Assessing social justice in education in different welfare state regimes: the Swedish, Scottish and German cases

Jolanta Aidukaitė


The article aims to find out if there are any differences or similarities in how the education system and monitoring indicators of social justice in education are organized in different welfare state regimes. Countries representing three welfare state regimes delineated by Easping-Andersen are chosen for deeper analyses: Sweden as exemplified by a social-democratic regime, Germany—the best example of a conservative-corporatist regime, and Scotland (one of the constituent countries of the United Kingdom)—a liberal regime. An overview of the Swedish, Scottish and German experiences have revealed common features, but also major differences in how the education system is organized, and what kind of social justice indicators are prioritised and collected. At present, EU countries are faced with similar challenges in the education system as a response to the increasing impacts of globalization and Europeanization. Emphasis in the EU is put on life-long learning due to the increase in information and communication technologies in human lives. Yet the aging of the European population has also forced the consideration of adult education as an effective tool to help the elderly remain longer in the labour market. The increasing scopes of migration in the globalized world have placed issues of immigrants’ inclusion, their social status and rights on the priority agenda in all highly industrialized countries. These are mirrored in the collection and monitoring of the indicators of social justice in the countries under investigation. Nevertheless, differences still persist. In Sweden, a long-term social-democratic tradition has ensured that major territorial differences, as well as class differences, in access to the education system have been almost eliminated. The highest education is easily accessible to anyone who wishes to study. The emphasis is put on equal opportunities, full employment and gender equality. Recently, the integration of pupils with special needs and of immigrant background has become a priority in the Swedish policy on education. In Sweden, various data on social justice in education has been collected, but the intensity is paced on the indicators of educational achievement, social mobility and employability, and their distribution by sex, place of birth, language spoken at home, disability and age. Scotland, as an example of a liberal welfare state, puts special emphasis on improving the social status of the most vulnerable groups in society. The liberal welfare state tends to intervene only when people cannot take care for themselves. Attention is paid to social inclusion, safety in schools and various equality indicators (students’ educational attainment indicators and their distribution by sex, age, disability, racial/ethnic and religious affiliation). Much attention is also paid to the accumulation of indicators on students with special needs. The system of data collection and monitoring in Germany is distinguished by its density of quantitative (number of schools, pupils/students, teachers, universities and so on) and educational attainment indicators, which are contrasted among Germany’s 16 federations. The conservative-corporatist welfare state seeks to preserve differences in the social status. Therefore, the main aim is to guarantee the diversity of schooling and its availability. Emphasis is put on a vocational education and training, and, recently, on life-long learning. In the German education system it is easy to move from higher to lower types of schooling, but not vice versa. Such a system is particularly unfavourable to children of an immigrant background because of their poor German language skills. They are not only unable to move on to a higher secondary school, but often fail to finish school. Therefore, the attention recently has focused on immigrants’ inclusion and integration issues. Accordingly, the indicators of educational achievement and performance are compared on a basis of nationality. To summarize, the findings of this article indicate that a distinct welfare state regime implies the difference in support for the education system, which produces varied effects on monitoring indicators of social justice in education.


social justice in education; welfare state; indicators; Sweden; Scotland; Germany

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"Public Policy and Administration" ISSN online 2029-2872 / ISSN print 1648-2603