Course Syllabus

Education Policy in Scandinavia

Preliminary Syllabus

DIS Logo


Semester & Location:

Summer Session 1 Beginning 2024 - DIS Copenhagen

Type & Credits:

Elective Course - 3 credits

Major Disciplines:

Child Development, Education/Educational Studies, Human Development



Faculty Members:

Nanna Duchene (current students please use the Canvas Inbox)

Program Contact:

Department email address

Time & Place:

Course schedule varies- see course schedule

Classroom: TBA


Course Description

Education is always a hot topic in the political debate. This is because education and pedagogy are a central societal issue: What should children learn in school? What view of children lies in pedagogy? What should we educate young people for? What role should universities play in society? What training should there be for adults? A society's education reflects ideas about the future and the challenges of the future, and at the same time, education can help address some of the most important challenges such as employment, inequality, climate, inclusion, immigration, democracy and welfare. In this course we address education and pedagogy as something that is socially determined and as something that affects our society. It is about the current and historical conditions of education in Scandinavia and about how education and pedagogy are also always the subject of political power.

This is a cross-disciplinary course and will draw on disciplines such as educational studies, pedagogy and sociology. It is not a prerequisite that you already educate yourself in one of the mentioned disciplines. The most important thing is that you want to relate to current educational and socially significant topics.

Learning Objectives

In this course, you will gain knowledge and experience of working critically and constructively both with education broadly understood, and with a special focus on education policy in Scandinavia.

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a general understanding of education policies in a Scandinavian Welfare state. You will learn how the field of education is thought about and managed politically in the Scandinavian Welfare state. Focus will be on the classical - and today increased - Scandinavian discussion regarding the purpose of education as qualification, democratization/socialization, and individualization.
  2. Consider strengths and weaknesses of various policy initiatives in Scandinavia. You will learn about different positions and arguments in current educational policy initiatives and reforms in Scandinavian and understand how they shape conditions for education, learning and pedagogy. Focus will be on topics such as inequality (see * below), climate, inclusion, immigration, gender and globalization.
  3. Critically discuss and evaluate education policy in Scandinavia including a cross-cultural comparison with an education policy in a non-Welfare State.

* An example: Inequality in Education. Perhaps one of the most stable, universal phenomena in the educational and social sciences is that children of low-educated parents themselves have a higher risk of getting no or little education. At the same time, low-educated people and their children live more in poverty, poorer health, stress and depression, and die earlier. It is a goal of many welfare states to break with this inequality by giving all children the same prerequisites in the starting point – levelling the playing field. Yet this inequality in education is reproduced generation after generation. Together in class we will discuss and try to understand how education policy can be designed to reduce inequality in education.


Nanna Duchene: Ma. Ed. Phil. (Philosophy of Education 2012 from Aarhus University Denmark). External lecturer for several years at Aarhus University and Associate Professor at University College South within disciplines: philosophy of education, general education and children with special needs. Several years of experience as Editor of peer-reviewed journals on education. At DIS, teaches courses: 'Childhood Development and Education - general and practicum' and 'Playful Learning in Scandinavian Classrooms'. With DIS since 2021. 


Please note that the readings are available on Canvas, but they are subject to change - so please check the Canvas calendar for the most updated list of readings and deadlines.

Bergmark, U., & Hansson, K. (2021). How teachers and principals enact the policy of building education in Sweden on a scientific foundation and proven experience: Challenges and opportunities. In Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 65(3), (448-467).

Biesta, G. (2009). Good education in an age of measurement: on the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education. In Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability (formerly: Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education). Nr 21 (33–46)

Biesta, G.J.J. (2010). Why ‘what works’ still won’t work. From evidence-based education to value-based education. Studies in Philosophy and Education, 29(5), 491-503.

Biseth, H. (2009). Democracy and education in a multicultural Scandinavia: what mandate is designated to educators?. Intercultural Education20(3), 243-254.

Brincker, B., & Mitdlarak, L. (2019). Building a nation in the classroom: Exploring education policy in post-colonial Greenland. Including the north: A comparative study of the policies on inclusion and equity in the circumpolar north.

