Adult education, knowledge expansion, and local steering: Analysis of some themes in the Swedish education system
The knowledge expansion project has just been completed with its final year having expired at the year 2002.
Many people including participants at the municipal adult schools and adult education sector as a whole have
witnessed the implementation of this project and the benefits it has generated to ordinary citizens and the
immigrant population at large in diverse municipalities. The present study analyses the adult education sector in
the country and touches upon the ideas regarding the recent reforms and political steering relegated to the local
level by the central government. The consequences of this project and the effect on an immigrant population are
discussed to see to what extent these individuals have benefited from the knowledge expansion project. The
experiences of the municipalities are also discussed to find out the success of a national project from the
perspective of those who have participated in its promulgation. The result of the work shows the government
effort to make cultural capital as well as education capital accessible to ordinary citizens in their effort to
embark on the societification of the state.
Key words: Education, cultural capital, education capital, knowledge expansion, reforms, decentralization,
steering, evaluation, supervision, development, and local actor
Sweden system of education has undergone two phases of reforms that have gained attention
from local as well as international researchers. Strict mechanisms of centralization and
regulation characterize the first phase that commenced after the post war and ended in the
1970s. This was the period when a goal such as equality was emphasized and the purpose of
the organization that took place was to structure the school system. The government became
the supreme agent that governed the school system, and with the implementation of sundry
mechanisms, their aims were dictated to the local authorities. Some well-known mechanisms
employed by the state during the first phase extend from the provision of national curricula,
the issuing of state subsidies, regulation of resources, staff organization, and so on.
Reforms in the second phase began after the 1970s and saw its momentum in the
late 80s. The Swedish government embarked on decentralization and deregulation. The period
saw a great deal of changes particularly in the area of education policy. Researchers described
this transition as a shift from centralism, universals, social engineering and consensus to
decentralization, particulars, and polarization with ideas of the market economy as structuring
principles. The consequence of the shift was the relegation of increased responsibility and
freedom to the municipalities and also professional freedom as regards the way teachers;
school boards make appropriate choices to achieve their objectives or goals. Reform at the
1 Desmond Ayim-Aboagye is an Associate Professor in Åbo Akademi, Finland and Uppsala University, Sweden.
second phase was significant as all parties including the socialist and non-socialist
governments contributed to its implementation. These reforms introduced the establishment of
independent schools, otherwise known as private schools, issuing of vouchers and the issuing
of government subsidies to the local governments.
The purpose of this study is to examine the recent changes or reforms and the strategies of
steering that occurred particularly in the second phase of reforms in the area of adult
education. What specific changes took place at the state and local levels in connection with
adult education? How were the local authorities to work or implement the reforms that came
about? In what way did this program contribute to the organization of the adult education
sector as a whole in Sweden?
THE ADULT EDUCATION SECTOR
Different forms of organizers
Adult education in Sweden is part of the public school system that is regulated under the
Education Act.2 It consists of municipal adult education, Swedish language instruction for
adult immigrants, adult education for the intellectual disabilities, and national schools for
adults.3 While the municipalities govern the rest of the adult education system, the
government controls the national schools for adults. Folk high schools and adult education
associations are also part of the adult education controlled by the municipalities. Of late one
reckons the labor market adult education, professional qualification schools, supplementary
schools, and university colleges as part of the adult education system in the country.4
Municipal education for adults commenced in 1968. During the years of
1992/93 this system of education came to embrace basic education for adults, upper
secondary adult education, and supplementary education for adults. Adult students who
participated in this type of education come to possess formal qualifications in single subjects
that have been taken or can have the equivalent of a complete leaving certificate from the
compulsory school and/or from the upper secondary school.5 As education is organized in the
form of separate courses, adult students can study at the same time and work full-time or parttime.
Students choose their own study programs as a result they are able to combine courses
2 The knowledge expansion project committee defines what adult education consists of: Education for adults
refers to all education that everybody goes through after the pre-school, compulsory school and upper secondary
school levels which children/youth normally follow continuously unbroken. Adult education compensates the
early education that one discontinued, the early education that one did not enroll, the supplementation of early
education that qualifies an individual for the labor market, and the commencement of a new area of
specialization that interest the individual at present (SOU 2000:28).
