Politics of Contemporary Education Policy : The case of programming in the Swedish curriculum

Abstract: In recent years, computer programming has been introduced into school curricula in several national education systems across the world making it a key issue on the education policy agenda. In March 2017, the Swedish Government announced their decision to introduce programming as a mandatory teaching element as of the first grade of primary school. This doctoral thesis investigates the processes behind this recent change in the Swedish curriculum and aims to clarify the addition of programming in schools. The research is focused on the actors and actions that brought about this change and on how the addition of programming was argued for in policy texts, nationally and internationally.The methods employed in this thesis are those of network ethnography and critical discourse analysis. Network ethnography enables a mapping of relationships between the actors involved, while critical discourse analysis can provide further insights on discourse, social context, and the underlying power-relations. The empirical material is comprised of online links and texts regarding and by the actors involved in the policy agenda on programming, interviews with key policy actors, as well as national and international policy texts on the introduction of programming in schools.According to the findings, the processes resulting in the introduction of programming in the Swedish schools have been both complex and dynamic engaging a wide range of actors including governmental and inter-governmental agencies, national and multinational companies, for- and non-for-profit organizations and educational institutions. One of the findings is that external actors both influenced and participated in these policy-making processes. The policy agenda on programming was shared in mixed policy arenas extending beyond national and institutional spaces and towards international and private ones. The analysis of the policy texts indicates that the teaching of programming in schools was promoted as the answer to a number of economic and societal needs, while the public discourse was dominated by economic motives and ideologies.In this thesis, the addition of programming in schools is perceived as an example of contemporary education policy- making. The findings demonstrate that the development of contemporary education policy no longer is confined within national borders, but takes place across borders and sectors involving a variety of actors. Emphasis is placed on the influence of external interests on education policy. In addition, this thesis highlights the importance of out-of-the-parliament processes both locally and internationally, and their capacity to influence policy-making. This study underscores the increasing complexity which characterizes education policy in a globalized context, especially in the area of education technology.