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Educational democratization and "ethnification" in Swedish Sápmi - 1942 to the present

Research project The aim of this project is to examine how the teaching content in Sami education in Sweden successively has become ethnified through the democratization of the educational system, from 1942 to the present.

The process of educational democratization and “etnification” in Swedish Sápmi will be studied through seven case studies, focussing on the Nomadic/Sami School and the Sami Folk High School. In curriculum and detailed teaching instructions for the former school, there has been an ambition to balance two separate objectives; to offer an education that is equivalent to the one given in “regular” schools, while at the same time strengthening Sami identity and preserving Sami culture.

Head of project

Project overview

Project period:

2012-07-01 2016-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Historical, Philosophical and Religious studies, Várdduo - Centre for Sami research

Research area

History, Sami studies

Project description

The postwar period signaled a new era regarding Sami education, where Sami demands’ concerning what was to be taught in the Sami schools as well as a permanent Sami participation in the policy field were beginning to be acknowledged. The Nomadic/Sami School, established in 1913, went through a modernization process from the late 1930s, a delayed expression of the curriculum reform and modernization of school buildings in Sweden. In this modernization era, claims were made to guarantee Sami participation in developing a new curriculum adapted to Sami culture. This “ethnification” of the curriculum was not achieved without struggle and active Sami participation (Lantto 2000; Sjögren 2010). In various ways, Sami representatives developed goals for the education with their interests as a point of departure. New arguments was articulated in order to stress the beneficial effects of education, arguments that the curriculum have echoed. This development was complemented with the 1942 opening of a Sami folk high school, which as a Sami institution both provided opportunities for further education for Sami youths and created improved opportunities to influence the debate on education and educational content.
In the aftermath of democratization, work began to formulate a new basis for legitimizing a separate education system for the Sami. Previously, the Nomadic School had been legitimized by the majority society’s view of Sami culture. During the work to reform the system, compulsion was replaced by the freedom of choice and cultural conservatism with a right for Sami children to form their own identity, forming a new legitimizing foundation for a separate Sami school system. The work also led to a discussion concerning how to weigh a Sami content in the education towards the general content common for the regular schools in Sweden. Already from the 1910s, Sami handicraft and nomadic knowledge had been included in curricula and in teaching, but this decision rested on the original ideological base for establishing the Nomadic School. With a new legitimizing base for a separate Sami school system, the “ethnification” of educational content, in curricula and in practise, became the subject for negotiations between Sami representatives and the state. Different Sami groups were given the opportunity to present their views of the future educational content, which indicated how they regarded central aspects of Sami culture and way of life.

Purpose and aims
The overall aim of the project is to examine the process of democratization and “ethnification” of Sami education. The project is divided into two research areas, one focusing on the development of the Nomadic School from 1962 to the present, and the other on the establishment and development of the Sami Folk High School, 1942–1980. The project will thus cover both compulsory and non-compulsory education. The Sami Folk high School research area will cover the process to actual teaching from the formulated guidelines to the interpreted curricula. The Nomadic School research area will beyond this also examine a third level of curriculum: the experienced curricula. (Klafki 1997; Lindensjö & Lundgren 2000; Goodlad 1979; Nygren 2011; Linde 1993). The goal is to grasp the process of implementation, from the original intention to the actual teaching in the classroom. Of the seven separate case studies included in the project, three will focus on the first level of curricula, examining debates concerning the purpose and goal with Sami education, and three will focus on the second level of curricula, examining the transformation from intention to practice. One case study will cover both the second level of curricula and the third, examining the transformation from intention to practice and how curricula was experienced by students.
An additional project objective is to gain knowledge about how Sami identity and Sami culture reflects and changes in education; and, at the same time, how education has influenced and cemented values of “Saminess” and Sami identity. All case studies will deal with questions regarding transformation from education policy into practice, negotiating different kinds of ethno-specific knowledge and how “travelling” trends in educational ideas are adopted and transformed in Sami education. Some scholars have for example noticed a trend in national curricula towards what is called a global education. This trend in education rhetoric and curricula has been described as one way to respond to the global challenges of our time (Knutsson 2012; Popkewitz 2009).