3 SOU 1998:51; Cf. also The Swedish education system (1997).
4 SOU 2000:28.
5 According to the Swedish law only those who are 20 years and above could participate in adult education
organized by the municipalities. As regards upper secondary adult education and supplementary education for
adult younger students can be admitted provided they have already obtained or have had prior secondary
education (Skollagen, 11 kap. 10§. 19§)
from both compulsory and upper secondary level. Adult education in this area does not have
examinations or requirements for entrance. It is argued that education is a right for the citizen
and should be mandatory for the municipalities. As basic adult education provides knowledge
and skills that is equal to the education the compulsory school intends to give, the Upper
secondary adult education also furnishes participants skills and knowledge that is equal to
youth education at the upper secondary level. The latter makes all programs and subjects
available to students with the exception of aesthetic and sports subjects. The national upper
secondary school time-schedules are employed as guidelines for the upper secondary adult
education. Supplementary adult education makes available vocational courses that are not
found in the youth syllabus. Courses given in these areas furnish adult school graduates with
higher professional competence or competence in a new chosen profession. During the
1995/96 academic year 152 600 students participated in the basic adult education program,
862 600 in the upper secondary adult education and supplementary education for adults.6
Intellectual disability adults have access to instruction in compulsory school and
also vocational education in the upper secondary school. In all 3 620 pupils participated in
adult education for the intellectually handicapped during the 1995/96 academic year. Of this
number 8% followed the upper secondary school, 52% were in the compulsory school while
40% enrolled in the vocational education.7
The National adult education at a distance consists of two schools that give
instructions through distance learning. The schools, which are situated in Härnösand and
Norrköping, recruit students throughout the country. These are students who due to some
reasons could not be enrolled in the adult education courses that are offered by the municipal
adult education. Statistics provides information that during the 1995/96 academic year 12 350
students enrolled in the National distance adult education. Out of this number, 11 700 read in
the upper secondary education, 450 in the supplementary adult education, and 200 in the basic
Swedish language instruction for immigrants is offered to the newly arrived
immigrants who have managed to obtain their particulars and allowed stay in the country.
These immigrants are offered the possibility to study Swedish language for an average of 525
hours. The responsibility rests on the municipalities who are obliged to provide tuition for
these immigrants. The study provides basic knowledge and proficiency in Swedish language
and furthermore furnishes the newly migrant about the Swedish society. Among the 51 500
people who participated in Swedish language training in 1995/96 academic year, around 32
000 had received 10 years education or more while nearly 8 500 had obtained 6 years or less
education in their original country of birth. Bosnians/Croatians/Serbians dominated making a
total of 33.5%, followed by the Arabs 11.8%, and the Albanians 8.6%.9
Folk high schools and adult education associations are the oldest forms of
organized adult education in Sweden. In 1998 they make up a number of 147 which are
operated by local governments and private mandators.10 Both long-term and short-cycle
courses are offered in the Folk high schools. Students often reside in tuition-free schools and
pay their own board and lodging. Those who intend to apply for State study assistance could
apply for it. The 11 adult education associations in the country employ study circles as well
as organize courses that correspond to those taught in the school system and within higher
education. They also provide cultural activities. Adult education proposition in 1991 provided
the information which states that education at this level should promote democracy, equality,
6 SOU 1998:51.
9 Skolverket 1997.
international and cultural understanding, as well as development. Educational activities
should be based on independent search for knowledge that is characterized by democratic
values and co-operation.11
Folk high school and adult education associations receive subsidies from the
state. Parliament intention as stated in the 1991 reveals that the purpose is to support
education activities which make it possible for individuals to influence their life situations
through their engagement in society's development. Furthermore, they receive incomes from
educational activities organized on a commission basis. Municipalities usually provide grants
for adult education associations to supplement the fees they charge its' students.
In 1998 when the government presented to parliament a new adult education
proposition that is, Prop. 1997/98:115, he reiterated the two significant purposes for issuing
state funds to adult education. Subsidies should be provided to strengthen and develop
democracy at the same time to enhance cultural interest in society in order to widen
participation in cultural life. Knowledge on natural and technical sciences should augment
attention in education. Not surprisingly, this proposition calls to attention the unemployed
citizens as the target group.12 In table 1 information as to the number of adult students who
took part in the various programs in adult education is presented. Folk high schools had the
highest number of students reaching as high as 350 000.
Table 1. Statistics 1995-1996 (adapted from The Swedish educational system, March 1997)
Adult Education Number of participants
Municipal adult education 211 00
National schools for adults 12 300
Intellectual disabilities adult school 3 600
Swedish language for immigrants 51 500
Folk high schools (long term courses) 350 000
Labor Market13 and professional qualification schools also form part of the adult learners.
Education at this level is usually geared toward competence development of personnel, a good
source of lifelong learning. The AMU Group Company14 in co-operation with the labor
market and other companies usually organize courses for workers who study part-time and
attend courses in the evenings. Some even follow courses during working hours.15 During the
budget year of 1995/96 as many as 217 400 people participated in some form of the Labor
market adult education program. A smaller percentage of those who go through these adult
education programs continue to universities and university colleges.
To summarize, adult education program in Sweden is rather old. This sector
provides an important source of education for many adult citizens as well as foreigners who
migrate into Sweden. Courses are organized such that individuals who want to work could do
so and study at the same time. Prior to the implementation of the knowledge expansion
project individual learners have pursued their careers through participation in the adult
11 Folkbildningsrådet 1997.
12 Prop. 1997/98:115.
13 Some well-known Labor market parties in Sweden are LO, TCO, ABF, SAF, SACO and SAF-PTK (SOU
14 Apart from this company that there are other private companies such as MiROI, Eductus, Lexicon and
InfoKomp Companies that organize courses for personnel regarding competence development in working life.
15 SOU 1998:51; SOU 2000:28.
education programs in different municipalities. It is asserted that many elite including
politicians has gained their education through class attendance at adult education centers in
the municipalities and also through distances learning.
