About the project

Nordic Basic Schools as Past, Present and Future Sites for Solving the Challenges of Making Diverse Inclusive Knowledge-based Societies (2022–2027)

The research project Nordic Basic Schools (2022–2027) focuses on the ideals and practices of ‘One school for all’ as a core of the Nordic welfare state. Internationally, Nordic education systems have been considered to promote educational equality and social inclusion by bringing together pupils from diverse backgrounds. From 1945 to about 1970, the Nordic school model was developed as the solution to the future challenges of its time. In a little more than ten years, beginning in Sweden in 1962, followed by Finland in 1968, Norway in 1969, and Denmark in 1975, all of the Nordic countries took the final step from parallel education systems to one, common basic education. Non-tracked common neighborhood Nordic schools became well-known for their ambitions in relation to quality and equality. In the One school for all model, the aim was to provide Nordic children with not only learning, but also diversity of class, culture, gender, ability, and language. 

Since then, Nordic societies have faced ideological, economical and social changes and also the Nordic education model has lost some of its spark, with widening differences between schools and continued evidence of exclusion. The 13-year olds of the 2020’s also come from a different social world than their predecessors. From 2010 onwards, the rapid and massive digitalization has caused on-going changes: increased individualization, altered notions of time, space and place, and the enabling of mobile, ever-present and place-independent social networks.

Against this background, this project examines how the Nordic basic school as a physical and social space shapes social interaction and learning with a particular interest in the challenges that material and digital re-configurations of sociality bring to the future of One common school for all. The project operates within a multidisciplinary framework – education, history and applied language studies – of analyzing Nordic comprehensive schools as spaces and places constructed in the intersections of their material qualities and social interaction. Through multidisciplinary studies of four Nordic schools we explore their changing role for inclusion and exclusion over a time-span of approximately 50 years, from the 1970’s to date, organized in three substudies presented below. 

The project is a collaboration between the University of Helsinki, Karlstad University, University of Southern Denmark, University of Jyväskylä and Åbo Akademi University. It is funded by the seven-year-long research program Future Challenges in the Nordics. 


PI: Fritjof Sahlström 

Communications manager: Tuuli From