It used to be self-evident that both the theory and practices of educational leadership and curriculum work are produced by societies, states and institutions. They are produced and developed in intricate networks by professional practitioners, policy makers and researchers with diverse backgrounds and with complex sets of interests. However, today we see that many governance ideas are borrowed from other systems. These borrowing industries want us to believe that ‘best practices’ and evidence of educational leadership and in education and teaching are of generic and global value. Two examples of this are the OECD understanding of ‘autonomy’ in governance and the PISA understanding of purposes and outcomes of education.

This chapter will insist that the contexts in which theories and practices are developed are closely connected to the forms and content of those applied theories and practices.

Especially in times with groundbreaking changes in societies, states and institutions, such as the current epoch, it becomes more important to try and find the connections and the dis-connections between context, practices and theories. It may be claimed that we are in the midst of one of those basic changes, as national states are being made less important, and transnational agencies and global structures and discourses emerge.

The theoretical filters and concepts used in this work will heavily influence the analyses. The governance and neo-institutional perspectives have been chosen because they create opportunities to look into the relationships between, and coupling of societies, states, organisations and agents. This is also at the core of theories of education and educational leadership: how do societies and states wish to educate the next generations, and to organise and lead the organisations and institutions in which this is supposed to take place? The filter for these analyses is the particular understanding and interests of the author, so it is also very Danish and Nordic.

The main intention of this chapter is to analyse policies and theories of educational leadership and curriculum work/didactics that are active in the current situation, moving from one paradigm to another, from a participatory, democratic paradigm, towards a management-by-objectives and outcomes paradigm, and it intends to help us to be clearer and more transparent in our arguments, intentions and descriptions.

The starting point for this chapter is a series of analyses and a critique of aspects of neo-liberal marketplace policies. They form the actual framework and context for analysing and discussing leadership and education from a deliberative, democratic perspective.

A New Global Order

When nation states were the institutions that were the only agencies responsible for taking care of shielding and protecting their citizens, property, production and trade by means of the army, juridical system, policy, and export and import duty until somewhere around World War II – to put this extremely briefly – the war taught many politicians and business leaders that trade across borders in international or transnational companies boosted economy and profits. Collaboration could sustain peace, security, production and the economy. This is one of the reasons that states gradually agreed to form alliances, such as defence alliances, one of which was the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), and economical alliances such as the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Union (EU), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Globalisation grew into an intricate pattern of changes in economics and the global division of labour (e.g. the emergence of more than 50,000 massive transnational companies loyal to their shareholders, and therefore able to force governments to shape their financial policies according to market logic), changes in communication (especially the Internet and other forms of split-second, global mass media), changes in politics (with only one global political system remaining) and changes in culture (Martin and Schumann 1997). More recent areas of global interdependence are the financial market, and the climate and environmental problem. Thus, governments have tried to meet new challenges caused by transnational developments in forming transnational agencies or alliances, as mentioned before.

One global effect is the trend towards neo-liberal and marketplace politics in public governance (with a focus on decentralisation, output, competition, and strong leadership), as well as accountability politics (with a focus on recentralisation, centrally imposed standards and quality criteria, and on governing by numbers). This trend is known a neo-liberal New Public Management (NPM) (Hood 1991).

We know from research literature that is analysed in (Moos et al. 2015b) that the influence of transnational agencies, particularly of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has been very visible in governance and education over the last 20 years (Hopman 2008). Therefore, it is interesting to investigate the ways in which these influences have been interpreted and translated into national political cultures and policies (Antunes 2006; Lawn and Lingard 2002). One transnational document seems to have been particularly influential: ‘Governance in Transition: Public Management Reforms in OECD Countries’ (OECD 1995). This was produced in accordance with the well-known OECD ‘soft governance’ strategy, the ‘peer learning’ method, by which member countries report trends in their public management to the organisation, where the complex picture is clarified and simplified, and trends and tendencies across countries are categorised into a smaller number of main categories:

  1. 1.

    Devolving authority, providing flexibility

  2. 2.

    Ensuring performance, control and accountability

  3. 3.

    Developing competition and choice

  4. 4.

