– Our preliminary results from Australia show that if you work as a teacher in a school with students from low socio-economic backgrounds, a lot of work is about behavioural management.. In a high socio-economic schools on the other hand, it can look quite different, with a greater focus on meeting students and parents with high demands on both teaching and grades, says Karolina Parding, Associate Professor in Sociology at Luleå University of Technology.
The school choice reform has changed the education system
On average 20 per cent of Swedish pupils attend independent upper secondary schools today. In some municipalities, up to 60 per cent. To map Swedish upper secondary teachers' working conditions in relation to the school choice reform –, the research team will carry out a nationally representative survey. Through the survey, the team will examine how the school choice agenda plays out in terms of differing working conditions in different school contexts, and also how teachers reason regarding choice of employer.
– The research i Australia shows for instance, that both teachers in low socio-economic schools and high socio-economic schools are under pressure to do a good job, but where they put their focus differs. There are almost two completely different professions and their conditions differ depending on the school context they work. This is interesting not least because the teachers may ultimately develop context-specific competencies. It makes it harder to change school type and a lock-in effect can arise, says Karolina Parding.
Limited conditions affecting teachers
Recently, one of the Australian research-team members, Susan McGrath-Champ, Associate Professor of Work and Organizational Studies at the University of Sydney Business School, visited Luleå University of Technology. She says that the Australian school system has many similarities with Sweden, but with a particularly important difference – independent schools in Australia are not profit making.
– In Australia, schools get to charge high fees, but they are not profit making and any surplus always go back to business. It can be assumed to affects teachers' working conditions, and ultimately benefits the students, not a wealthy entrepreneur, says Susan McGrath-Champ.
– We can learn quite a lot from Australia because, in certain respects, Australia is ahead in terms of their school choice agenda. By examining the situation in Australia, we can find new ways of understanding what is happening in Sweden,, concludes Karolina Parding.
The research is funded partly by FORTE (Swedish research council for health, working life and welfare), partly STINT (Foundation for International Higher Education and Research).