Survey of the field
Education has been regarded as a key instrument for states to control ethnic minorities, both within national borders and in exterior colonies. Research has shown a worldwide pattern of colonial education, stressing that the colonizers controlled who attended school, what was being taught, the purposes with education and what languages that were used (Altbach & Kelly 1978; Welch 1988; Perley 1993; Armitage 1995). This global pattern also indicates two major shifts in internal colonial education; one at the beginning of the 20th century when multifaceted missionary school systems were centralized and taken over by governments, and one after WWII when ethnic diversity was introduced in curricula for minority groups, and the educational administration became increasingly self-governing. In a global comparison, there are of course some variations from this pattern; studies have for example shown that a democratization of education for minorities occurred later in Sweden (Sjögren 2010). Research has also revealed how a colonial structure in various degrees determines education after self-determination, and how a combination of history of education, post-colonial studies and indigenous minority’s studies is fruitful to understand and examine “ethnification” processes within a society (Municio 1993; Banks & Banks 2003).
From a Nordic perspective, the most in-depth research in the field of Sami education and schools has been carried out in Norway. Since 2003, the Sami school history project in Norway has published five volumes based on stories from and interviews with former pupils, teachers, school staff and parents ( ). In Sweden, there have been a relatively significant number of studies focusing on the Nomadic School (Lantto 2000, 2003; Sjögren 2010), but most have examined the political context and not the educational content, and the period after 1962 has largely been neglected. The Sami Folk High School has only received limited attention in previous research (Lantto 2000, 2003).

Project description and organization
The project is organized into two research areas, each consisting of separate case studies. The first research area focuses on the Nomadic/Sami School, and the second on the Sami Folk High School.