Lifelong and lifewide perspective
The theoretical model of social capital, which consists of structure and norms, depicted as
social norms along a continuum, extending from formal norms to informal norms, have of late
been amalgamated into lifelong-lifewide perspective. The latter perspective, which discusses
formal and informal learning that, takes place in the lifelong perspective states that
individuals receive educational influences right from the day they are born till the time of
their death. The two perspectives, lifelong and lifewide learning, consist of the microperspective
and macro-perspective. The macro-perspective accounts for a lifelong
perspective, originating from the birth of a person till his death. This entails the total
influences the person has imbibed from education as a whole. The macro-perspective
describes that formal schooling experience is short as compared to the overall lifelong
perspective. Institutionalized educational influences are discussed in this perspective to
indicate the extent to which they have influenced the individual. The education received at
school is recognized as institutionalized (this takes place between 5 years of age and
completed around 10 and 25 years of age, depending of the pupil's country in question).
Cropley (1980) through his work informs us that the least institutionalized influences in
education are equivalent to informal education while the most institutionalized influences in
education are equal to formal education. Educational influences, on the other hand, describe
the micro perspective, which is the extent to which the individual has been exposed to
influences in education.
The lifelong and lifewide perspective, it seems to me, can offer us an interesting
conceptual background to the knowledge expansion project which we shall discuss below.
This former and latter concepts, together with organization concepts, such as state legality 16
(which means the governing of schools in the form of government dictated curricula, rule
systems etc.) and social legitimacy17 (the non-formal mechanisms of steering which are
revealed in the forms of rituals, traditions, school code, trends of public opinion and oral
rules) can be dealt with in greater detail. But as at now we are only providing these concepts,
as a framework to support the knowledge enhancement notion that is to be analyzed in detail
in the adult education sector.
THE KNOWLEDGE EXPANSION PROGRAM
I would like to discuss reforms and the strategies of steering that have of late taken place in
connection with adult education. What do we mean by this “knowledge expansion” and what
specific reforms occurred in the state and local levels in connection with adult education?
There were two main actors in the national level; these comprise the committee
assigned to work with the project (who commenced its work in 1995) and also the
government who was the main authoritative actor behind its promulgation. Both the
committee and the government had their respective goals in connection with the knowledge
expansion project. The Committee, who presented its first report in En strategi för
kunskapslyft och livslångt lärande (SOU 1996:26), discussed their aim in relation to four
16 Here legality means social actions and social relations that are formally sanctioned by the state.
17 Legitimacy concerns the elusive phenomena as morals and systems of values.
dimensions, namely youth education, lifelong learning, knowledge expansion and
infrastructure. In their later assignment, apart from their main work of engineering reforms in
the adult education sector, the government entrusted the committee with the responsibility to
evaluate the knowledge expansion project and also to investigate the social situation of
students with intellectual disabilities.18
The committee as an actor
Youth education meant basic education, upper secondary school and college education that
the young child goes through to prepare him for adult life. The committee believed that youth
education laid a necessary ground for lifelong learning. Education whether in the case of the
individual, ends in basic level, upper secondary level or college should provide the pupil a
real ground to commence lifelong learning as an individual, citizen, and a professional
worker. The state and the municipal authorities should therefore bear the main responsibility
for youth education together with the parents of the pupils. If the child was to develop the
resources useful for his cognitive or social development both parents had to contribute to this
social capital a necessary advantage for children and adolescents in the development of their
own human capital. Youth education should open up greater possibilities for further studies
and personal development to enable the individual become a good citizen and play a
professional role. It should provide the pupil knowledge and ability to create and the capacity
to imbibe knowledge and manage changes in society.19
Lifelong learning refers to formal and informal learning.20 Education and
learning can occur in different situations such as everyday contacts in work places and
beyond. According to the committee everyone must be given the opportunity to participate
and enjoy in lifelong learning. Lifelong learning in the work place/working life is a common
interest to both the individual and the labor market.21 Co-operation between the labor market
and the state/municipalities is a necessary one to attract increase investments of education in
the working life. The state or the municipalities through the knowledge enhancement program
should be there as a protecting net by opening new possibilities and supplementing lifelong
learning in work places through personal development such as professional role of the
Infrastructure provides individuals the possibilities to make appropriate choices of
education suitable to them and also the organizers to attract the potential students they need.
The primary conditions for educational activities and learning makes it imperative to have
18 (Cf. SOU 2000:28). The knowledge expansion project committee has issued a number of publications which
includes SOU 1996:164 Livslångt lärande i arbetslivet- steg på vägen mot ett kunskapssamhälle, SOU 1996:188
Vuxenutbildare ser på sig själva, SOU 1997:120 Vuxenpedagogik i Sverige- Forskning, utbildning, utveckling-
En kartläggning, SOU 1997:158 Vuxenpedagogik i teori och praktik- kunskapslyftet i fokus, SOU 1999:39
Vuxenutbildning för alla? - Andra året med kunskapslyftet, SOU 1999:141 Från kunskaplyftet till en Strategi för
livslångt Lärande. Ett perspektiv på svensk vuxenutbildningspolitik.
