes 2006, Hernes 2007). The Norwegian micro model consists of two key components, one of which being the distribution of revenue through negotiations on pay, regulations and co-determination. The second component, co-operation on development, is at least as important in order to understand why and how the Norwegian model is working so well. Co-operation between the parties often takes place in the form of participation by employee representatives in projects relating to development and change. This form of co-operation on development is one of the things that make the Nordic labour market especially adaptable, productive and development-driven (Ibid.). In the education sector much of this co-operation takes place in kindergartens and schools. The UEN's member survey found that this type of co-operation has become firmly established in the education sector (Jordfald et al. 2014).

The relevance and influence of the trade union movement at both macro and micro levels are reliant on a high degree of trade union membership and on a high number of employees being covered by collective agreements. These requisites ensure the representativeness and thus the legitimacy of the trade unions, both at a societal level and within a given trade or profession. The education sector is characterised by a high level of trade union membership and strong involvement by members and employee representatives (Jordfald et al. 2014). Co-operation between the parties takes place at different governance levels within the education sector and may manifest itself in the form of co-operation on curriculum development centrally, budgets at a municipal level, and professional/pedagogic development in schools and kindergartens. Employee representatives in the workplace are important cornerstones in the Norwegian labour market model at an enterprise level (Trygstad and Vennesland 2012). In schools and kindergartens they represent the teaching profession on professional issues and on other matters relating to employment. It is therefore important to organise the education sector and other parts of the public sector in such a way as to safeguard and further refine the best aspects of this co-operation model. This is necessary in order to enable the professional associations to serve as strong and representative parties in the long-term co-operation over development and quality – both centrally and locally.

This co-operation takes place at several different governance levels and is based on good and long-standing co-operative relationships between parties who acknowledge that they may have conflicting interests – but common goals. Co-determination is often taken to mean participation in decision-making processes where managers and employee representatives are, in principle, equal parties. Contribution means taking part in the implementation phase within the frameworks set by the decision makers. Participation by employees can overlap with both co-determination and contribution, while influence refers to the actual effect of the employees' participation (Trygstad and Hagen 2007).

3.3 Governance trends in the public sector

Since the 1990s the Norwegian public sector has seen increasing decentralisation and a wave of reforms often described as New Public Management (NPM), in which management by objectives and market principles are key elements. Under NPM forms of organisation and management used in the private sector serve as models for public sector reform. This includes the use of demand-delivery models in the public sector, outsourcing and breaking up of state-owned enterprises, and so-called customer focus and freedom of choice aimed at citizens of the welfare state. At a municipal level the development of intermunicipal co-operation and the introduction of municipal parliamentarianism are examples of changes leading to new challenges in respect of co-determination and political lobbying.

In the policy briefing Management by objectives – challenges and opportunities (Union of Education Norway 2013a) we looked in detail at management by objectives, at the correlation with NPM, and at how such governance is practised in the public sector in general and in the education sector in particular. The way in which the governance system is designed and practised has a major impact on the Norwegian model at both micro and macro levels. The debate that ensued after the publication of the 22 July Commission's report resulted in a common, cross-sector understanding of the governance challenges in the public sector. There is now broad consensus that the form of governance that has been practised in the public sector has not been management by objectives, but extensive micromanagement (Dagens Næringsliv 19.9.12). This practice has undermined the main intention behind MBO – namely the empowerment of employees at the expense of top-down management (Drucker 1954).

Parallel to the introduction of governance systems from the private sector there has also been a transfer of management and organisational principles from the private sector to public sector enterprises. This trend has an impact on the role and function of employee representatives and will in some cases come to challenge the goal that managers and employee representatives should be able to interact as equal parties (Hagen and Trygstad 2008). We will now look more closely at what these trends mean for relations between employers and employees.

Managerial prerogatives

A cornerstone of the Nordic model are the laws and collective agreements that limit managerial prerogatives and grant employees the right to co-determination through trade unions. This arrangement is regulated by the Basic Agreement from 1935. These rights are now being challenged in ever larger parts of the labour market. There is a trend towards increased managerial prerogatives in several areas. The government's proposed changes to the Working Environment Act in the summer of 2014 are but one example. One of the most hotly debated proposals is the government's drive to relax restrictions on the use of temporary employment contracts and to introduce changes to working time regulations in several areas. One common denominator of many of the proposals is that power and influence are being shifted away from employees, employee representatives and trade unions towards employers (Folkestad et al. 2014).