Research area 1: The Nomadic/Sami School
The Nomadic School was established in 1913 to function as an institution for the children of reindeer herding Sami only, and the educational content as well as school organization was adjusted to Sami living conditions, as viewed by Swedish school reformers. Due to these very specific criteria concerning the students, as well as, e.g., that the schools were run by the state while local communities had no influence over the administration and that reindeer herding skills was included in the curriculum, the Nomadic School was an anomaly in the Swedish educational system. The structure and organization of the school were criticized by many Sami already from its’ establishment, but it was not until the previously mentioned modernization, which began in the late 1930s, that a substantial change started. Through a reform in 1962, the Nomadic School became integrated into the Swedish school system, even though keeping some distinguishing features, and was opened up and became an option for the children of all Sami, not only reindeer herders (Lantto 2000, 2003; Sjögren 2010). That the Nomadic School became optional led to a significant decrease in the number of students, creating substantial challenges attracting students and maintaining the school. In 1977, the name was changed to the Sami School. The main time focus of the case studies will be on the development from 1962 to the present, as there is limited research covering this period.
The first case study (Norlin), New Education in the Wild: The Sami Nomadic School and the Reform Pedagogy Experience, c. 1942–1977, will examine the impact of progressive pedagogic ideas (the so called New Education) in the Nomadic School, and the role of reform pedagogy in the shift from a state governed to an increasingly self-governed Sami education. In the study, the following perspectives and questions will be applied: a) Discursive perspective: What impact did ideas connected to the New Education have on the debate surrounding the Nomadic schools? Did reform pedagogy challenge the traditional aims and values of nomadic schooling? b) Material perspective: In what ways did reform pedagogy materialize in educational practice, i.e. how did it change the premises of day-to-day school life? c) Comparative perspective: Did reform pedagogy have a specific impact on the Nomadic School, compared to other school forms influenced by progressive teaching at the time? Given the historical and geographical context of mid-twentieth century Sápmi, i.e. the internal colonial conditions (Lantto 2000; Lindmark 2006), it is not only imperative to analyze currents of progressive pedagogy within a theoretical framework connected to educational modernization, but also against a colonial background: Did the New Education, with its dependence on the local, immediate, environment in the mediation of knowledge, its non-authoritarian methods and its strive to assist children’s self-activity, indirectly prepare the terrain for an ethno-specific curriculum and facilitate educational de-colonization?
The second case study (Sjögren), Equality and Sami identity through education – The Nomadic/Sami School, 1962 to the present, examines how the teaching was organized and carried out in relation to the overall aims formulated in curriculum and by legislators. The purpose is to study how school administrators balanced between the argument of equality on the one hand, and strengthening Sami culture and identity on the other. The study will argue that this balance contains an embedded tension between the two standpoints. To what extent and in what way did the Nomadic/Sami School deviate from national curriculum, and did this change over time? The national curriculum and the curriculum for the Nomadic/Sami School only gave instructions on different subjects on a general level, providing teachers with opportunities to include “ethno-specific” knowledge in their teaching. This case study will give priority to three special areas of inquiry. The first is the junior high school in Gällivare, established in the 1960s, that centralized all Sami pupils in 7th to 9th grade in one school. In the 9th grade, the pupils could choose a course of special inquiry interest: the rein-deer herding course. The second will focus on an early pre-school initiative in Kiruna municipality in the beginning of the 1980s, which was a result of a proposal from Sami parents. It would later become a model for other pre-school activities in Sápmi (Jernström 1986). The third area will focus on reforms made in the 1980s to cope with the decreasing number of students. In 1983, the national board of education started to distinguish between integrated and reinforced Sami education. Integrated Sami education was aimed at creating structures for Sami education even in schools with few Sami pupils. It followed national curriculum, but had elements of Sami language and culture. In the reinforced Sami education, Sami culture, language etc. influenced every aspect of the education.
In the third case study (Ledman), The educational debate 1962 to the present, the purpose is to analyze the debate surrounding the Nomadic/Sami School, by considering a Sami perspective as the main point of departure. Thoughts and ideas concerning learning and education will be examined by making use of three main types of source materials. Firstly, documents from the National Union of Swedish Sami (SSR) and the Sami Parliament will be studied in order to perform analysis from a Sami political discursive perspective. Secondly, the Sami magazine Samefolket will be examined. Samefolket as well as SSR and the Sami Parliament have been and still are strongly connected to the Sami ethnopolitical movement, and therefore form excellent sources for identifying what issues have been raised and debated, both politically and socially, within the Swedish Sami society (Lantto 1998). Thirdly, interviews with parents that have been engaged in the educational debate surrounding the Nomadic/Sami school will be performed. The aim is to complement the written source materials and highlight individual experiences and understandings of the possibilities of self-determination in relation to Sami education. The research questions will focus on what is emphasized when school related issues are discussed. Which issues related to education are present in the varying source materials during different periods of time? What continuities and changes appear? Which actors are made visible and what is absent in the debate? Further, the study examines how educational issues were described during the time period. What merits and criticisms are made visible, and how can those be linked to the relationship between the Swedish majority and Sami minority within a postcolonial context? The final question addresses the issue of the potential impact of the debate in terms of inquiries concerning power and resistance. How are strategies to achieve change or continuity expressed, and how is Sami self-determination discussed from organizational as well as individual perspectives?
The fourth case study (Svonni), The Nomadic/Sami School viewed from the in- and outside, 1962–2010, is a PhD project. It will examine how the Nomadic/Sami School has developed mainly based on the experiences of students and teachers at the school, but at the same time including the opinions of school leaders and parents in this process. As mentioned, the history of the Nomadic/Sami School after 1962 is to a large extent unwritten, and this is especially true for how students and teachers viewed their time at the school. This case study will thus have great importance. Research questions that will be focused in the study are: How have school leaders and teachers regarded the implementation of curricula in the school? How do students describe their experiences from attending the school and how have these affected them and their identity? Up until 1962, Sami parents had some influence on the Nomadic School through the local Nomadic School Boards, but how has this developed since? What are the major differences in how teachers and students view the Nomadic/Sami School? The PhD thesis will be written as a compilation thesis.