19 SOU 1998:51
20 Lifelong learning can even occur during childhood through contact with leisure-hours schools for the children
(fritid) and also at ordinary schools for children. Adults on the other hand can obtain their lifelong learning as
grown-ups everyday through their contacts with others outside around the world. But a greater part of adult
lifelong learning takes place at the work environment and through studies (SOU 2000:28).
21 Professional life is effective and it is experienced as fair. That Sweden has been successful in creating a high
productivity professional life is due to the fact that there had been a huge investment in the professional working
life. Furthermore, individuals have been given full opportunity to utilize and develop their competence.
Consequently this has made Sweden attractive country for companies to invest. Research in the lifelong learning
has provided understanding of the need to balance technique and humanism (Cf. SOU 2000:28, p.189).
22 SOU 1998:51.
available within reach such resources as information capital, educational counseling, research
and appropriate manner of financing courses and their organizers.23 Infrastructure consists of:
• Information, counseling, search for activities and individual's study guide
• A system of judging knowledge and competency independent from where they have been
• Access to a broad education offer of good quality
• Follow-up, evaluation and research for education system with long-term continuous
• An articulated financing system
The committee sounded it clear that it is the responsibility of the state/municipalities and also
the parents to make provision for and guarantee a good infrastructure.24
By “knowledge expansion”, the committee meant to strengthen educational possibilities for
those adults who have less formal education, in other words education capital should be
provided to all lacking it. Committee members contended that there are some groups in the
society who risk of being marginalized and be thrown away from the labor market simply
because they lack the prerequisites that enable them to participate in lifelong learning. It is
these groups that adult education must aim toward to equip these individuals with the
necessary education capital. These deprived individuals should be offered the chance to study
in the basic school and upper secondary school education. The state and the municipalities
should bear the responsibility of knowledge expansion in co-operation with those individuals
who will participate in it.
From the perspective of the labor market there were two groups who attention
should be directed toward. Firstly, those who have never been offered the possibility on the
labor market because they simply lack education and secondly those who intend to apply to
labor market due to the precarious nature of their work and are liable to become jobless in no
time in the near future. These individuals' need of knowledge are not the same, they have
different needs. What the expansion project could do was to go a bit further than basic
education and provide these individuals with upper secondary school courses or the
equivalent to enable them become eligible to work and through this is able to contribute
towards development in society.
There are certain groups of people who are the main subjects of those needing
knowledge expansions. They include people with long history of unemployment, those who
make their livelihood on social support, disability group, immigrants, and the aged.
Furthermore, the risk group also includes the youth who had just graduated from secondary
school but have not managed to obtain the right results. The middle age who possess outdated
professions, women in certain health and office professions, individuals with reading and
writing difficulties, and those who no longer receive the unemployment benefits.
The knowledge expansion project and lifelong education, according to the
committee, had a super ordinate strategy that will enable Sweden to develop into knowledgebased
society where everybody has real possibilities to participate in the development in
society. The government and for that matter the municipalities should therefore ensure that
justice is absolutely practiced in connection with the implementation of this program.
24 Infrastructure consist of many ingredients such as teachers, textbooks, teaching help or aids, information
technique, information, supervision, recruitment activities, validation, libraries, the labor market, financing
system, the implementation of laws/regulations, justice system and local authorities (SOU 2000:28).
Finally, the committee felt that education prerequisites should be strengthened
within one of the above-mentioned dimensions: youth education, knowledge expansion,
lifelong learning, and infrastructure. These dimensions are interconnected with one another in
a total perspective as a result goals should be formulated coupled with a well-defined strategy
in order to carry out the knowledge expansion and lifelong learning.25
The government as an actor
We find in several propositions that prior to the promulgation of the knowledge expansion
program the state had earlier on planned to invest in education.26 For example, before the
committee could come up with their already finished report in 1996, the state had made
tremendous investment in education concerning the enhancement of competence. The
committee's preliminary report and the remittances, which followed it, could be regarded as a
backdrop to the state decision of how special investment could be made. Following this, the
state in June 1996 made its final decision concerning the knowledge expansion project. This
was enshrined in what was then called “employment proposition” to be made possible for the
parliament to decide on it.27
The original commencement of the expansion project took place in July 1, 1997
(and ended in 2002) and as might be expected 110 000 vacant places in education were
created. Of these number the school of professional studies absorbed 5 000, the folk high
school received 10 000 places for basic education and upper secondary. The rest of the places
were given to the municipalities that is, 90 000 places for the upper secondary school, and 5
000 for the basic education. It is at this point that the state counseled the municipalities to take
control of the project. One caution was sounded, that was, not to arrange all education with
respect to the upper secondary by themselves, but on the contrary they should employ the
services of adult education actors and other education organizers. The state reminded the
municipalities that knowledge expansion project should be characterized with new thinking
and flexibility at the same time they should not forget to adapt the courses to the interest and
needs of the people who enroll as students. In this case the government was thinking about not
only those Swedish with less education but also immigrants whose need of the Swedish
language could be assets to enable them gain access to the labor market.
