Recently published articles: Finnish policy futures of school spaces and knowledges. Open access.

In educational policy visions, it is customary to present Finnish school system as outdated and alienated from the surrounding society. Despite success in PISA, schools are allegedly the last bastion of resistance to the global changes in work and learning in the 21st century.

School architecture and new learning environments

In a new study, POISED researcher Antti Saari analyses recent policy visions in new school architecture and learning environments.

There has been a growing tendency – over the last decade or so – to focus on envisioning school architecture and the future of the comprehensive school network.

Finnish schools have been involved in a public debate about public buildings with dangerously poor indoor air, leading to either expensive renovations or building new schools altogether. Finland also has a rapidly ageing population, which – combined with growing urbanisation – means that schools are being closed in rural areas, while new and bigger units are being constructed in metropolitan areas.

In addition, the country’s success in PISA has meant there has been a surge in establishing education export initiatives, not only with regards to pedagogical expertise, but the whole ‘package’ of schools with curricula, technology and well-equipped facilities. All these features have created a bustling market for school architecture and new learning environments, which in turn would explain the high number of policy documents about future learning environments in the last decade.

Saari analyzes how visions of new learning environments operate as political fantasies that promise creativity, pleasure and fulfilment in flexible spaces.

Saari, A. 2021. Topologies of desire: Fantasies and their symptoms in educational policy futures. European Educational Research Journal. Online first version:  https://doi.org/10.1177/1474904120988389

Future knowledges

Another recent article traces the Finnish rhetoric of future skills and knowledges in educational policy documents.

Policy actors from ministries to think tanks and lobbyists highlight individuality, creativity and freedom as values widely recognized in the Finnish knowledge society. Yet allegedly this is not the case in schools, which are still organized according to structures of mass production, i.e. the same contents and methods for everyone.

In the allegedly outdated Finnish school system, knowledge is seen as a something that can be amassed and as retaining its value in the future. In the future, however no amount of subject knowledge in, for example, history or geography alone can serve the needs of society. It is rather general skills, mindsets and attunements such as creativity and flexibility that can enable individuals to adapt to different situations.

Janne Säntti, Petteri Hansen and Antti Saari analyze how policy rhetoric highlights play, innovation and improvisation as key principles to be adopted in envisioning future school knowledge and skills.

Säntti, J., Hansen, P. & Saari, A. 2021. Future jamming: Rhetoric of new knowledge in Finnish educational policy texts. Policy Futures in Education. Online first version: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1478210320985705

Uutuuskirja Kasvatusteoria antiikista nykypäivään kokoaa yhteen länsimaisen kasvatuksen aatehistorian ja filosofian

Kasvatusteoria on muovautunut länsimaissa osana poliittista ja aatteellista kehitystä. POISED -tutkija Antti Saari osoittaa kirjassaan, kuinka vallankumouksellisina pidetyt uudet opetusmenetelmät ovat toistuneet historiassa yhä uudelleen.

Kasvatustiede on moninaisten tiedekäsitysten ja tieteen hyödyllisyyden vaatimusten ristitulessa. Yliopistossa välitetty tieto esitetään keskeiseksi perustaksi asiantuntijatyölle, mutta toisaalta teorian ja käytännön välinen kuilu näyttää olevan kasvatustieteellisen keskustelun pysyvä ongelma. Kasvatusteorian historialliset kerrostumat luovat jännitteitä niin tutkijan, koulutuksen virkamiehen kuin opettajankin työhön.

Antti Saaren Kasvatusteoria antiikista nykypäivään esittelee ajalliset kerrostumat nykymuotoisen kasvatusteorian taustalla ja näyttää, millä tavalla menneisyyden käsitykset ihmisestä, kasvatuksesta ja yhteiskunnasta muovaavat käytäntöjä edelleen. Kytköksiin liittyy usein myös poliittisia ja aatteellisia aineksia.

Kasvatusteorian aineksia löytyy niin antiikin filosofisista koulukunnista, keskiajan yliopistoista ja luostareista kuin valistusajan kahviloista. Nykypäivänä oppimista ja koulujen kehittämistä koskevassa keskustelussa nostetaan usein esiin tehokkuutta ja yksilöllisyyttä painottavia opetusmenetelmiä, mutta samankaltaisilla lupauksilla on jo vuosisatojen pituiset juuret.

”Siinä missä keskiajalle saakka kasvatusteorioissa tukeuduttiin antiikin auktoriteettien tai kristillisten tekstien muodostamaan arvovaltaiseen opilliseen traditioon, uudelta ajalta alkaen kasvatusteoriassa on korostunut perinteistä irrottautuminen. Kasvatusteoreetikko toisensa jälkeen ilmoittaa keksineensä vallankumouksellisen kasvatuksen ja opetuksen menetelmän,” Saari kertoo kirjassaan.

Länsimaisen kasvatuksen aatehistorian ja filosofian kokoava teos on suunnattu erityisesti kasvatus- ja koulutusalan toimijoille.

New Book: The International Emergence of Educational Sciences in the Post-World War Two Years

The book brings together contributions from curriculum history, cultural studies, visual cultures, and science and technology studies to explore the international mobilizations of the sciences related to education during the post-World War Two years. Crossing the boundaries of education and science studies, it uniquely examines how the desires of science to actualize a better society were converted to the search for remaking social life that paradoxically embodied cultural differences and social divisions.

The book examines how cybernetics and systems theories traveled and were assembled to turn schools into social experiments and laboratories for change. Explored are the new comparative technologies of quantification and the visualization of educational data used in the methods of mass observation. 

In the book, Poised researcher Antti Saari examines the concept of feedback in post-World War Two educational sciences as a diagram – a general blueprint for organizing, speaking of, and observing behavior that can operate in a host of different educational time-spaces.

As a diagram, feedback incorporates teaching machines and programmed instruction as well as discourses on educational reforms. As such, this chapter highlights, first, that a diagram of feedback assumes a haunting presence in observing and speaking about teaching and learning. Second, the diagram both sustains and overcomes ontological distinctions between animals, humans, material objects,
and technology. Third, the diagram operates topologically, i.e. it forms its own distances and
parallels relatively independent of external coordinates to make subjects, objects and spaces that count as ’pupils, classrooms, and an education system.

”The International Emergence of Educational Sciences in the Post-World War Two Years.” is out on October 26th 2020 from Routledge.

New Article on Philosophy of Environmental Education


There are currently two broad forms of critique undergirding environmental education theories: the first is one of subtraction from perceived reality as it seeks to reveal and remove illusions and ideologies, while the other takes the inverse form of adding to reality in the form of investigating how matter comes to matter. This article suggests a third form that explores the paradoxical and uncanny aspects of ecological awareness and assumes an apophatic, self-negating form, which short-circuits and relinquishes all attempts at epistemological closure
.

”Strange Loops, Oedipal Logic, and an Apophatic Ecology: Reimagining Critique in Environmental Education” by POISED researcher Antti Saari and John Mullen (University of Michigan) is recently published in Educational Philosophy and Theory. You can read the open access article here.