The position taken by the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities (KS) in the conflict with the teachers' organisations in the spring of 2014 can be seen to represent the same view on managerial prerogatives. The teachers' strike in 2014 ended in a comprehensive victory for the teachers' arguments in favour of professional autonomy. This conflict between the teachers' organisations and KS had interesting parallels with what happened in Denmark in 2013, although there are also significant differences between the two events. Local Government Denmark (LGDK), the sister organisation of Norway's KS, wanted to make changes to the working time agreement with Danish teachers. Using lockouts and rejecting the teachers' right to hold genuine negotiations, LGDK and the Danish government succeeded in quashing the teachers' negotiated settlement on preparation time, after-school work and teaching load as well as older teachers' right to fewer teaching hours. Analyses of the chain of events indicate that the aim of the changes was partly to use teachers and pupils to finance the government's major modernisation reform and partly to eliminate teachers' right to negotiate working hours through collective agreements and replacing trade union influence with increased managerial prerogatives. In this perspective the developments in Denmark represent a serious attack on the professional autonomy of the teaching profession and a weakening of the Nordic model of co-operation (Thording and Bank 2014).

New forms of management

Other governance trends making their mark on the Norwegian labour market include those often described as American management theories. One thing these theories have in common is that there is no room for the trade unions. Introducing this thinking in the Norwegian labour market will therefore also weaken and undermine the Norwegian model at an enterprise level. So-called human resources management (HRM) often involves managing by objectives at an individual level, cf. Chapter 2. Another aspect of this style of management is that, contrary to Norwegian tradition, it is the management team that sets the agenda. Collectively driven HR policies are often also replaced by increased individualisation of the relationship between manager and employee. In such a system trade unions and professional organisations are sidelined, and co-determination is replaced by information and informal discussions that give employees little influence over important decisions. This power shift is in stark contrast to the management practices that have come to characterise the Norwegian model and laid the foundations for employee-driven development in the public sector (Barsok 2012, Stugu and Nordrik 2012).

The form of management described here is often also accompanied by an increased use of external consultants to “objectively” set the agenda for enterprise development. As previously mentioned, these consultants have also made their entrance in the education sector. It can be argued that by hiring external consultants, the executive management assumes increased power over the perception of reality that gives rise to changes. In such a perspective the consultants aid in strengthening the management and weakening the professional influence of employees (Herning 2014).

Active participation by employees, including professional contribution, is key to quality control and development in the public sector. For that reason the design of the governance system and the choice of management principles in the education sector are inextricably linked to the quality of education. We know that in the education sector local co-operation between the parties works better if managers have good knowledge of the trade unions and their role (Jordfald et al. 2014).

In the new management theories, focus is on the manager. People management and knowledge of interrelationships are also cited as important, but the issues of employee representation and collective agreements are rarely covered on management training programmes (Trygstad and Hagen 2007). In 2007 the research foundation Fafo found the Norwegian Defence University College to be the only institution to have included the Basic Agreement in its syllabus. Nor would it appear that co-operation is given much attention on the national training programme for headteachers (NIFU and NTNU 2011, 2012, 2013). The training programme for kindergarten heads is under review, and the last interim report is due in the autumn of 2014. It is therefore too early to say how co-operation is being addressed on the national training programme for kindergarten heads.

Various trends linked to development processes are also making their mark in the labour market. Ongoing development has always taken place in Norwegian kindergartens and schools. In most places these processes are firmly established and an integral part of the collective profession's pedagogic work. These are processes in which teachers and leaders play complementary roles and where the teaching profession as a collective enters into a collaboration with the education authorities at different governance levels. In Chapter 2 we mentioned lean, a management philosophy that involves developing an organisational culture for continual improvement in order to make better use of resources and to increase efficiency. There are numerous tools available for achieving this, including developing best practice. As a method, lean is highly controversial in the Norwegian labour market. Its sharpest critics believe that “lean is the main taylorist approach of our time” and that it is an integral element in management theories for human resources management (Norwegian Civil Service Union at the University of Oslo 2011). The aim of lean is to eliminate unnecessary resources and activities that do not generate concrete and quantifiable benefits. At public sector institutions such as the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration and the University of Oslo, where lean has been introduced, the trade unions have received feedback from employees and employee representatives saying that the method undermines their right to co-determination and involvement in development and restructuring projects. There is frustration at how standardisation and a stopwatch mentality has a detrimental effect on service quality (Elgsaas 2012).

Working systematically and with a resolve to raise quality in enterprises is both necessary and desirable – both in the private and the public sectors, and not least in schools and kindergartens. The unwelcome effect of the trends we have described here is that development models are being chosen that undermine rather than build on what has been the hallmark of the Norwegian labour market for many years – namely employee-driven development. The use of external consultants and management-driven development in such processes moves power upwards in the organisation and plays a part in weakening professional quality control and legitimacy surrounding necessary development processes.