    Providing responsive service

  5. 5.

    Improving the management of human resources

  6. 6.

    Optimising information technology

  7. 7.

    Improving the quality of regulation

  8. 8.

    Strengthening steering functions at the centre

  9. 9.

    Implementing reform

  10. 10.

    What next?

These themes were presented not as regulations or orders, but as recommendations from the OECD to member countries: national ministries could take, transform or ignore them (Moos 2009a). However, the language of the themes is extremely clear and informative, and reveals the OECD’s neo-liberal political inclination (Moos and Paulsen 2014).

The recommendations meet country cultures, systems, traditions and politics, and are thereby transformed into new shapes and forms. The New Public Management approach had already been born (Hood 1991), but with this report it was baptised, blessed and registered as a fully developed child of the OECD. Since then, it has been adopted and transformed into many different incarnations. These tendencies form underlying the foundations for most transformations in society, governance and educational systems (Moos 2006a). Thus, special attention should be given to these categories: (1) devolving authority, (2) ensuring performance and (8) strengthening steering functions at the centre.

Barriers between nations in the areas of economics, industry and trade, and culture and communication are being torn down, and new relationships and new coalitions and liaisons are being formed. Some of these new relationships are ad hoc; some are more formal. Most of them have been established primarily in order to promote economic cooperation. Over the past decades, some of the alliances and agencies mentioned above have expanded their activities from economics into other spheres of life, such as governance and education. Governance and educational systems are also being subordinated to market thinking. The primary objectives and charters of most of these agencies exclude them from making decisions about educational policies. Nevertheless, they have begun to focus on education, as it is often seen as a cornerstone for national and global economic growth in the so-called ‘global knowledge economy’ (G8 2006).

New State Model

The economy frames contemporary states and transnational agencies. An example of this is when Commissioner J. M. Barosso, in the European Commission’s strategy, Europe 2020, presented the Grand Challenges to the economies, and not to the societies (Barosso 2010). This was pivotal in its influence on public sector governance and thus on education and educational leadership. An effect of this is that many Western nations have developed from being primarily welfare states to being competitive states (Pedersen 2010), over the past 30–40 years.

In the years following World War II (WWII) we saw the emergence of welfare states, where areas of civil society were taken over by the state, which would protect citizens and thus further social justice, political equity and economical equality. Full employment was a major goal, and the public sector was seen primarily as delivering services to citizens: for example, citizens were supported in case of unemployment or sickness.

The transnational agencies mentioned above have been driving forces behind the opening of national economies to global competition since the 1970s, with increasing power since the mid-1990s. Their economic aims shifted from growth through full employment and increasing productivity through the labour force and technology, to growth through international trade and investment. Increasingly, national governments are members of international organisations on the regional markets.

Moos (2014b) writes that beginning in the 1970s, governments started to turn economics in a neo-liberal direction built on rational choice ideology, increasing market influence and minimal state influence (e.g. deregulation, privatisation outsourcing). Citizens are seen less as citizens in a political democracy, and more as participants of the labour force with full responsibility for their situation, and as consumers. The public sector is seen primarily as serving production and trade in the national, innovative system. The state is influencing the availability and competence of the labour force and of the capital available. The competitive state is characterised (Pedersen 2010) as being regulating – by displaying best practices and budgets – by framing – the availability of a labour force, capital and raw materials – and by being an active state – by encouraging individual citizens to enter the labour market. Pedersen argues that, based on a number of decisions with regard to the labour market and membership in the EU that were taken in 1993, this year was a turning point in the Danish development from a welfare state to a competitive state. The effects on the educational system and discourses will be discussed later on.