The Immigrant and equality factor
It can be asserted that immigrants and asylum seekers had a special place in the minds of the
knowledge expansion committee members and the government alike.28 According to
historians, the influx of immigrants into Sweden changed character after the Second World
War. First, thirty years after the war many people migrated into Sweden. These had been
people from the neighboring countries (Finland, former Yugoslavia, Nordic countries) who
moved in for employment purpose. Between 1980 and 1990 migration to Sweden has changed
from the employment purpose to asylum seekers (in need for protection from their host
country) who hail from other part of the world with cultural capital, backgrounds and
languages quite distinct from the Swedes. If these people had to be accommodated and
compete in the labor market they needed to communicate and must have the social
25 SOU 1998:51.
26 Cf. Prop. 1995/96:25; Prop. 1995/96:150; Prop. 1995/96:222.
27 Prop. 1995/96:222.
28 Cf. Boman 2002:263 ff. Lindensjö & Lundgren 1986:60 ff.
competence to enable them do so. They must also have access to the resources endowed by
the possession of social capital. The continuous incoming of immigrants with their cultural
capital and language differences signified the need of the government to embark on the
integration process. This has changed the manner the society deal with immigrants as Sweden
has emerged from the transition from immigrant politics to integration politics. This implies
that people from other countries rather than Sweden are not to be considered a group in need
of special help because they are immigrants. The important thing is that immigrant 29 should
have the same rights and opportunities, irrespective of their cultural backgrounds.30 This
mobilization and integration of excluded groups; immigrants and communities have now
become one of the many of the new strategies for building social capital.
The education grant as an important steering resource
The project was connected to a special financing strategy by which participants were to
receive study grants. During autumn 1999 the government decided on a new study grant
which would come into force in 2001. These are grants not repayable and it assisted the less
educated unemployed students to study at the basic education level as well as upper secondary
school level with the amount that is equal to that of the unemployed compensation benefit.31
DIFFERENT GOALS OF THE STATE
As mentioned above the committee that was charged with the responsibility to work on
knowledge expansion project discussed their goals in connection with youth education,
knowledge expansion, lifelong learning, and infrastructure. The state on the other hand had
different goals that were politically significant. First, there was the goal of reducing
unemployment, which would in turn enhance growth in the economy. Second, the knowledge
expansion program was to inject new thinking into the adult education sector in order to
stimulate and cause change. In the political sense, these goals were significant and were
appropriate at the period when unemployment was very high.
Economic growth versus unemployment32
29 The education of immigrants (professional competence) is now to be validated so that they can even be used
on the labor market. This pilot study has been documented in SOU 2001:78.
30 SOU 2000:28.
31 SOU 1998:51. There were different grants that include social welfare support, education grants, study loans,
unemployment benefits and many others. But the special studies support studiestöd and särskilt
utbildningsbidrag were the main government support specially decided for knowledge expansion project (SOU
32 The future need of education for citizens in Sweden is stressed based on the following reasons: * work for
those with low education are rapidly being disappeared * employees as well as their bosses have observed the
rising need of competent workers * compared to other countries Sweden does not necessarily have high Upper
secondary school graduates * a greater percentage of people risks of being thrown out of the labor market due to
their lack of education: people with disability, those with citizenship from other countries other than the Nordic
countries who have low education, outdated professions, and finally, the youth who could not successfully
passed their Upper secondary school education. * a higher education level and a higher percentage of
unemployed pursuing their education provide the society with economic effects (SOU 2000:28)
The aim of the state to reduce the number of unemployed citizens was at the heart of the
knowledge expansion project. If the number of those studying at both colleges and also adult
education could be increased it would lead to less unemployment in the society. As this
became one of the political goals the state made it imperative to increase the vacant places in
both college education and also the adult education program. The expansion project focused
on those who had low education capital and were on the verge of being marginalized or
thrown out from the labor market. It was understood that being offered great opportunity to
increase their competence would ultimately furnish them with knowledge capital that will
make them eligible to compete in the labor market. Consequently, this will provide them with
the possibilities to enjoy richer lives that will in turn enhance their self-confidence and greater
possibility to influence their own social situations due to their acquisition of economic
The state consciousness to give priority to those lacking strong education capital
was also connected to the idea of offering these individuals the possibilities to acquire modern
professions that the present-day industries require and strive after. As they become easily
absorbed in the modern-day labor market it will lead to increased income distribution in the
Furthermore the state was also aware that increase knowledge and competence
of the greater part of citizens and their possibility to obtain job or easy access to the labor
market would be associated with increase in productivity. The knowledge expansion project,
coupled with other measures, could provide greater possibilities to Sweden to compete with
other countries internationally in competence and knowledge. Obviously this will lead to
increase in productivity and growth. Expansion projects like social capital will contribute to
stability and prosperity. The latter has been seen to function beneficially because it fosters
high expectations of reciprocity and facilitates information flows in society.
The Development in the Adult education sector.