3.4 Changing employment structures in the labour market

Privatisation and competition along with the use of temping agencies and other short-term labour are changing the employment structures in the public sector. This trend is increasingly also affecting the education sector. This rise in insecure and casual employment is an international trend which results partly from the privatisation and commercialisation of welfare services. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) describes this as precarious work and at its 2014 world congress resolved to intensify its efforts against this type of work (ITUC 2014). Education International (EI) has published a report on trends relating to the freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining in the education sector after the financial crisis. The study's findings include:

Fotnote: precarious work

Precarious work is non-standard employment that is poorly paid, insecure, unprotected, and cannot support a household

“…working conditions in the education sector are increasingly precarious, with widespread use of short-term, interim or fixed-term contracts, impacting the quality and continuity of education services.” (Wintour 2013)

What is often referred to as flexibility, modernisation and simplification of the public sector does in fact frequently imply a switch towards more insecure and casual employment, something that has an adverse effect on the security and predictability for each employee and on the stability and long-termism of the co-operation between the parties in the workplace. As mentioned above, the proposed changes to the Working Environment Act relating to temporary employment are an example of this trend. In its consultation response Unio states that:

“Unio takes the view that the proposed changes to the Working Environment Act will lead to weaker protection and poorer conditions for employees, it will be a hindrance to gender equality, and it will weaken the existing three-party co-operation in the Norwegian labour market.” (Unio 2014).

It also concludes that

“if the government were to win support for its proposed changes, it would be a historic turning point to the disadvantage of employees.” (Ibid.)

The interrelationships between governance trends, the organisation of the labour market and new forms of employment – and their impact on trade union membership and contractual co-determination – are becoming increasingly clear (Bergene 2012). One common denominator of insecure and casual employment is that it has a detrimental impact on trade union membership. These developments therefore lead to both uncertainty for individuals and a general weakening of the influence of the trade unions.

Contract workers

We are seeing how the use of contract workers is becoming more prevalent, also in the education sector. One criterion for co-operation in the workplace is the knowledge that the parties will be interacting and co-operating for a long time (Hernes 2006). Established, long-term development processes contribute towards professional and holistic quality improvements in the sector. This co-operation will certainly become more fragmented if the use of contract workers becomes commonplace. Short-term employment impels both employers and employees to act differently. This manifests itself in the form of a lack of training and reduced investment in further and complementary training. We have already seen several examples of this in relation to the use of temps in the health sector (Bergene 2012). This trend poses a threat to both quality and equity in the education sector. Taking a long-term perspective on skills development is key to ensuring good welfare services of a high quality.

We also know that temporary employees are less likely to be organised in trade unions. In workplaces where there are few or no trade union members it is difficult to implement collective agreements and elect employee representatives. Successful co-operation relies on well trained employee representatives at all levels. The co-determination arrangements associated with the Norwegian co-operation model in the labour market are far less ubiquitous in sectors where trade union membership and the use of collective agreement are limited (Trygstad og Vennesland 2012).

When using temping agencies a blurred line emerges between who the contracting party is and who the employer is, something that complicates the relationship between employee and employer because it is not clear who the relevant parties are when negotiating and co-operating. We are also seeing how co-determination is made more difficult when employers and employees are not physically present in the same workplace. This fragmentation could help cause statutory co-determination to become meaningless (Bergene 2012).

Privatisation and competition

The use of temping agencies is already commonplace amongst private, commercial enterprises, both in kindergartens and schools. Such enterprises often operate with corporate structures where temping agencies are integrated subsidiaries (For the Welfare State 2010, 2013). In the wake of the commercialisation of Swedish schools there is clear evidence that the growth of private, commercial interests in the education sector leads to increased use of temping agencies, temporary employment and unskilled labour (Lindgren 2013). This results in lower costs and subsequently better potential for returns for these commercial interests. In the policy briefing Privatisation and quality in education (Union of Education Norway 2013b) we showed how this trend has a negative impact on equity and quality in education. One of the reasons for this is that the changing structures in the education sector have an impact on the very foundations for the Norwegian model and on the balance of power between the parties in the labour market.

The experiences from Sweden also show that increased commercialisation in the education sector over time means it is the large, often international, enterprises that emerge as the biggest players (Swedish National Agency for Education 2012a). Being an employee representative in a big enterprise is often seen as a demanding role, because decisions are frequently made in fora where employee representatives are not present. In other sectors there are also examples of ambiguity in terms of whom the employee representatives should negotiate with – whether the other party is the local management or the group management – and which matters should be subject to co-determination. The employees' ability to influence decisions is restricted if the decision-making structures of laws and collective agreements do not match the company's decision-making structure (Norwegian Civil Service 2012, Trygstad and Vennesland 2012). The same tendencies can be seen in the Norwegian kindergarten sector. When power and influence is shifted to boardrooms far away from everyday practice in kindergartens and schools it undermines good co-operation on development, something which has traditionally been a key feature in the education sector, and it will limit the profession's ability to make a systematic contribution to the joint effort to improve education standards. In other words, the structures resulting from privatisation and commercialisation can in themselves contribute to the power shift that continues to erode the basis for local co-operation between the parties.

