INVITATION TO SPECIAL ISSUE OF NORDIC STUDIES IN EDUCATION The Nordic tensions between Educational Sciences and Pedagogy

With the spread of global comparisons of national schooling and training achievements under transnational organizations like the OECD, UNESCO, the IEA and the EU, a kind of pedagogical and educational-policy universalism has arisen during the last three decades centred around a series of new global ideas and universal key concepts like ‘learning’, ‘competence’, ‘upskilling’, ‘creativity’, ‘inclusion’ and ‘citizenship’. This universalisation has primarily been borne by economics rather than religionnation or democracy. Global economic concepts like ‘human capital’, ‘human resource’, ‘employability’, ‘competitiveness’, ‘innovation’, ‘productivity’ etc. have become part of the educational-policy and even of pedagogical vocabulary.

The transnational economic focus on education has been accompanied by a change in the understanding of what ‘education’ is all about and of the relationship between education, pedagogy and educational sciences. Within a very short time, learning and competence has become part of the general vocabulary in educational policies and the key concepts in a new and generalized notion of ‘education’. Recent decades have seen a striking semantic shift in the Nordic (and continental) terms of ‘education’ (uddannelse, utbildning, utdanning) that originally were narrowly reserved for the specialized qualification of an individual’s labour after completion of schooling: One ‘took an education’ with an eye to a specific trade, job or a specific profession. However, from the end of the 1960s onwards, to take just one example, the Danish term ‘uddannelse’ became the official Danish translation of the semantically and institutionally far broader English concept of ‘education’. From then on ‘uddannelse’ was increasingly being used as an umbrella term for everything related to rearing, upbringing, learning, instruction, teaching, qualification, competence and skills development for both children and adults, even though ‘uddannelse’ in Danish still retained its narrower meaning than the English word education. Today practically all pedagogical initiatives and institutions from crèches, kindergartens and primary schools onwards are now referred to as ‘uddannelses-institutioner’ (educational institutions).

In the wake of the semantic generalization of the education concept there followed a new kind of educational thinking called educational sciences, which unlike traditional pedagogical thinking and research primarily is geared towards a socio-scientific (sociological, economic and political) understanding of education in accordance with empirical and quantitative ideals of knowledge and evidence based practice. On the basis of these shifts, ‘uddannelse’ has taken conceptual hegemony and has become the cover term for educational matters while at the same time educational research and science has increasingly liberated itself from the traditionally more normative and ‘humanist’ horizons of pedagogical research and thinking. To quote Herner Saeverot educational sciences has contributed to a “delegitimization of ‘pedagogikk”. Instead, we have acquired a transnational and primarily Anglo-American semantics of education, which take the labour market as their homing point and accentuate the new global-economic significance of educational programmes. Therefore, you might say that the Anglo-American and OECD concept of education has been a cuckoo in the continental pedagogical nest.

This special issue of Nordic Studies in Education (no. 3 2021) will address issues related to tensions between educational sciences and pedagogy. Admittedly, the situation is different in the Nordic countries. For example, pedagogy seems to have a stronger position in Finland than in the Scandinavian countries. Nevertheless, pedagogy in Finland faces other problems that will be relevant to include in this special issue. The special issue allows for contributions with different methodological approaches, both quantitative and qualitative, but also historical and theoretical perspectives are welcome. The authors can write in either Scandinavian or English.

Relevant questions include:

  • How has the transformation from pedagogy to educational sciences developed in your country?  
  • Is it possible to defend a classical and normative concept of pedagogy and of pedagogical science

under these circumstances? Why do you think that it is necessary to do so?

  • Is it, in the words of Gert Biesta, still possible to speak pedagogy to education?
  • How are we going to initiate a ‘pedagogical (re)turn’ and defend pedagogy scientifically as well as


  • What is it precisely that we want to defend? Pedagogy as an independent scientific discipline in

relation to, or even as part of, educational sciences? Or is it the idea of a general pedagogical science in the wake of the classical German idea of ‘Allgemeine Pädagogik’?


1 March 2021                                 Deadline for submission of abstracts, 150-200 words, written in a Scandinavian language or English 

15 March                                         Response to authors

15 May                                             Deadline for submission of article manuscripts. Please follow the author guidelines:

15 June                                                                         Response to authors after review

1 August                                          Deadline for final version of article manuscript

15 September                                Publication of special issue, no. 3 2021

Abstracts should be submitted to Jens Erik Kristensen

Manuscripts should be submitted through the system, here:

Kind regards,

Jens Erik Kristensen, Department of Education (DPU), Aarhus University Denmark

Guest Editor of the Special Issue

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