New Governance

Neo-liberal states develop new forms of governance and new technologies of governance (Peters et al. 2000) that rely heavily on the market as the logical basis for public policy, and that involve a devolution of management from the state to the local level, to local institutions (in the case of education, to self-managing or private schools), to classrooms (classroom management techniques) and to individuals (self-managing students). Foucault calls this a process of neo-liberal governmentalisation (Foucault 1991): governance presupposes agencies of management, but it also requires and gains the cooperation of the subjects involved. According to Foucault, this is the case in every modern society. What makes a difference is the logic or the rationale that seems to govern the fields. Governance and governmentality based on a management model are not legitimated by Weber’s notion of legal-rational authority, but by a form of legitimacy or rationality that depends on market efficiency: ‘No longer are citizens presumed to be members of a political community, which it is the business of a particular form of governance to express. The old and presumed shared political process of the social contract disappears in favour of a disaggregated and individualized relationship to governance’ (Peters et al. 2000). People are transformed from autonomous citizens to choosers or consumers of services, as is the case in New Zealand and many other countries, where people are free to choose schools for their children (Marshall 1995). The fundamental principle at the heart of management ideology is ‘freedom of choice’, whereas a political perspective would stress the possibility of involvement, being a member of a community that could discuss and influence decisions.

The tendency towards more market and less state means that political logic is being replaced by capitalist logic, and that one logic is going to regulate all spheres of life.

Two Systems

States, governance and leadership are, as mentioned, subject to influences from the transnational agencies, in this case, primarily the OECD and the European Commission (EC). However, the effects of the influences vary, because traditions, structures and discourses are different. In order to illustrate this, here is a short account of differences in selected features of the UK/US and Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) that are of immense importance to governance, education and the development of educational theories and practices. Here we will limit ourselves to a few pivotal values and discourses with consequences for the emergence of ideas and practices of schooling: the idea of state, schools and education. As mentioned, in the Nordic countries we see the development of the state from being first and foremost a welfare state to becoming a competitive state (Pedersen 2011), equipped to participate in the global competition for market shares in all areas of society. This development entails changes in the view of what is the optimal relations between state and individual, the governance; it brings changes in the dominant discourses on education and of the purposes of education, and it brings changes in the ideas of the best possible school organisation.

In the following sections we will sketch out some of the general ideas about important features in Nordic societies and in the UK/US, as they looked in the era from World War II until 1980s. This period has been chosen because many general ideas and practices were developed as part of ‘a new beginning’ following WWII, but also because they still live on in the discourses and practices today (Moos 2013).

We present indicators of core contemporary societal and educational values in Nordic education and compare them with core values in Anglo-American systems.

Relations among state, market and individuals

Proponents of the Nordic welfare states believed in a strong social democratic state and a well-regulated marketplace. The UK/US believed in a liberal state where the market was only minimally regulated by the state. We have chosen the following indicators of prevailing values to illustrate Nordic similarities and US/UK differences: GINI index, confidence in national institutions, trust, power distance and state funding of schools’.

The GINI index measures the extent to which the distribution of income or consumption expenditure among individuals deviates from a perfectly equal distribution. Thus a GINI index of 0 represents perfect equality, while an index of 100 implies perfect inequality: The Nordic GINI is 27 out of 100, indicating a high level of equality. The UK/US GINI is 38 to 41 of 100, meaning less equality (WorldBank 2015).

Confidence in national institutions is slightly higher in the Nordic countries: 65–75%, whereas in the UK/US it is 65–68% (OECD 2012b). The level of confidence is similar in Nordic countries and the UK/US.

Trust data are based on the question: ‘Generally speaking would you say that most people can be trusted or that you need to be very careful in dealing with people?’ Thus, trust reflects people’s perception of others’ reliability: in Nordic countries trust among most people was 84–89%, and in the UK/US it was 49–69% (OECD 2011).

The power distance in Denmark was 51 of 53; in the UK/US it was 40 of 53 (Hofstede 1980).

School Organisation: The main school model in the Nordic countries was the comprehensive, non-streamed public school, while the UK/US school was more often privately funded, divided and streamed. One indicator of the importance attached to schools is the level of state funding: state funding of education is 98–100% in the Nordic countries, while it is 79–92% in the UK/US (OECD 2012a).

Dominant educational discourses: Nordic legislation and the dominant discourses have focused on a comprehensive school and an education for democratic Bildung, participation and equality, not only post-WWII, but for most of the twentieth’century. In the UK/US in the same era, we saw a very strong tendency to emphasise a scientific curriculum with a focus on national aims and measurable outcomes (Blossing et al. 2013).