The same applies to competitive tendering. The use of tenders and competition in the public sector frequently implies a time frame of four to six years before new tendering processes result in potentially new owners. Competition in the kindergarten sector, for example, has serious consequences for employees, partly in relation to pension entitlements. We will not go into this in detail here. Our main concern in this context is to identify the uncertainty and lack of predictability that results from time-limited tendering processes. Development in kindergartens and schools is a complex process that commands a long-term perspective on issues such as skills and skills development. Long-termism is another important building block for exploiting the potential that the co-operation between the parties offers. Competition therefore involves perspectives and frameworks that ruin the scope for long-term development. Another facet of the competition situation is that it pays for the competing parties not to share experiences and knowledge.

3.5 Democratic control of welfare services

The growing presence of commercial and private enterprises in the education sector also leads to a loss of democratic control (Union of Education Norway 2013b). One illustrative example of this came in 2010 when the red-green government launched draft legislation on placing a cap on the dividends that can be paid by commercial kindergartens. Commercial kindergarten owners objected and threatened to close down kindergartens if the bill was passed. In the end the bill was amended, and the entire process just goes to show how market share gives power and influence over education policy (Herning 2013). Similar situations could occur in municipalities where commercial enterprises with a large share of the kindergarten or healthcare markets, for instance, are effectively given a veto when local lawmakers draw up policies for the sector. One example of this occurred in Bergen in the autumn of 2014. The private, commercial kindergarten chain Kidsa is by far the biggest operator in Bergen in the sector. In the last two years it has made profits of NOK 53 million and has been deemed to be a good working partner for the city council. Like many other private kindergartens, Kidsa runs a cheaper pension scheme than do public sector kindergartens, yet it has been given the same level of funding as if it operated a public sector pension scheme. Disagreement arose, however, when the city council decided to cut grants for private kindergartens. Kidsa responded by announcing that it will no longer hold two intakes a year (Bergens Tidende 2014, ABC nyheter 2014). This case highlights how local politicians, too, lose their political latitude and democratic control when private providers gain influence over important policy areas.

Influence exercised by trade unions and other parties requires open democratic processes and genuine political latitude. The power shift resulting from the privatisation of the public sector displaces both politicians and practitioners. The consequence is a democratic deficit and professional decline. Along with the trends on the governance of the public sector and new structures in the labour market described above, this contributes to a power shift that weakens the co-operation on development in the labour market and in wider society. The goal should be to identify an appropriate distribution of power and influence between politicians and practitioners that ensures both necessary political control and professional autonomy.

Chapter 4 Alternatives to current governance practices

4.1 The consequences of power shifts in the education sector

In this policy briefing we have highlighted how different trends in society encroach on working practices and change the way in which trade unions can exercise influence over key areas of the labour market. Such trends can be found across different sectors and in different countries. The adopted governance models for the public sector in general and the education sector in particular are the result of political decision-making. In a governance perspective it is therefore pertinent to ask questions about how power, influence and responsibility should be distributed. Which roles should practitioners, politicians, employers and representatives of various private interests play? Which values do we want to embrace in the development of the education system as a social institution?

Earlier in this briefing we addressed the autonomy and collective influence of the profession in two separate chapters while seeking to demonstrate how many of the same trends have consequences for both these dimensions. The governance trends currently dominating the education sector have an impact both on the professional autonomy of school and kindergarten teachers and on the Norwegian co-operation model in the labour market, and subsequently also on the collective influence of the teaching profession. For that reason the solutions offered by the UEN must integrate both the perspectives of the profession and the traditional perspectives of the trade unions. It is the Norwegian model that lays the foundations for the collective influence of the profession, which in turn is a prerequisite for professional autonomy.

4.2 Developing a governance system that ensures equity and quality

On the basis of the arguments set out above, we should like to outline three requirements that must form the basis of any alternatives to current governance practices.

Equitable education

Serving as both a trade union and a professional association, the UEN is working to ensure good and equitable education for all. This manifests itself in the broad social mandate granted to kindergartens and schools and in the ethical platform of the teaching profession. These values and principles are thus cornerstones of the UEN's objectives and guiding principles for identifying alternatives to the existing trends.