Bourdieu, Pierre, Jean-Claude Passeron, and Richard Nice (1990). Reproduction in Education, Society and Culture. (London: Sage, 1990). Pages TBD

Brooks, D. (2020). This is how Scandinavia got great. New York Times, 27.

Dean, S. (2019). Seeing the Forest and the Trees: A Historical and Conceptual Look at Danish Forest Schools. International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education6(3), 53-63.

Degn, K., Mikkelsen, S.H. et Dorf, H. (2021). Social change, political interests and educational ideas The Danish Folkeskole 1960-2021

Hedegaard-Sørensen, Lotte and Sine Penthin Grumløse (2021): …But it is a completely different school - The status of inclusion in the Danish Folkeskole in a learning-focused school policy. In You’re welcome. An introduction to the Danish Folkeskole. UP Nr.2. (p.74-82). 

Horst & Gitz-Johansen (2010). Education of ethnic minority children in Denmark: Monocultural hegemony and counter positions. In Intercultural Education (137-151)

Kvamme, Ole Andreas (2019). School Strikes, Environmental Ethical Values, and Democracy. Sustainability and Education.  In Studier i Pædagogisk Filosofi. Årg. 8 Nr. 1.

Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy. Selected articles TBD.

Nygren, L., Andersson, M., Eydal, G., Hammarqvist, S. E., Rauhala, P. L., & Nielsen, H. W. (2019). New policies, new words—the service concept in Scandinavian social policy. In Social care services: The key to the Scandinavian welfare model (pp. 9-26). Routledge.

Pinheiro, R., Geschwind, L., Foss Hansen, H., & Pulkkinen, K. (2019). Reforms, organizational change and performance in higher education: A comparative account from the Nordic countries (p. 326). Springer Nature.

Roien, Line et. al (2021): From Deviance to Diversity: Discourses and Problematisations in Fifty Years of Sexuality Education in Denmark. Sexuality, Society and Learning. Volume 22, 2022 - Issue 1: Secularisms, sexualities and theolog.

Telhaug, A. O., Mediås, O. A., & Aasen, P. (2004). From collectivism to individualism? Education as nation building in a Scandinavian perspective. In Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 48(2), 141-158.

Tjeldvoll, A. (2013). Quality of equality? Scandinavian education towards the year 2000. In Education and the Scandinavian Welfare State in the Year 2000 (pp. 21-42). Routledge.

United Nations (1989). Conventions on Children’s Rights

United Nations (2015). Resolution 70/1. Transforming our world:  The 2030 Agenda for  Sustainable Development 

Wiborg, Susanne (2004). Education and social integration. A comparative study of the comprehensive school system in Scandinavia. In London Review of Education, Vol. 2, No. 2

Wiborg, Susanne (2012). Neo-liberalism and universal state education: the cases of Denmark, Norway and Sweden 1980–2011. Comparative Education, 49:4, 407-423

Field Studies

Field studies serve to complement your course work by placing you in the professional field to extend and rethink what we read about, discuss in class, and encounter in practicum. Please be ready for each field study by completing all readings and preparing questions in advance.

We may divide the class into smaller groups, each visiting different sites located in the greater Copenhagen area. Specific field study details are yet to be determined.

Guest Lecturers

TBD. At certain points in the course, guest lecturers may be invited to provide their experience and expertise on select topics being covered in class.

Approach to Teaching

The class will be seen as a community of learners who have the opportunity to share interests and learn from one another. The academic content and the socialization among students and teacher are integrally connected, and we use discussions of group dynamics as an element of academic learning. 

Classes will be planned based on theory- and research articles and examples on education policy measures and their potential impact you have read prior to the class, and we will work with the concepts from the literature in class, discuss it, and build further on this knowledge.

For more specific details see below 'Active participation and engagement'. 