The government was not only interested in the economic growth of the country by its
introduction of the knowledge expansion project. Expansion of people's knowledge was also
to convey a change in the sector of adult education to which I have elaborated below. This
idea of change of responsibility from the state to the municipalities was what has been termed
decentralization.34 The state charged the municipalities to regulate and carried out this project
by utilizing all resources in the education sector including adult education and folk high
schools. The state demanded a more regulated adult education where the needs of individuals
will be focused. Consideration should be given to those who have less education and the
municipalities is to concern itself in recruiting and maintaining these marginalized individuals
to apply to study. Thus the importance of knowledge expansion project was also to help
reform the system of organization including those pedagogy/teaching methods in education.35
The state employment proposition in 1996 outlined some of the things that the
municipalities should take into consideration as they embark on knowledge expansion project
at the local level.
• The labor market education program as well as the need of competencies in the
municipalities' education activities should be investigated.
• This should be able to guide and control the direction of the expansion project.
33 SOU 1998:51.
34 Cf. SOU 2000:28, pp. 181 ff.
• Even though the municipalities already could employ the resources of adult education in
this project the possibilities was also there to utilize other private mandators or organizers.
• Adults who had no profession or had not completed their professional careers should be
given the possibility to finish in the upper secondary school.
• In connection with the expansion project, the municipalities should invest heavily in
• Education at a distance should be organized to give opportunity for those who do not have
access to living in the urban areas.
• Education centers should be open in work places to give access to the adult students who
work but want to have more information and get them enrolled.
The municipalities were also responsible to inform and recruit individuals as well as motivate
them to obtain professions through adult education study program. They were to provide
counseling resources for those who request for it. In one way adult education purpose could
be seen as the possibility of bridging ties between those in disadvantages communities and
those who already have access to a range of resources that may be present outside those
communities. This may be particularly important with respect to minority ethnic communities,
who to some extent may be separate from dominant groups by language as well as space and
way of life. This approach therefore offers possibilities for the construction of an inclusive
It is not only a matter of planning for the implementation of the knowledge
expansion program for the benefit of the less educated, the unemployed and those who intend
to better their chances of getting to the labor market that were significant. The municipalities
were also entrusted with the responsibility to conduct follow-up and evaluation studies. They
were also advised to seek the co-operation of the labor market and its different parties (e.g.,
the labor market institute, and regional social insurance) on this matter.36
The state goal could only be realized if the municipalities do their work well as
they had contributed to it development in the past. The expansion of knowledge project
should not be regarded as an independent venture aside from what the municipalities had
already given. The municipalities should endeavor to integrate it with the already-existing
adult education sector so as to enable development occur within the whole education sector. It
was surmised that the knowledge expansion program could be the foundation for reforms
within the entire adult education system.
KNOWLEDGE EXPANSION AND CHANGE IN THE STEERING OF
The committee that was entrusted with the responsibility to work on the knowledge expansion
project, unveiled four different organizational approaches, that is, concerning how adult
education should be organized. They included local steering, procedures of giving courses,
duration of courses, and distance studies in the expansion program with the utilization of
information technology.37 I should like here to discuss the first-mentioned, which concerns
the transfer of steering powers to the local authorities by the central government.
36 Prop. 1995/96:222.
37 The contents of the courses have been discussed briefly in our earlier presentation on the historical accounts of
adult education. It will suffice to mention here that some courses are studied at the Upper secondary level that
can be built upon as one decides to enter higher learning institution, i.e., at the university. For analysis of the
method utilized in distance education and the development of pedagogy read SOU 1999:39.
Recently different researchers have written on political steering of the
government and its transfer of powers to the local authorities. They have even conducted
empirical studies within many municipalities in diverse parts of the country. Lundahl has
written two articles, which concern the transfer of the state governing to local steering. They
are A new kind of order: Swedish policy texts related to governance, social inclusion and
exclusion in the 1990s (2000) and Governance of education and its consequences. Interviews
with Swedish politicians and administrators (2001). Lindblad, Lundahl & Zackari have also
written an article Sweden: Increased inequalities- increased stress on individual agency
(2001). These works discuss changes in society and the labor market and its concomitant
changes in the education sector, that is, education governance.
The change, which occurred in the steering of knowledge expansion project
also, concerns the governing of adult education in its entirety. As mentioned elsewhere, due to
inefficient use of resources, which had occurred under centralization strategy, the ground had
already been prepared by the successive governments to make policy changes. There was a
growing dissatisfaction concerning the manner differences in class, gender, and geographical
origin of pupils were being handled by certain schools. This failed of attempt to minimize
class differences in schools was one of the reasons why the central government embarked on
steering changes. According to Lundahl (2001:339) “it was believed that resources were
better used and the task to create good quality equal education was better solved if means and
methods were chosen at the local level rather than by the state.” This change was a major leap
in policy in which Lindblad & Wallin (1993) and also Lindblad (1994) have characterized it
as a shift from centralism, universalism, social engineering and consensus to decentralization,
particularism and polarization which contains notions of the market economy as its
I should like to emphasize that different researchers have already attempted to
comprehend and explain why the state through the centralization strategy failed in its task of
steering. Lindblad (1980) as well as Du Rietz et al. (1987) have attempted to explain by
concentrating on the content or the internal apparatus of the state steering. Among other
things state's position of authority in society was considered rather weak as a result it could
not fulfill its function of issuing strong educational policies for governing. Thus educational
policies were issued in vague and ambiguous terms which were not conducive in effecting
changes in the value-base reinforced in educational institutions. Rothstein (1985) has also
offered a sound discussion by attributing the government's failure to the methods of the
reform implementation. He contends that governing does not only concern the content of
steering but also how it is to be accomplished, that is, the strategy of implementing it.