A compact overview


Nordic indicators

UK/US indicators


27 of 100

38–41 of 100

Confidence in national institutions






Power distance

51 of 53

40 of 53

State funding of schools



It is reasonable to conclude that the UK/US had societal and political systems more inclined to build on rational choice theories, because of the belief in a liberal and weak state; on principal-agent theory, because of the greater power distance and GINI, and lower trust in other people; and on market thinking, because of the stronger belief in civil society and market. Thus, the UK/US seem better equipped to take in the transnational ideas of New Public Management.

Influences from Supra- and Transnational Agencies

The OECD and EU Commission (EC) are two powerful players in the global field of educational politics. Until now, they have not been positioned to make educational policy decisions on behalf of member governments. However, this may change with respect to the EU because of the Lisbon Agreement. National policies are influenced by supranational European Union policies ‘that create, filter and convey the globalisation process’ (Antunes 2006 p. 38). This influence is one of the purposes of the EC, but not the purpose for which it was originally intended. In the Lisbon Agreement, education is defined as an aspect of social services, and therefore falls within the range of Commission decisions and regulations (EC 2000).

Since both the OECD and EC – and their member governments – were interested in international collaboration and inspiration, they developed alternate methods to influence the thinking and regulation of education in member states. The EC developed the ‘open method of coordination’ (Lange and Alexiadou 2007), and the OECD developed a method of ‘peer pressure’ (Moos 2006b; Schuller 2006).

The EC needed governance tools to influence public and private education within the member states. At the Lisbon EC meeting, participants agreed to develop a flexible method based on reflexivity and indicators. According to the meeting, this method had to include flexible governance tools that rely on ‘soft law’. The divide between hard and soft law may be explained in this way: through hard law and directives, the EC is able to create regulations, legally binding obligations for states and individuals, whereas soft law may only be persuasive. The second feature of the open method is reflexivity: member states and institutions should inspire each other through ‘peer reviews’ and policy learning, such as best practices. An important tool is a set of indicators that was described in order to enable the identification of ‘best practice’ (Lange and Alexiadou 2007). Another very important tool is the Bologna Process of Higher Education, initially a project of homogenisation of higher education established by the European Ministers of Education in 1999, but later taken over by the EC.

CERI (Centre for Educational Research and Innovation) is the OECD bureau that manages education and educational research. The OECD does not see itself as, nor was it established to be, a federal or super-state with regulatory authority over its 30 sovereign member countries. Therefore, it has no formal power over member countries. However, the OECD/CERI was established as a powerful player in the globalisation of economies, and thereby, the restructuring of the nation states (Henry et al. 2001). Through this restructuring, it influences the policies and practices of member countries in ways other than regulatory means.

Both the EC and the OECD function in accord with the decision of the WTO’s GATS agreement (WTO 1998) to include education services in the areas of free trade, thus transforming education into a commodity (Moos 2006b; Pitman 2008, 27–28 November). These influences on policy and practices, such as decision-making, are not linear and straightforward. Lingard (2000) describes them as ‘mutually constitutive relations’ between distinctive fields, or spaces. Lawn and Lingard claim that transnational organisations such as the OECD act as shapers of emerging discourses on educational policy as ‘expressed in reports, key committees, funding streams and programmes’ (Lawn and Lingard 2002). The main influence comes from the OECD setting the agenda (Schuller 2006), both within the whole organisation – for example, international comparisons such as PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) (Hopman 2008) and TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) – and within individual member nations. If a government wants to add an issue to the agenda, but lacks the ability to do so on its own, it can call on the OECD for help. The OECD then forms a team that reviews the state of affairs in the member state, based on a detailed and comprehensive framework designed by the OECD. The team’s report often forms the basis for political action taken by the states. The review of educational research and development in Denmark is a relevant example (Moos 2006b). This strategy is explicated in the OECD publication, Education Catalogue (OECD 1998), as the strategy of ‘peer pressure’, which ‘encourages countries to be transparent, to accept explanations and justification, and to become self-critical’ (Ibid, p. 2).