Research area 2: The Sami Folk High School
The establishment of the Sami Folk High School in 1942 was a combination of the ambitions of two actors, the Swedish Missionary Society (SMS) and the Sami movement. SMS had run a number of missionary schools up until the nomadic school reform, and had thus been an important actor in the field of Sami education. The idea of a Sami folk high school was a way for the society to connect to its’ history and roots. This idea had been launched during the 1930s by leading Sami activists Gustav Park and Karin Stenberg, who saw a need to provide Sami students with an opportunity for higher education after leaving the Nomadic School. The aim of the school was to give the Sami students a general civic education and also increase their knowledge on reindeer husbandry and Sami culture (Lantto 2000). SMS was responsible for the operation of the school up until 1972, when it was turned over to a foundation controlled by Sami organizations and Jokkmokk municipality, and four years earlier it had been opened up for non-Sami students as well. Today the school goes under the name of the Sami Education Centre. The main focus of the case studies will be on the earlier decades of the development of the Sami Folk High School.
The first case study (Hansson), Education for the Sami and Sami cultural heritage, 1942-1972, examines what was taught at the Sami Folk High School, and how this has developed and changed since the start. Focus will be on subjects more clearly associated with Sami culture, such as handicrafts, language and reindeer husbandry, but other subjects will be studied as well. The project will address two separate areas, policy and curriculum, and teaching practice. For the first area, the following questions will be central: What is, and who determines, the teaching content? In what ways does the teaching content change over time and how can these changes be understood? The second area is studied through the following questions: Who were the teachers and students at the Sami Folk High School/Sami Education Centre? In what way did curricula and the corresponding instructions balance “ethno-specific” knowledge with generic knowledge and skills, and to what extent was teaching influenced by international educational trends?
The second case study (Lantto), Creating leaders and protecting culture, 1942–1972, will analyze whether the expectations and ambitions the Sami leaders had with the Sami Folk High School were realized. When the school was established, Gustav Park in particular expressed high hopes for the institution, which he saw as central for the preservation and development of Sami culture in a modernizing Swedish society. He also regarded the school as an important institution for the political Sami movement, hoping that it would prove a fertile intellectual ground for the education and development of future Sami activists (Lantto 2000). The aim of this project is to examine these two core ambitions for the school emphasized by Sami activists. Firstly, the study will examine to what extent and in what way the school has protected and contributed to a revitalization of Sami culture. Focus will be on Sami handicrafts, which today has an important role as an ethnic marker of Sami culture and identity. What role did the school play in developing Sami handicrafts and how was the issue regarded within the leadership of the school? Did the school cooperate with Sami organizations on this issue? Secondly, the vision that the school would mould and produce the future Sami leaders will be examined by comparing those who attended the school with individuals who later became involved in the Sami movement and Sami organizations. Research questions will be whether the hope expressed by Park actually was realized, and to what extent? How many of the later Sami activists had attended the school, and can their political activism somehow be contributed to this? And did the Sami leaders and Sami organizations try to influence the school?
The third case study (Lindmark), The Swedish Missionary Society and Sami Education, 1942-1980, focus on the educational ideology of the society. The missionary and educational policy of SMS in the eighteenth century has previously been studied (Sundkler 1937; Norlin 2003), and in an ongoing project Björn Norlin analyzes the missionary schools in the period 1835-1920. The evolution of the educational ideology of SMS after the 1920s has, however, never been analyzed in detail before. Considering the role the society played in the establishment of the Sami Folk High School, such a study of the SMS educational philosophy is motivated. How did the folk high school project relate to the educational policy of the SMS? Was there a change of educational philosophy, and if so, how can it be explained? To what extent did the Sami Folk High School reflect the traditional missionary ideology of the nineteenth century, with its double focus on religious education and humanitarian aid, and to what extent did the educational philosophy of the SMS promote Sami culture and Sami agency? In what way did Sami educational policy change when the Sami Folk High School was opened for non-Sami students? And how did the SMS reorient its Sami educational policy after 1972? The Sami Folk High School will be the focus of the analysis, but comments and reports on other educational projects will also be taken into account.

