Racism and antiracism in lower secondary schools (RILSE)

The aim of the project Racism and antiracism in lower secondary schools is to investigate racism and antiracism from the perspective of both students and school personnel.
About the project RILSE

In this research, we study how pupils and teachers in lower secondary education understand, experience and challenge racism and how education polices aim to tackle racism. 

Racism is shaping our society, politics and public spaces and there is a need to study how students and teachers perceive and react to racism in the school context and work for antiracism since racism has an impact on the lives of pupils. We are interested in racism and antiracism at both the individual and structural level. 

In this study we conduct interviews with students and teachers and participant observations in seven Finnish-speaking and Swedish-speaking lower secondary schools. We also use survey data, in collaboration with the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, with eighth and ninth graders to analyse the prevalence of racist bullying and its impacts on pupils’ welfare. Furthermore, we analyse education policy documents, and the ways racism is discussed and tackled in them. Our research aims to improve the welfare of pupils and promote social justice in education.

Helakorpi, J., Holm, G. & Liu, X. (2023). Education of pupils with a migrant background: A failure in the Finnish system? In M.Thrupp, P. Seppänen, J.Kauko & S. Kosunen (Eds.) Finland’s Famous Education System. Unvarnished Insights into Finnish Schooling, 319-333. Springer. 

Helakorpi, J., Dovemark, M., Rasmussen, A., & Holm, G. (2023). Positions of Newly Arrived Students in Nordic Education Policies and Practices. Nordic Studies in Education, 43(2), 111-127. 

Holm, G. (2023). Participatory photography: high school students’ awareness of privileges in Nordic welfare states. In R.J. Tierney, F. Rizvi & K. Ercikan (Eds.) International Encyclopedia of Education,  270-284. Elsevier. 

Londen, M., Holm, G. & Törmänen, M. (2023). Inclusion and Special Needs Education for Immigrant Students in Finland. In  N. B. Hanssen, H. Harju-Luukkainen & C. Sundqvist (Eds.).  Inclusion and special needs education for students with an immigrant background in the Nordic countries. From research to practice, 138-157. Routledge. 

Loukola, S. (2023). “Not in Our Daycare”? Commitments and Obstacles to Antiracism in Finnish ECEC. Early Childhood Education Journal, 1-9.

European Educational Research Association (ECER): Emerging Scholars Conference 2023: The value of Diversity in Education and Educational Research, 21.8.-25.8.23 Glasgow, Scotland. Saara Loukola, Reinforcing and resisting racialisation in Finnish schools via humour. At the session "Social justice and intercultural education". 

Nordic Summer University 2023 Racialization, Whiteness and Politics of Othering: Alternative Futures, 27.7.2023-3.8.2023 Palanga, Lithuania. Saara Loukola, Reflecting racialized positions and possibilities for de-colonizing approaches in research and teaching praxis. Received a NSU scholarship for participation. 

NERA 2023 Nordic Educational Research Association conference, 15.3.2023 Oslo, Norway. Saara Loukola & Ida Hummelstedt, Resistance and tears – affects and their impacts for dealing with racism in school. 

FERA 2022 conference on Education Multivocality in the Changing World of Education, 24.11.2022 Oulu, Finland. Saara Loukola & Ida Hummelstedt. Opening doors and evoking resistance – white researchers doing research on racism and antiracism. 

Nordic Summer University 2022, 28.7-4.8.22, Oslo, Norway. Saara Loukola, Reflections on Finnish early childhood education teachers’ understanding and experiences of racism, antiracism and white normativity.” Partaking in general assembly as a delegate of Finland’s region. 

Svenska litteratursällskapet, 8.6.2023 Helsinki. Maïmouna Matikainen-Soreau, commentator at the research seminar "Gränsdragningar och solidaritetssträvan" for S-IDA: Svenskfinlands nya konturer (2020-2023). 

NERA 2022 Nordic Educational Research Association conference, 1.-3.6.2022, University of Island, Reykjavik. Maïmouna Matikainen-Soreau, Revealing the invisible: studies of Whiteness in the Nordic Educational Research (Literature review). 

Pykälien takaa -podcast 14.9.2023, Rasismi, uudet kujeet och sommar. Saara Loukola interviewed by Anders Adlercreutz & Saara-Sofia Sirén, 33min.