Both the OECD and the European Commission distinguish between ‘hard governance’ and ‘soft governance’. The choice of terms is interesting, because hard law stands for regulations that influence people’s behaviour, while soft law/governance influences the way people perceive and think about themselves and their relationships with the outside world. Therefore, soft governance influences agents in much deeper ways. While these methods of influence may seem softer, in a sense, more educational, the effects of soft influence are harder and more profound. Governments and other authorities become ‘leaders of leaders’ through those indirect forms of power that produce ‘conduct of conduct’ – shorthand for Foucault’s concept of governance (Foucault 1976/1994; Sørensen and Torfing 2005). These indirect forms are intended to influence the ways in which institutions and individuals perceive, interpret, understand and act. The values and norms are most important from a governmental point of view.

As mentioned above, analyses of governance in contemporary modernity show a general trend: Transnational agencies, government at the national and local levels, and agents at practical levels are increasingly attempting to use indirect forms of power, such as discourse, agenda-setting, sense-making and social technologies, instead of direct forms, such as prescriptions and instruction. Societies have become so complex that direct forms of power have become ineffective, because surveillance, control, and sanctions are impossible to implement, and because they are often not seen as legitimate forms of influence in democracies. Thus, there is a shift away from hard governance by regulation, towards soft governance by persuasion.

We see several examples of institutional isomorphism (DiMaggio and Powell 1983) among transnational, national and local institutions, such as agencies, governments and schools, based on coercion through political pressure, on mimicry of successful examples/practices, or on the transfer of norms through professional communication.

Governance and Leadership

Leadership and governance are at their very core about influencing institutions and agents through the use of forms of power. A working set of categories is: (a) regulatory leadership (e.g. regulations, legislation, direct use of power and sanctions), (b) discursive leadership and social technologies (e.g. societally constructed and naturalised as norms, discourses, strategies), and (c) reciprocal leadership (e.g. negotiations, dialogues, mediations and sense-making and enactment processes) (Moos 2009b; Moos et al. 2015a; Schmidt 2008).

Based on Foucault’s post-structural perspective, influence and power may be described as a network of relationships where the poles (the agents) are defined by the relationships of which they are a part. For example, the special relationship between motherhood and childhood defines the mother and her child. The mother would not be a mother without a child, and vice versa. Another example is that of prisoners and their guards. The relationship, not the poles, defines the aspects of power and influence. Therefore, power is productive and relational. Influence is communication between a minimum of two poles/agents (Foucault 1983).

Pivotal situations, where influence and power are being used for leadership purposes are decision-making processes. As mentioned above, at the core of this concept of leadership is the notion that leadership does not consist of the actions of the leaders per se, but the interactions between leaders and other agents. Therefore, leadership is ‘an influencing relation’ between leaders and followers that takes place in situations (that may be described by their tools, routines and structures). Leadership is performed through interactions and communication that influence, and that are understood to influence other persons. This ‘influence through communication’ concept is parallel to Spillane et al.’s understanding of the interaction concept (Spillane et al. 2001, 2004), because both focus on the relations between leaders and teachers. The actions of the leader are only interesting if they are understood as leadership actions by the followers or co-leaders.

In principle, leadership decision-making may be understood as a three-phase process: there is (1) the production of premises for decision-making (sense-making or setting the scene); it is (2) decision making itself, and it is (3) the connections to decisions that are being made by followers (Moos 2009a).

In the first phase of decision-making – construction of premises – influence is present because of the way in which premises are defined or produced, and by whom: Who (individuals, groups, institutions) defines the situation or the problem at hand? How is the dominant discourse on which decisions and actions are based created, or how is ‘the definition of reality’ constructed? (DiMaggio and Powell 1983; March and Olsen 1976; Meyer and Scott 1983; Røvik 2007; Schmidt 2008; Sørensen and Tofting 2005).

It is important to distinguish between agent-driven and structural influences: There are a number of ways that individual agents or groups of agents can influence the minds and interpretations of other agents. They may set an agenda (Barach and Baratz 1962), influence sense-making and set the stage (Stacey 2001; Weick 2001), and enter into educational activities, negotiations, or other interactions (Spillane and Orlina 2005).