Democratic control

The governance of the education sector at a superior level must be democratic. This is necessary in order to ensure that practices in kindergartens and schools are in line with the social mandate of these institutions. Education in Norway is subject to politically determined objectives. It is in everyone's interest that elected politicians retain control over education in such a way that key education policy goals such as equity and quality in education can be realised. The Norwegian three-party co-operation model also relies on the existence of a democratic, political entity with actual power and influence to act as a meaningful co-operation partner – both for employers and employees.

Influence of the profession

When alternatives to current practices are being drawn up, it is also essential that steps are taken to ensure that the influence of the profession at all levels of the education sector is maintained. This is necessary in order to develop a governance system that safeguards each individual teacher's professional autonomy. The collective influence of the profession is protected by employee representatives at all levels.

In this chapter we will be reflecting on some aspects that may be relevant to the ongoing process of developing alternative governance practices. The three requirements equitable education, democratic control and influence of the profession form the basis for our argument.

Professional ethics and the professional learning community

School and kindergarten teachers, kindergarten heads and leaders in the education sector are obliged to act in the interest of the values and principles of the teaching profession as expressed in the teaching profession's ethical platform. The platform asserts that the loyalty of the profession lies with the children and pupils with a view to bringing out the best in them. The profession does not compromise on the values embedded in its social mandate, in its skills and expertise or in its ethical platform. This also means that practitioners must take responsibility for raising the alarm when framework conditions result in professionally and ethically unacceptable situations (Lærerprofesjonens etiske plattform 2012). The platform thus gives practitioners a common base and an obligation to put their foot down when governance systems, tools, measurements and reporting routines are at odds with the best interests of the children. In the case of Sandefjord, the teachers' objections against being forced to implement professionally and ethically unacceptable evaluation and reporting procedures could be justified on the basis of the profession's ethical platform. At the same time it is clear that it requires courage to speak up when there is strong pressure to toe the management line. When the entire profession is committed to the same values and principles, it paves the way for common ethical reflections leading to positions that do not leave individual teachers to themselves, instead uniting the profession in standing up for their adopted values and principles. Alternative governance systems must help ensure that each teacher or leader's professional practice is not individualised and separated from those of their peers.

The teaching profession's ethical platform can also be used as a stepping stone for developing alternative governance models that concur with the profession's values, both professionally and ethically. We could mention core values such as human dignity and human rights, professional integrity, respect, equality and the protection of privacy. A value-based governance system and management model require knowledge of the profession and of the rationality that characterise its members along with insight into the profession's core values (Glomseth 2014). UEN president Ragnhild Lied puts it like this:

It is the professional duty of each school and kindergarten teacher to continue to seek answers to how the expectations laid down in laws and curricula can be followed up on a daily basis. These expectations must be interpreted, the situation in question must be interpreted, and the teacher must decide which steps to take. This is how easy, and how difficult, the teacher's role is. This is professional judgement. This is what the government delegates to teachers. And this is what school leaders must qualify and support their teachers to do. It requires a close, ambitious and critical dialogue between leaders and teachers. What we do not need is for this type of trustful professional dialogue to be replaced by governance.” (Utdanning 2014).

Good teaching practices and good kindergartens arise from the collective of teachers. Both teachers and leaders are committed to the same core principles, including the goals and intentions embodied in laws and curricula and other key governance documents derived from these. The justification for the professional dialogue can be found in these sources. A good leader will call for and be a challenger in such a dialogue, but he or she will also facilitate and stimulate in order that a professional dialogue can take place. This runs counter to a governance line where players outside the educational institutions set out to manage in detail how the teaching should be carried out, for example, before following up with a rigid control regime.

In a joint statement, the OECD and Education International (EI) emphasised that the teachers' role is key to achieving change in the education system and that strong trade unions play a decisive role in the development of education policy (Schleicher og Leeuwen 2014). One prerequisite for this professional dialogue is that kindergarten heads and school headteachers possess the professional and pedagogic expertise needed to enable them to take part in the discussions with teachers and to exercise pedagogic leadership. Imsen (2014) concludes that by adopting a model from the world of business, the politicians have introduced a system under which the requirements for pedagogic qualifications amongst school leaders have been eroded over time and which is built on the belief that it is leaders who generate results (Ibid.) Headteachers are no longer required to hold a teaching qualification; they only need to meet criteria for pedagogic expertise and necessary management skills. Training programmes for headteachers cannot compensate for a lack of teaching experience. Training for both headteachers and kindergarten heads must also address the issue of co-operation with other parties if these leaders are to engage in constructive co-operation locally.

