Democratic (mis)use[s]: Ideas and new frontiers of knowledge on the study of democracy in Finnish education

A day conference (face-to-face and livestreaming) organised by the Education for Diversities (E4D) Research Group (Main organisers: Ashley Simpson & Fred Dervin)

Venue: University of Helsinki, Department of Teacher Education, Faculty of Behavioural Sciences
Date & time: 15.02.2016, 10am-4pm


“Democracy” is a floating signifier. “Democracy” does not have a fixed meaning which can be easily defined. Yet, often, policymakers and academics alike produce and reproduce generalisations and assumptions which constitute understandings and meanings associated with the word “democracy”. Fundamental questions on the values and practices of democracy in education within the Finnish context need to be asked and problematised. Finnish education reforms from 2016 will embrace government policies on “Facilitating democracy, empowerment and influence”, but, what does this mean for schools?  And, what does it entail for how we understand and practice “democracy”?


The objectives of this day conference are:


    • To understand the position(s) surrounding “democracy” within contemporary discourses on educational theory and practice


    •  To understand how transformations of democracy can be (mis)(ab)used and (mis)understood and the implications that has for society


    • To understand the contradictions and antagonisms in the implementation of “democracy” in schools


    •  To understand the potential “taboo[s]” surrounding “Finnish democracy” and to discuss them in relation to discourses about other countries/cultures


    • To draw on international perspectives on democracy in education which can be translated into the Finnish context – a move away from Finnish ethnocentrism on educational practices


    • To understand the importance of criticality towards “conceptualisations of democracy”


    • To bring together education policy-makers, academics, and, practitioners for a discussion on democracy within the context of Finland


    • More generally: To raise awareness on the (mis/ab)uses of democracy in schools



The event will appeal to researchers in the cross disciplinary fields of education and the social sciences (all Universities across Finland), Education policy-makers (Ministry of Education, National board of education), Education practitioners (student teachers, teacher educators, school teachers and head teachers), Other educational organisations/associations (think tanks, policy groups), NGO’s and charities and political leaders.

A publication/report will be published following the conference.


Keynote Speaker


Professor Gert Biesta (Professor of Education; Director of Research, Brunel University London, UK)
Gert Biesta is Professor of Education and Director of Research. In addition Professor Biesta is Visiting Professor (Art Education) at ArtEZ, Institute of the Arts, the Netherlands. He also has visiting affiliations with NLA University College, Bergen, Norway, and NAFOL, the Norwegian Graduate School in Teacher Education. He previously worked at universities in Luxembourg, the UK and the Netherlands, and was a postdoctoral fellow with the National Academy of Education in the USA. Professor Biesta focuses on the theory and philosophy of education, education policy, and the theory and philosophy of educational and social research. Professor Biesta has a particular interest in questions of democracy and democratisation.


Registration: free of charge. Register by e-mail to the conference at

Information about livestreaming will be sent to participants a week before the conference.


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