Understanding implicit reference societies in education policy

Chanwoong BAEK
Andreas NORDIN

This study examines the reference societies of Norway and Sweden embedded in their education policy documents. We examined 4,260 bibliographic references in 19 white papers and green papers prepared for the 2016/2020 renewal of the Knowledge Promotion Reform in Norway and the 2015/2018 Knowledge Achievement Reform in Sweden. In addition, we interviewed 10 policy experts who participated in the preparation of the analyzed policy documents. The results show that the reference societies overall reflect the existing knowledge production and dissemination mechanisms in education policy; however, they significantly differed between Norway and Sweden regarding whether and to what extent they reference knowledge produced in other Nordic countries. Specifically, while Norway drew extensively on knowledge from its neighbors, particularly Sweden, Sweden seldom referenced knowledge produced in other Nordic countries. Policy actors identified similarity, relevance, accessibility, reform contexts, and institutional arrangements as reasons for (not) referencing neighbors. This study calls for further consideration of the political, social, and cultural embeddedness of the ‘socio-logic’ to understand implicit reference societies.