Rothstein issued a critic against the state educational administration strategies concerning the
way reforms are implemented in the education sector. The work of Lindensjö and Lundgren
(1986) attempted to reveal both the contents of steering and the reform implementation as
problems that hindered the steering strategy adopted by the central government. This is
discussed in their reasoning on the subject of the “arena of formulation and realization”.
Stenelo (1987) and Berg (1989) by concentrating on the failures that are attributed to the
content of the steering and also the methods of the reform implementation that was poorly
executed added yet another reason, which concerns the preparedness of the recipients of the
reform. To them the manner in which its various citizens accommodate a state reform depends
on the degree of the preparedness of its actors. The preparedness of an actor entails his
knowledge, skills, and attitudes that concern the surrounding and context where the reforms
are to be transformed into educational practice. In Berg (1992) words:
There must be an actor preparedness, which corresponds to the value-base on which the state educational
reforms are based … if the state reform intentions- despite their ambiguity- are to fall on fertile soil. To put
simply this means those teachers; school administrators and others must embrace an ideology of which the state
claims to be a wholehearted advocate. If such is the case, the necessary preconditions exist for changing- by
means of a pincer movement- the value-base consolidated in the school institution, should not only devote itself
to traditional reform work, but also mobilize resources for changing the actor preparedness in a direction that is
in agreement with its curriculum code (legitimacy).38
In the case of adult education, parliamentary decisions made between 1989-1991 led to the
radical change and ushered in this transition period where a clearer division of responsibilities
between the central and local political level occurred. Adult education and all forms of the
government-financed education were no longer to be governed by rules but instead by
objectives. This implied that educational activity of different levels in the municipalities;
schools and classrooms should be less dependent on rules. Instead interest and priority should
be focused on account taking and evaluation of results of all school activities.39 Lindensjö &
Lundgren (1986) have already commented upon this change of education strategy, which was
implemented at the local level, earlier. Their interpretation is that goal and result steering
implies that the national political leadership will formulate the detailed goal for those public
activities, and then entrust the local leadership as to how they can be implemented and reach
the goal. The government in this case did not only made the arenas of implementation local
but to a growing extent the state made the arenas of policy formulation rightly located at the
local level. These propositions in the 1990s also advocated for increased professional
responsibilities of teachers and school leaders as central aspect of educational change.
Teachers, as a result of increased professional freedom, were to choose content and methods
due to the replacement of rule governing by goal governing.
The process of decentralization is comprehended as a shift of power from the
state to the society that can be described in other words as making it easier to let social rules
to function. This relegation of power to the local level can be signified as a process towards
“societification of the state” implying that steering on the basis of legality40 (formal, written
objectives, instructions, and rules) is lessen in favor of that based on legitimacy41 (unwritten
rules that may be local historically conditioned).
Municipalities and steering experiences
How do we comprehend what the local municipalities should do? Or how is the steering at
local level to be carried out? Which individuals bear the different responsibilities assigned by
the state to the municipalities?
One needs to understand that those schools that form the public school system
for the adult education includes municipal education for adults, intellectually handicapped
adults schools, the national adult education at a distance, Swedish language instruction for
immigrants, and a large percentage of Folk high schools owned by private individuals or
organizations. A brief description of what they consist of and their respective activities they
engage in have been presented already in the section above. In every municipality there were
to be municipality's school plan that stipulates how the public school for the adult should be
formed and organized. Measures were to be taken as regards how the municipality should
work and reach the goal the state has set or put forward. Each municipality was also to make
it a priority to continuously conduct a follow-up and evaluation of the school plan.
39 SOU 1998:51.
40 Here legality means social actions and social relations that are formally sanctioned by the state.
41 Legitimacy concerns the elusive phenomena as morals and systems of values.
It is the responsibility of the leader elected by the municipality to head the public school
system of adult education and to see to it that the School law and other regulations and
ordinances are followed. 42 The municipality board members should appoint a number of
committees such as child and education committee, the secondary school committee, the
school board committee, and so on. Only one committee could join the labor market and adult
education together under one umbrella to be mind.
The Principal should be seen as the leader of a school and he/she should take
care of day to day matters of the school. He should also be responsible for the implementation
of the education plan and the development of the school. The Principal should also take
control of the writing and issuing of educational certificates.