Svenska YLE 10.09.2023, Hur ska vi prata om personer med olika hudfärg på ett respektfullt sätt? Vi bad forskaren om tips, Maïmouna Matikainen-Soreau interviewed by Catariina Salo.

Hufvustadsbladet 3.9.2023, Stor demonstration mot rasism i Helsingfors - Över 11 000 deltog i demonstration mot rasism i Helsingfors, Saara Loukola in an interview with Anna Korkman.

Svenska YLE 30.07.2023, Därför behöver du en nationell identitet, Maïmouna Matikainen-Soreau interviewed by Petter Sandelin.

Svenska YLE 30.06.2023, Podcast Petter söker meningen med livet: Vad betyder det att vara finländare? Om identitet, flaggor och vem som får vara nationalist, Maïmouna Matikainen-Soreau's interview.

Lasten ja nuorten keskusliiton Pieni on Suurin -lehti 16.3.2023, Saara Loukola, Antirasistinen pedagogiikka kutsuu toimiin ja itsetutkiskeluun.  

Svenska YLE 2.2.2023, news article “Att arbeta mot rasism i skolor kan vara känsligt” – har antirasismkurser för lärare någon inverkan? Ida Hummelstedt interviewed in Annvi Gardberg. 

Läraren 15.12.2022, Konkreta handlingar i skolvaradgen motarbetar rasism, Ida Hummelstedt interviewed in racism in schools. 

Monikulttuurikasvatuksen uusi paradigma - eli millaista antirasistista pedagogiikkaa opettajat tarvitsevat nykypäivänä 16.8.2022. Ida Hummelstedt’s interview done as a part of the VARAVA-project that develops awareness about racism and antiracist work culture within vocational education.

Opettaja -lehti, 11.8.2022, Hyväntahtoisuus ei pure koulussa piilevään rasismiin, interview on Ida hummelstedt’s disseration.

Svenska Teatern 31.01.2022 Helsinki. Scenmåndag!: Får vi tänka kritiskt inom en minoritet? Maïmouna Matikainen-Sorau participating in panel discussion.

Talentia-lehti 15.1.2021, Hanna-Mari Järvinen. Opetellaan antirasistinen työote. Saara Loukola.


Research group
Gunilla Holm

Gunilla Holm is research director and professor of education in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki. Her research interests include diversity and social justice issues in education with special focus on social class, gender, and racialisation. She conducts mostly ethnographic research, and her research interests also include the development of participatory photography as a research method. Her current research takes an intersectional perspective and is focused on inclusion and exclusion in early childhood education as well as on racialisation in lower secondary education.

Jenni Helakorpi

Jenni Helakorpi is a senior university lecturer in general and adult education.

Ida Hummelstedt

Ida Hummelstedt is a postdoctoral researcher in RILSE, as well as in the MÅDIG project (Diversity and differentiation in primary school). Her doctoral research was a critical analysis of Finnish multicultural education examining processes of othering and racialisation within discourses on multiculturalism. Her present research in RILSE focuses on constraints and possibilities for building an antiracist school culture. Her previous work experience is as a doctoral researcher in MINTED (Multilingual and Intercultural Education in Finland and Sweden) research project, university teacher at the Faculty of Educational Science, primary school teacher, as well as in-service training for teachers on antiracism, norm critical and social justice education. 

Maïmouna Matikainen-Soreau

Maïmouna Matikainen-Soreau is a postdoctoral researcher in RILSE. Her background is in Nordic literature and Scandinavian studies. In her doctoral thesis she developed the term "postmigration literature" and analysed processes of racialisation and white-normativity in Nordic fiction. Her present research in RILSE focuses on Swedish-speaking schools (RISK Racism in Swedish-speaking schools). 



Saara Loukola

Saara Loukola is a doctoral researcher in the Faculty of Educational Sciences at the University of Helsinki. Her previous work experience is in early childhood education and training ECEC staff on topics such as antiracism, equality and equity. Her previous research has focused on antiracism and white normativity in early childhood education, and currently she focuses on studying processes of racialisation in lower secondary education as part of the RILSE-project. 


Previous participants

Postdoctoral researcher Ina Juva
Doctoral student Anna Suni
Research assistant Joséphine Gram

Collaboration and funding
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