Exercising professionally competent leadership in a professional learning community also requires proximity in time and space. When, for example, local authorities choose to introduce organisational models where kindergarten heads are physically separated from the kindergarten they are tasked with managing, their ability to manage and take part in the professional learning community is significantly weakened. In recent years a growing number of local authorities have reorganised their kindergartens into units comprising multiple kindergartens with a joint head of department (Greve et al. 2014). Research has shown that kindergarten heads, and then particularly heads of departments, have become less accessible in recent years, which means more of the administrative management falls to the senior teachers (Hauge 2001, Kildahl 2004). In the Alna district in Oslo a survey was carried out to identify the most time-consuming processes after the reorganisation into units. The survey found that the content of meetings had moved away from professional issues, i.e. planning and assessment, towards the reorganising of personnel and providing information (Nicolaisen et al. 2012). This form of organisation thus undermines the scope for professional management of a professional learning community, while the frameworks for local co-operation between the parties are weakened.

Teachers are more than just members of the professional learning community made up of the teachers and leaders in an institution. The collective voice of the profession is united in a common ethical platform but also in the form of a common policy approach via the trade unions. Strong professional learning communities can work together to identify good solutions and exercise collective influence – in individual schools and kindergartens, within municipalities and counties, and at a national level.

Management by objectives and professional contribution

The prevailing governance philosophy in the public sector is often described as management by objectives (MBO). This is entrenched in the financial regulations as a fundamental governance principle at both government and municipal levels (Ministry of Finance 1996, 2010). The regulations state that all enterprises must set goals and performance targets within the limits of their available resources and the conditions stipulated by the superior authority (Ibid.) However, the existing governance regime is not fit for purpose. MBO in the education sector has taken on a form which in practice goes against the intention behind MBO as a governance instrument in many ways (Union of Education Norway 2013a). While MBO is intended to promote employee autonomy, set the course for improvements and ensure contribution from employees (Drucker 1955), the model as practised today has led to quite different outcomes. As mentioned previously, strengthening teachers' autonomy as practitioners was one of the intentions behind the Knowledge Promotion reform. However, the evaluation of the reform discovered that teachers are instead being overruled by the hierarchy (Aasen 2012). In brief, we can link current governance practices to increased bureaucracy, control before development, constantly changing goals, micromanagement instead of professional autonomy, and a lack of contribution from the profession (Union of Education Norway 2013a. De Bruijn (2009) states that the nature of professional, complex services means that MBO becomes far more challenging in the public sector than in the traditional production of goods. It is more difficult to measure results in organisations associated with more intangible values. One reason for this is that the values in themselves can be mutually contradictory, which means some of the values are easily ignored (only values that can be easily measured are being measured). The measurements will therefore not provide an accurate picture of professional performance.

Fotnote: professional performance

Furthermore, it becomes more difficult to measure outcomes when the service is provided in partnership with others – because the outcomes therefore also depend on the efforts of others – and when the outcomes are affected by external factors. In the case of the education sector we can but mention that social background plays a major part in most targets. We can also link this to the fact that measuring results is based on the idea that an organisation is autonomous in respect of the outcomes it achieves. It is more difficult to measure outcomes when the provision of services is reliant on others and does not take place in isolation. Scoring highly on a given performance indicator for an organisation can come at the expense of the targets set for a different organisation or unit. Together this can be suboptimal in relation to joint, overarching targets. Finally we should mention the relationship between performance measurement and quality. De Bruijn asks whether performance measurement paints an accurate picture of the quality of the service, and if there is inconsistency between measurements and quality, we run the risk of drawing more attention to quantity than to quality (Ibid.)

The debate over governance in the public sector after the 22 July Commission's report generated increased awareness of these governance challenges. This is illustrated by the comments on the report from the Norwegian Labour Party, the Socialist Left and the Centre Party:

“… In hindsight we can see how the targets have been too many and too detailed, and that MBO as a principle has been too dominant in deciding how different agencies should be run. In practice, MBO has just as often been an obstacle to allowing good and qualified decisions to be made by those with the best knowledge of the field and to allowing agencies to learn from experiences and developing better services. Current and future governments should make it their overriding goal to ensure that the targets that are set for public agencies are few in number, that they are qualitative, and that employees are involved in drawing up the targets within the frameworks of political guidance and annual budgets". (Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs 2013)

This quote hints at a different version of MBO where allowances are made for far greater contribution from the professions. This was also part of the message given in Unio's consultation response in connection with the so-called police analysis. The response also cited co-determination by employees and their organisations along with a balance between control and trust as a means of giving the professions space to make professional and ethical judgements (Unio 2013). This way the further development of MBO can form part of the solution to the governance challenges in the public sector in general and the education sector in particular, and it can create a framework for co-operation between the parties over equality, quality and profession-based development.