The highest agent of the students should be the Student Council, which can be
affiliated with the National Union of Student Organization. According to the committee for
knowledge expansion project, the public school system for adult education sector should have
a special relationship with the State highest educational authority, for example, the National
Agency of Education and also the State Institute for the Handicapped. The National Agency
of Education responsibility is to regularly conduct follow-up, evaluation, and supervision. The
municipalities should therefore make sure that they fulfill their assignments entrusted to them
also, that is, the steering and evaluation of the adult education or school activities. It must be
emphasized that it is the goal and result-steered activities that must be evaluated.43
Evaluation is a necessary step to enhance knowledge concerning the phenomenon that is
being evaluated. The support one gives to evaluation reveals the acceptance and the
acceleration of pedagogy development in schools.
The private folk high schools, though much free than the municipal folk high
school, still have to fulfill certain demands put on them by the state. Like their counterparts
the private folk high schools have to elect its School Boards that will be responsible for the
running of the schools. The precondition for State subsidies is a well-established document of
objectives for the school and a distinct prepared plan for the evaluation of school activities.
The board of school should control the economic activity and also appoint the principal of the
school. The organizing body of the students should be the Student Union.
Adult education associations are to be organized in three levels: the local level,
the district level and the national level. The Board members are to be ranked as the top leaders
of the eleven adult education associations in the country.
At the state level the folk high schools and the adult education associations are
to be specially attached to Adult Education Council. The council responsibility is to share the
state subsidies to respective folk high schools and adult education associations and to conduct
evaluation studies among them. The state however will perform its own evaluation of adult
education in every five years.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
42 The steering documents for the Municipal adult education, Intellectually handicapped, and Swedish language
for immigrants consist of the following: School law (SFS 1985:100 with later editions), regulations on the
National school of adult education (SFS 1991:1108 with later editions), ordinance concerning 1994 years
curriculum for the private schools (SFS 1994:2 with later editions), ordinance concerning special program
objectives for a) National secondary school (SFS 1994:8) b) National secondary school (SFS 1994:13 with later
editions) c) fundamental adult education (SFS 1994:23) d) some parts for the Intellectually handicapped (SFS
1994:27), ordinance for the municipal adult education (1992:403 with later editions), ordinance for National
school for adult (1992:610 with later editions) Ibid., p.114.
The change from centralization and regulation to decentralization and deregulation in the
sphere of education governance affected the whole education spectrum. It affected the total
spectrum of educational influences concerning the adult learner and the manner he receives
his education (from informal learning to formal learning, non-institution context to institution
context). Swedish adult education sector was one of the areas that was tremendously affected
in a positive way due to the change and implementation of this political strategy of steering.
The impetus that was received during this transition period generated good results in the
organization and running of the adult education sector regarding citizens and immigrants
education. The knowledge expansion project was embarked upon at a period when the
political climate was favorable to effect a unique enhancement of social and knowledge
We have found out that during the implementation of this project the state
counseled the municipalities to employ the services of many different organizers in order to
fulfill the state's result-oriented goal entrusted to them. The state or the national political
leadership having formulated the detailed goal for the activities entrusted the local leadership
to implement and reach the goal. These goal and result-steered activities were to be evaluated
by the local authorities, a necessary assignment, which would aid as well as enhance
knowledge in the society. It was also to augment and accelerate the development of pedagogy
in schools. This change of government activity or the relegation of steering from the central
government to the municipalities, it seems to me, presented a challenge, which also
encouraged the implementation of knowledge expansion project and ultimately led to its
success. The National Agency of Education's task to control in the form of follow-up,
evaluation, and supervision offered a new strategy and a fresh look to school organization
which ushered in a superb kind of division of labor in the overall governing of the Swedish
The knowledge expansion project not only aided the reduction of the high
employment level; it also contributed to growth of the ailing economy. As the government has
many different goals attached to the promulgation of this project it also fulfilled its promise
and granted the resources needed for its implementation causing a change of new thinking in
the way adult education was organized. Citizens as well as immigrants with valid stay in the
country gained access to formal learning in upper secondary and supplementary education as
a result of the implementation of the knowledge expansion program, allowing a considerable
number of qualified workers to become assets to modern industries. Those with less education
enhanced their possibilities in obtaining higher education to enable them get better jobs on the
labor market. These help them to convert their education capital to economic capital. While
those who were tired of their outdated professions, substituted them with new ones which the
industries were in great demand for. Social capital is often treated by some authors as a
positive feature of intermediate-level social relationships. In extremely normative way this
concept has been imported into policy making. In closely related fashion, there is a strong
assumption among policy makers that a stronger civil society and learning society are
somehow mutually reinforcing so that a number of bodies have contended in favor of a closer
relationship between development and adult education. Adult education functions well in the
manner of mobilizing and integrating excluded groups, which is one of the many strategies for
building social capital.
The expiring date of the expansion project has elapsed and as at yet we await a
general evaluation to be undertaken by the government and the municipalities as well.
However, even at present we already hear more success accounts of what the state through its
local governments has achieved by offering tremendous opportunities to the masses to equip
them to function better and compete fairly in the knowledge-based society. The change of
steering in a broad sense influenced a positive course of action which its good results will be
felt extensively well into the distant future.
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