Theory, method and performance
The inspiration to the theoretical framework for this project comes from three different fields: postcolonial theory, new institutional theory and theory of curriculum and instructions, of which the last was described in an earlier part of the application. Taken together, aspects of those theories will form starting-points and contribute to analysis of the result of the case studies.
Even though education for indigenous minorities have changed towards increased self-determination concerning administration and influence in policymaking, colonial structures are still significant. In order to identify and scrutinize these structures, the theoretical points of departure will be anchored within a postcolonial theoretical framework. A postcolonial approach provides possibilities to position relations between Sami and Swedish interests within a colonial discourse in different historical contexts. Consequently, in the present project the term “postcolonial” is to be interpreted as an attempt to think beyond the boundaries and identities constituted during a colonial past, but also beyond the ideas suggesting that colonial discourse is no longer present (Hall 1996). Within the postcolonial theoretical framework, producing the Other by describing him as different is a prerequisite to enable a distinction between Us and Them. The Orient, according to Edward Said, serves as a starting point for the Western citizen to be able to distance oneself morally and existentially from it. This polarization carries with it a notion of the Other as inferior (Said 1978). In the present project, a postcolonial approach enables a theoretical structure that recognizes and scrutinizes power relations within a Swedish society affected by a colonial past.
Self-determination is limited by the majority society´s educational system, but also by a continuous notion of “authentic” Saminess compared to an unproblematic and self-evident Swedishness. The struggle for self-determination is closely linked to the reproduction of and emphasis on Sami ethnicity (Eriksen 1993; Johansson 2008). At the same time, raising claims within a colonial structure can only be done by adjusting to majority systems and discourses. Consequently, indigenous minorities can only reach expanded possibilities for self-determination by adopting and accepting the majority society’s notions of schooling, education and knowledge. This project will regard education as an arena for negotiation of ethnicity and Sami identity. Both the majority society, in this case represented by educational policymakers, and Sami society, formulates their view on what Sami culture and Sami identity should contain. The “ethnification” of Sami education reveals different valuations of Sami culture and identity and the question of power and prerogative in this negotiation is of great importance.
Institutional theory in education considers and explains the processes by which school structures, including schedules, guidelines, norms, and goals, become established as authoritative guidelines. It also explains how these elements are created, diffused, adopted and adapted and changed over space and time. One argument from the new institutional theory is that legitimacy (not efficiency or results) is the most important constraints of educational organizations (Meyer & Rowan 2006). Organizations such as schools are held together by shared beliefs and to find a way to transform the societies trust and confidence in school system into institutionalized norms and values (Meyer 1977).
As the main analytical method, the proposed project will draw on a critical discourse analytical approach (CDA). This includes, apart from providing tools for systematic analysis, a point of departure that aims to acknowledge and illuminate social tensions and at the same time seeks to improve them. Research through CDA thus carries with it a normative ambition that aims to both explain and interpret social relationships and phenomena, but also to produce new knowledge that can assist in changing identified problems. By making use of CDA as a methodological approach, alternation between structural analyses on the one hand and social actors' strategies on the other is encouraged. In the present project this will be demonstrated by focusing on both discursive (curriculum) and individual (interviews) perspectives (Fairclough 2010).
The case studies will be based on a qualitative analysis of different source material, in combination with interviews. The main source material will be published and unpublished official material, not least strategic educational documents, archival material from the Nomadic/Sami School, the Sami Folk High School and SMS, press material, magazines – such as teacher publications, Bland Sveriges samer and Samefolket – and material from Sami organizations. In-depth and open-ended interviews with key actors, such as representatives from Sami organizations, current and former teachers and students and politicians and civil servants within the educational field, will complement this material. In the case studies where the written source materials will be complemented by interviews, the methodological approach will be inspired by the framework of Oral History as well as Indigenous methodology (Thompson 2000, Smith 1999). The informants will mainly consist of former students and their parents, teachers and school leaders of the two schools. The interviews will be analyzed qualitatively and the selection of informants will mainly be accomplished by tracing individuals present in the various written source materials.
The project has an ambitious plan for the dissemination of the results of the work. In an effort to increase collaboration within and between the two research areas of the project, the goal is to co-author several of the articles. Most of the articles will be written in English for publication in international journals, but in an effort to connect to the stakeholders, each researcher will also produce an article in Swedish, summarizing their most important results, with the aim to release an anthology during the last year of the project.