From a professional perspective, MBO is probably the governance model that will give the profession the greatest professional influence compared with other governance alternatives such as political micromanagement, market-driven management or direct management by government agencies. There are three key MBO components in particular that must be developed further in order to unlock this potential. Firstly, targets must be defined at a superior level and with the active input of employees. Secondly, co-determination and contribution by employees and their organisations must be an integrated part of both design and practice when it comes to governance. This will give legitimacy to the governance model and ensure the quality and relevance of the governance documentation that is collected. The third and last component concerns performance evaluation. In order for the governance system to promote quality in education, performance evaluations and evaluations for improving pedagogic practice must be applied more carefully. A national quality assessment system (NKVS) has been developed for schools. Work is also underway to develop a similar system for kindergartens. Research communities that have evaluated NKVS have concluded that the current system primarily facilitates control routines, while it is less accommodating in respect of the scope for learning that the system should also contain (Allerup et al. 2009, Union of Education Norway 2011). The researchers point out that we should consider whether there are other elements that could help encourage local opinion on the issue of a stronger assessment culture. Roald (2010) states that an assessment culture must be built from the bottom up. This highlights the role of the professional learning community in developing an alternative governance practice.

Analysing results requires professional insight, as does identifying measures to follow up on the performance evaluations. The profession plays a key part in this respect. As previously mentioned, MBO should promote autonomy in the workplace at the expense of control and micromanagement by others. Development and improvement should be the goals for MBO. We can relate this to the formative and summative functions of evaluation, whereby the former is linked to improvement and the latter to control. An evaluation designed to monitor the use of resources and ascertain whether the desired outcomes are achieved will have a highly prominent controlling aspect to it. It is difficult to combine control with development. Those who are subjected to control in relation to outcomes and use of resources will obviously want to present themselves in the best possible light. There is no incentive to put your weaknesses on display on such an occasion. When the objective is learning and development, it is the very aspect that we wish to improve that must be highlighted. The publication of results with subsequent rankings does not serve the development objective. Many have pointed out that the binary function whereby tests and surveys are developed and used as political governance tools and tools for pedagogic development in individual schools does not work (Allerup et al. 2009, Seland et al. 2013, Sørreime 2013). A distinction must be made between these tools. The teaching profession must be involved in this process.

In order to avoid an infinite number of targets and checks on outcomes at a superior level, it is in no way necessary to follow up all objectives with targets, milestones and indicators. For some parts of an enterprise it may be sufficient to carry out ongoing monitoring using selected indicators. This could perhaps involve a loose connection between indicators and overarching targets. The KOSTRA database is one example of this. It contains statistics not directly linked to targets. Such indicators will in many cases provide adequate governance information for higher-ranking levels. MBO should primarily be used to improve and further develop pedagogic practice and must therefore be based on the experiences and expertise held by the individual kindergarten or school. It must also allow for the collection and use of qualitative information. In the education sector the teachers' qualitative, professional judgement will in many cases provide the most relevant governance information. It is within such a system – based on input from the profession – that MBO can serve a purpose and gain legitimacy amongst both the education authorities and the profession.

Trust and quality

The Norwegian social model is built on high participation rates and a good and trustful relationship between the parties in the labour market. Strong social capital is in other words one of the characteristics of the Norwegian model. It is this very social capital that enables valuable co-operation between the parties to take place (Hernes 2007). There is a strong correlation between trust, coherence and solidarity in society. If trust is eroded, it takes a great deal to rebuild it. In the labour market there are clear links between trust, social capital and productivity. Trust makes co-operation and transfer of information easier, it cuts the cost of transactions, it smooths decision-making processes, and it reduces the need for costly control mechanisms. Control systems are needed where there is a lack of trust in the work of others. These systems have a tendency to be costly in terms of effort, time and money (Rødvei 2008, Grimen 2009). A high degree of trust will therefore help to better utilise the resources in a governance system. For that reason the balance between trust and control when designing and practising governance systems should be improved. This will lead to both better quality and higher productivity.

Fotnote: trust

The link between education and trust is also a long established empirical fact (Putnam 2000, Wollebæk og Segaard 2011). Kindergartens and schools are important community arenas in society. Education is therefore key when it comes to revitalising and renewing our fundamental value and trust structures (Kristiansen 2012), and it lays the foundations for social capital and trust in the labour market.

Fotnote: Strong social capital

One common feature of the main definitions of the term social capital is that they all describe trust between people, social networks and standards for reciprocity and co-operation. Social capital is a resource allowing the combination of network and trust to result in collective action.

