Education in Scotland and Norden: a match made in heaven, or wishful thinking

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Following the Union of Crowns between England and Scotland in 1603 was the Act of Union of Parliaments in 1707 and the subsequent ‘creation’ of the ‘British Empire’ from the mid-18th century onwards. For most Scots, Britain and Empire were important, bolstered by their contribution therein, particularly through articles of war and associated heavy industry. From the 1960s onwards, such British alignment has declined somewhat, to be replaced, at first, by Scottish-lite exceptionalism as proffered by challenges to the Anglicisation of Scotland, and later by a more rounded and inclusive sense of civic-nationalism.

The (re)opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999 enabled two Liberal Democrat-Labour coalition governments until 2007 whereupon the SNP became the largest party in Holyrood and governed as a minority administration. In 2011 the SNP gained a parliamentary majority. At the subsequent 2014 referendum, Scottish independence was rejected. However, subsequent Westminster and Holyrood elections have shown considerable Scottish National Party (SNP) support.

Scotland has always maintained an independent and unique education system: it has a different curriculum, has different governance systems, and enjoys a somewhat different reputation for the quality of its education. Such accolades may be somewhat mythical at times, but they speak to different agendas, processes, social and political expectations.

In the drive to secure independence successive SNP administrations have looked north to Norden for examples as to how small states can prosper, and deliver stability, security, and compassion for their populace, with education at the fore. It is not just education that has been foregrounded by successive SNP administrations; green-energy sustainability, agriculture, fishing, and even democratic processes all feature in discussions and announcements.

In this presentation, I shall highlight how Scottish politics has ‘positioned’ education in relation to the Nordic region, using Positioning Theory (Harré, 2004; Harré et al., 2009; van Langenhove & Harré, 1999) as the theoretical lens. Positioning Theory explores dynamic interfaces between proffered positions and how they are taken-up, resisted, amended, or subverted to align thought, identity, etc. ‘in the moment’ through discourse, and within broader societal, cultural, political, etc. Discourses(Gee, 2012). Through this positioning lens I shall outline one Scottish pedagogic development as expressed through the collective ‘New Northern Pedagogies’ that aligns with Nordic positions, and how these are redolent of wider shifts in educative-political understanding across Scotland.

Gee, J. P. (2012). Social Linguistics and Literacies, Ideology in Discourses (Routledge.). Routledge.
Harré, R. (2004). Positioning Theory.,
Harré, R., Moghaddam, F. M., Cairnie, T. P., Rothbart, D., & Sabat, S. R. (2009). Recent advances in positioning theory. Theory and Psychology, 19(5), 5–31.
van Langenhove, L., & Harré, R. (1999). Introducing positioning theory. In R. Harré & L. van Langenhove (Eds.), Positioning Theory: moral contexts of intentional action. Blackwell Publishers Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 7 Mar 2024
EventAdventures of Education: Desires, Encounters and Differences - Malmo University, Malmo, Sweden
Duration: 6 Mar 20248 Mar 2024


ConferenceAdventures of Education: Desires, Encounters and Differences
Internet address


  • Scotland
  • education
  • Nordic region


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