Paper proposal for the conference Cognitive Capital and Spaces of Mobility

Gothenburg 1-2 november 2008


Name(s) Johannes Lunneblad, Ph.d., senior lecturer, & Maj Asplund Carlsson, Ass. professor
Paper title: Nationality as a commodity on the educational market. A study of Swedish as second language in an inner city school.

Affiliation : Department of Education and Department of Literature, University of Gothenburg
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Nationality as a commodity on the educational market
A study of Swedish as second language in an inner city school.

The current educational policy is characterized by education being seen as less a concern for society at large. The main responsibility for educational choice is hereby brought onto the individual and the family (Ball, 2006; Hargreaves, 2003). Many students who switch schools from the city’s outskirts to inner city schools, which are considered more successful, are students with a first language other than Swedish, the main reason being their wish to apply to a school where the majority of the students speak Swedish as their first language (Bunar, 2006).

Our aim is to problematize the issue of identification and identity taking place in an inner city school where educators discern students as Swedish as second language (SSL) students. We analyse the discursive practices discernable in the speech about the students and the social practice concerning the detachment of students in time and space. This analysis is carried out against a background in the competitive situation for city schools and how this dilemma could be interpreted in a (post)colonial perspective. Within postcolonial theory a view of identity has been developed where the relation to the Other has become crucial to how our identities are formed, developed, changed and reinforced (Bhabha, 1994; Hall, 2003). This implies that we scrutinize how different affordances of identity are linked to a formation of chains of significance of properties, actions, and representations and how these can be tied to representations of the city as a socially divided space loaded with meanings of class and ethnicity (Asplund & Lunneblad, 2007).

The data are collected from an ethnographic inquiry situated in a compulsory school with children aged 10-12, in an inner-city area in Sweden. Alongside with interviews; other data in the form of observations and conversations with educators are analyzed in the study. Observations and interviews have been documented through field-notes and tape-recordings. Additional data sources consist of schedules, policy documents, artefacts, etc (Burgess, 1984; Hammersley & Atkinson 1995; Thomas, 1993).

The results show how the identity as ”SSL-student” is connected to the notion of education as a market form. The ”SSL-student” is not only a student recently immigrated as is stated in the descriptions of the subject.. On the other hand not all students with a demand of education in Swedish as a second language are offered this opportunity since teachers and school leaders claim that there is a lack in resources and competence. In this kind of speech, these students, the majority of whom have chosen to switch from a suburban school to this particular inner city school, are described as belonging to a category of students separate from the supposedly normal student (cf. Blackledge, & Pavlenko, 2004; Cummins, 2001). Students from suburban schools are described as substitutes for students living nearby, due to the fact that this particular school for many years has been exposed to a loss of students choosing other well renowned schools, opening up new opportunities for suburban students to apply to this school. This creates a dilemma for the school which risks to loose its symbolic value as a “Swedish school”