Being aware of these links is also important in terms of resolving the crisis of confidence that was uncovered during the teachers' strike in 2014. Increased professional autonomy and a governance system based increasingly on trust will cut bureaucracy and free up time for the core duties of the profession. The reduced need for costly control systems will in turn contribute to increased productivity in the public sector. In light of this it is pertinent to point out that productivity in the public sector cannot be viewed independently of the social mandate of the sector, which includes equity and quality.

The government has announced that it wants to reduce micromanagement and place more trust in leaders in the state sector. Experiences from Copenhagen show that trust-based management is possible. In the Danish capital the political leader Ninna Thomsen (SF) (mayor of health and care) has taken the initiative to do away with widespread red tape and extensive standardisation of home help services. She found that the cost of management and control exceeded the savings that had been the original objective, and that it undermined the professionalism of workers in the sector. In a chronicle in the Danish newspaper Politiken she writes:

"Denmark is proclaimed to be the most trusting country in the world. But the trust we have in each other is not being converted into an intrinsic value in the way we organise the workplace. Why not end bureaucracy and double controls and generate renewed meaning and motivation amongst public sector workers, thereby improving the quality of the services we provide to the public? (…) The trust reform in Copenhagen has paved the way for a form of democratisation, whereby employees once again have influence over their working life and where trust in their profession is key". (Thomsen et al. 2013).

Teachers have a unique ability to evaluate quality in schools and kindergartens. This skill should be better utilised, both when designing governance systems and when interpreting governance information – not least when evaluating what constitutes relevant governance information. In many cases the qualitative assessment by a practitioner will contain more useful information than that which can be gleaned from quantifiable surveys and measurements. Politicians and administrators have a legitimate need for relevant governance information, but they usually do not have the required qualifications to be able to assess the quality of professional work. This must be taken into account if we are to develop a governance system that does not tie up unnecessary resources in bureaucracy and which both has legitimacy amongst the profession and serves as a political governance tool. As mentioned previously, it is necessary to distinguish between development and control in the governance system.

Trust and quality are in other words closely linked to social capital and productivity. It is trustful, long-term co-operation between the parties in the workplace that creates good and equitable education.

The profession and co-operation between the parties

The profession's influence is realised through co-operation between the parties at different levels of the governance system. This co-operation must therefore be strengthened in order to resolve the governance challenges in the education sector. UEN employee representatives will thus play a crucial role in ensuring professional autonomy when the governance system is being designed. The UEN member survey from 2013 concluded that co-operation between the parties is well established. However, it also found that employee representatives are more frequently involved in decision-making processes relating to the workplace and its members than in decision-making processes concerning pedagogic issues (Jordfald et al. 2014).

Co-determination is a core principle of the Basic Agreement. Making more active use of the right to co-determination and the general co-operation between the parties to make professional arguments – both centrally and locally – will reinforce the frameworks for professional and ethical practice in the workplace. In individual municipalities, for example, it would be relevant to involve the expertise of the profession in different phases of a decision-making process. Co-determination can be exercised in respect of how the decision-making process is organised, which objectives should be applied to the decisions being made, and in the actual decision-making process. It is essential that the profession contributes with arguments and exercises influence in all these phases in order to ensure a policy that helps promote quality in education. Professional and ethical considerations should form the basis for all decisions being made, and the decision makers should therefore be able to perceive the contribution of the profession to be of value. The teachers' strike in 2014 is one of several examples of the power of professional argumentation.

Thanks to well trained employee representatives at all levels, the UEN is in a unique position to promote knowledge-based arguments. Decentralisation in the education system reinforces the need and opportunities for making use of this autonomy. Many decisions on education policy are currently being taken by municipal and county councils as well as in individual schools and kindergartens. Knowledge of management and governance systems that underpin the Norwegian model is crucial if we are to exploit the potential offered by the co-operation between the parties in the education sector. It is therefore necessary for leadership training programmes at all levels in the education sector to teach the value and potential of this co-operation.

4.3 Final reflections

The public debate on governance has shown that the governance challenges we are experiencing in the education sector have parallels across the public sector. Politicians and professional communities acknowledge the weaknesses in the governance system, and they have expressed a desire to develop alternative governance practices.

As a representative of the profession, the UEN can play a key role in developing a governance system that supports the broad social mandate of education. The education sector is noted for its long established co-operation between the parties and for its competent and knowledgeable practitioners. The sector is therefore well placed to step up and take the lead in developing an alternative governance model in the public sector. This is a process that must be conducted both centrally and locally and in broad alliances inside and outside the trade union movement.

Innholdet i denne publikasjonen er forankret i Utdanningsforbundets politikk og verdigrunnlag, men er ikke behandlet i Utdanningsforbundets politisk ansvarlige organer før den blir offentliggjort.


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