Expectations of the Students

  • Consider everyone as valued and equal members of the class community, who treat each other with respect, acknowledgement, politeness, openness and care – an environment that is believed to promote learning
  • Be active and responsible towards your peers in group work
  • Show engagement, participation, contribution and responsibility
  • Be creative and open minded
  • Be more independent than you might be used to, for instance finding information on assignments on own initiative
  • Be reflective and bring your thoughts and ideas to class and discussions
  • Complete readings prior to each class
  • Upload assignments on Canvas. It is your own responsibility to check if submissions are correctly uploaded. If you experience issues with uploading assignments, you are expected to contact your instructor and make arrangements for how to hand in Assignments. Assignments that are not uploaded on time will be graded down.


Students will be evaluated throughout the term using a variety of methods.  All students are expected to actively participate in class, which will form part of their grading.  Students will also be required to complete various individual or group assignments throughout the term.

Absence from class will only be excused in serious situations but informing your faculty regarding your attendance is always necessary. Unexcused absences include travelling or an absence that has not been discussed with the faculty.  




Participation and engagement in class and field studies - including participatory activity in class


Reading reflections/comments (online discussion forum)


An individual case analysis 


Study group discussion on challenges and solutions addressed in Scandinavian Education Policy


Final project: Self-selected policy proposal and cross-cultural analysis 


Course Policies 

Active participation and engagement. In Scandinavia most teachers base their didactical decisions on the believe that when students experience an influence on the teaching, that is what (content) and how (methods) and with who they might be working together with (organization), it increases their engagement or motivation to participate and learn, and they experience having a more active role. 

At the same time, it also means that the teacher expects and encourage the students to be actively co-determining in their own learning process, that they participate in class discussions, that they provide input in the form of questions to the teacher and peers, that they seek to have an impact on teaching methods, teaching content and overall  curriculum design, and last but not least: that they support everybody's feeling of belonging to a community in the classroom.

Please note that since this course has its center around Scandinavian pedagogy and education, active participation and engagement as described above counts more than usual.

As a part of the assessment of active participation and engagement, the study groups are to plan and execute a participatory activity for the class within the topic of that day’s class. The goal of this activity is for you to gain experience with how to initiate exercises if active participation and active acquisition of knowledge are required.

Attendance: You are expected to attend all DIS classes when scheduled.  If you miss a class for any reason, please contact the faculty no later than the day of the missed class. If you miss multiple classes the Director of Teaching and Learning, and the Director of Student Affairs will be notified and they will follow-up with you to make sure that all is well.  Absences will jeopardize your grade and your standing at DIS.  Allowances will be made in cases of illness or religious holidays, but in the case of multiple absences you will need to provide a doctor’s note.

Academic Honesty, Plagiarism, and Violating the Rules of an Assignment: DIS expects that students abide by the highest standards of intellectual honesty in all academic work. DIS assumes that all students do their own work and credit all work or thought taken from others.  Academic dishonesty will result in a final course grade of “F” and can result in dismissal. The students’ home universities will be notified. DIS reserves the right to request that written student assignments be turned in electronic form for submission to plagiarism detection software. See the Academic Handbook for more information, or ask your instructor if you have questions.

Policy on Late Papers: Late essays will be accepted for up to 3 days after the deadline, but for each day late, excluding the weekends, a 5% penalty will be applied. 

Extensions: You may request an extension for an assignment, but you must ask more than 1 day before the assignment is due. Extension requests on the due date, without an excusable reason, will not be considered.

Policy for Students Who Arrive Late to Class: Please come to classes on time as it is disturbing for the lecturer and other students. Repeated lateness will result in a referral to the head of the Teaching and Learning department.

Use of Laptops or Phones in Class: Computers and iPhones are allowed in class PURELY for academic purposes (e.g. note taking, literature searching, data handling purposes). In case of other private uses such as Facebook, emails or internet surfing, it will have a very negative impact on your participation grade. The use of cell phones during class is strictly forbidden.

Academic Regulations

Please make sure to read the Academic Regulations on the DIS website. There you will find regulations on:


DIS - Study Abroad in Scandinavia -


Course Summary:

Date Details Due