ECNU Review of Education Special Issue Explores Shadow Education in the Nordic Countries

SHANGHAI, Nov. 5, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — "Shadow education" describes private supplementary tutoring that exists outside the framework of mainstream education. An increasingly competitive global knowledge economy has provided fertile ground for shadow education to flourish. While research on the subject has been growing, shadow education in the Nordic countries is still underexplored.

The special issue of the ECNU Review of EducationContradictions of Egalitarianism: Nordic Ways of Shadow Education—provides new insights into shadow education with analysis in the Nordic context. An editorial by Professors Søren Christensen of Aarhus University in Denmark and Zhang Wei of East China Normal University on the emergence and sociocultural implications of shadow education in the Nordic countries sets the stage for the rest of the issue.

The Nordic countries are known globally for their dedication to a universalist welfare model. In this model, social and political policies must benefit everybody, not just disadvantaged groups; and naturally, free, democratic, and inclusive education is part of the core. As a private enterprise, shadow education is usually perceived as the very antithesis of these ideals, and thus lacking a market in Nordic countries. Maybe that was the case two decades ago, but it changed after the turn of the century, in part of because of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) studies, of which the first ranking was released in 2001.

PISA triggered performance anxieties among the Nordic countries (except for and compared with Finland), which partly resulted in a more accountability-oriented approach to education policy. "The emphasis was now less on the lofty ideals of democracy and equality and more on the (in)ability of Scandinavian education systems to provide the learning outcomes needed to sustain national competitiveness in a global knowledge economy," remarked Christensen and Zhang.

With contributions from leading scholars and practitioners in the field, the special issue explores how these circumstances led to the rise of shadow education in the Nordic countries. This overview paper, updating insights from a path-breaking report commissioned by the European Union, shows four major sub-regions within Europe and ways in which the Nordic countries are "catching up with the others."

The special issue also highlights the Nordic social and cultural factors that both inhibit the growth of shadow education and nudge it towards expansion and development. As highlighted by Christensen and Zhang, the recent rise of shadow education bears witness to both the erosion and to the persistence of the Nordic model in education.

The theme of shadow education is not new to ECNU Review of Education. In 2019, the journal published a special issue on shadow education in China (Vol.2, No.1), placing itself at the forefront in this domain. A comparison of the two special issues shows the wide spectrum of social implications and business models that shadow education encompasses. Even though shadow education is nowhere near as popular in the Nordic countries as it is in China, some parallels can still be drawn between the two.

The special issue of ECNU Review of Education is being released in the lead up to the 19th Shanghai International Curriculum Forum entitled Comparing Curriculum and Instruction Inside and Outside Schools: Policies and Practices (6-7 November 2021).

The study has been further discussed in this podcast from the 19th Shanghai International Curriculum Forum (SICF):

Link to the research summary video:

Authors: Søren Christensen and Wei Zhang

Title of original paper: Shadow Education in the Nordic Countries: An Emerging Phenomenon in Comparative Perspective

Journal: ECNU Review of Education


Link to Podcast:

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SOURCE ECNU Review of Education