Many individuals in Sami society have attended the Nomadic/Sami School and/or the Sami Folk High School. These institutions are central building blocks in the Sami educational system, but they also stand out as powerful cultural and historical symbols in the relationship between the Sami minority and the Swedish society and state. Both schools have had a great impact on many individuals of the Sami population; negatively and positively. Research on these institutions is thus of great relevance, but has so far been limited. Only a few studies have been performed, focusing on specific schools or a certain question.
As the Sami school system, especially historically, has had an in-depth effect on many Sami, it is of great importance to have an ongoing dialogue with the stakeholders. If the project is granted funding, a Sami reference group will be formed with which the project will cooperate and communicate, and open seminars concerning the project will be held each year of the project.

Preliminary results
Two of the project participants, Lantto and Sjögren, have studied the history and development of the Nomadic School during the period 1913-1962. Lantto has examined the ideological base for the establishment of the school, the “Lapp shall remain Lapp” policy, and Sami protests against this view and the organization of and educational content in the Nomadic School. The school came to be perceived more positively by the Sami movement after the reforms in the 1930s and 1940s, and when the existence of a separate Sami school system was questioned during the 1950s, it was the agitation and work of the movement which led to the decision in 1962 to keep the Nomadic School and open it up to students from non-reindeer herding Sami families (Lantto 2000; 2003). Sjögren (2010) highlighted the pedagogical ideas which were part of the original decision to establish the Nomadic School in 1913, and he also showed how formulated guidelines of curriculum was transformed into practices. An important result is that a strict interpretation of the ideological ideas, mentioned above, proved to be hard to realize, and some modifications and expansion of the educational content were made. Lantto has also examined the debate surrounding the establishment and initial development of the Sami Folk High School, and how the school was regarded within the Sami movement (Lantto 2000; 2003). These studies are important starting points, but the time period and research questions this project focuses on have not been examined in previous research.

International and national collaboration
The researchers involved in this project work at the Centre for Sami Research (CeSam) and History and Education, two strong and internationally well established research environments at Umeå University with a wide ranging network of national and international collaboration with researchers and research environments. CeSam is a leading Nordic actor in the fields of Sami and Indigenous research, and has a wide and established net of contacts with individual researchers and research environments, e.g., in Australia, USA and Canada, which will be of importance for the project. The project leader, Associate professor Patrik Lantto, CeSam, has worked extensively in the field of Sami history and on issues concerning Sami education. History and Education is a fast growing center and a leading Swedish actor in research on the history of education and history didactics, and has several international research partners. It has also established contacts with the Sami school project in Norway, mentioned above. Professor Daniel Lindmark, one of the project participants, is the director of History and Education.

Ethical considerations
The parts of the project covered by the Ethics Act in Sweden (SFS 2003:460) will undergo ethical review at Umeå University’s regional ethical review board. As the ethical review in Sweden does not consider specifically Sami perspectives and thus risks losing its validity among the Sami, we have chosen to relate to ethics more thoroughly than is required by Swedish law. In practice this means that ongoing contacts will be kept with Sami reference persons, who will be involved and have influence consistently throughout the project.

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