Secondly, decision-making is a complicated procedure involving the selection of accepted and sufficiently important premises that are influential enough to be taken into account. Individuals or collectives of agents may make decisions. Decisions may also result in a new agenda for discussing or making decisions about the field, or for the description and regulation of new behaviours. Decisions are often built into structures: legislation, societal, social and financial frameworks. Institutions are constructed because of political processes and power struggles that have sanctions attached to them. The agents’ forms of direct power also have the possibility of sanctions being attached to them. However, none of these forms can guarantee results unless they are viewed – or even identified – as legitimate forms by the people and groups affected by them. On the other hand, decisions construct the premises for new decisions. This construction is the case with leadership decisions that form the premises for employer decisions.

The third major phase of influence is the connection phase. Inspired by decision-making and communications theories (Thyssen 1997), a communication is only viewed as an effective communication if it ‘irritates’ the other pole to such a degree that it chooses to connect, to stop and reflect on, and possibly alter, their reflection processes and practices. Whether or not the other agent is connecting may be difficult to detect, since some reactions may occur long after the ‘irritation’ has taken place. On the other hand, there is no point in talking about influence without effects. If an act of law does not change anything concerning citizen behaviour, or if army privates do not follow a colonel’s orders, then we cannot talk about real influence. The ways in which connections are made becomes an important feature of the construction of premises for future decisions.

An area of connections is constituted by evaluations and assessments. The broad field of evaluation and assessment is currently undergoing basic transformations. National as well as local systems and organisations need documentation for the use of resources in the organisations in their jurisdiction. An important aspect of the hunt for transparency involves finding out to whom agents and organisations should be accountable, and for which values they should be accountable. Schools must answer to a range of different forms of accountabilities including marketplace accountability that focuses on efficiency and competition, bureaucratic accountability that focuses on outcomes and indicators, political accountability that focuses on citizen satisfaction and negotiations, professional accountability that focuses on professional expertise, and ethical accountability that focuses on social justice (Firestone and Shipps 2005; Moos 2008). Schools must simultaneously answer to all these forms of accountability, consequently creating numerous dilemmas for schools and school leaders (Moos 2014b).

It is interesting to look at the deliberative and participative opportunities for leaders and teachers primarily because there are clear links and connections between the conditions that teachers have, and the conditions and frameworks that schools and teachers give students so they can develop a ‘democratic Bildung’. This kind of Bildung is not only a matter of knowing about democracy, it is more a matter of acquiring democratic patterns of interpretation and democratic ways of life (Beane and Apple 1999; Dewey 1916/2005). Therefore, a ‘democratic Bildung’ must include the possibility of testing those interpretations and ways of living in real life (Moos 2011).

The concept of leadership as both influence and of decision-making is, as described here, built on the notion of relations and communication forming the very core of the understanding.

Acts of law and societal and discursive structures are institutionalised influences, some of which are called social technologies: routines, methods, work forms, and tools may all be used as social technologies, that is, technologies with a purpose or meaning (Dean 1999; Foucault 1991; Rose 1999/1989). These are used to influence people’s norms and cognitive processes. They embody hidden decisions and influences from other places or other times, and form the premises for decision-making. Some of these technologies evolve from daily practices, while others are imposed or applied from outside actual practice. These methods might change over time, but at any given moment they are perceived as the ‘natural way’ of working. As they are not discussed, the power invested in them is concealed. Other social technologies are brought to the field of practice from the field of business life or from educational policy, often described as ‘natural’ or ‘neutral’ tools for practitioners to use. Here again, power is concealed, and therefore not discussed (Moos 2008). Therefore, in any setting, social technologies are powerful but silenced forms of power (Moos 2009b). The forms of power may also be compared to Scott’s regulative, cognitive/cultural and normative pillars of institutions (Scott 2001, p. 77).

Social Technologies: Governing by Numbers

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) comparison has been imported into the European space as an important means of governing education (Moos et al. 2015b). It is in one package producing standards or indicators for learning, measurements for outcomes and tools for comparing students, schools and countries. This is not unexpected, as an OECD working paper shows (Wilkoszewski and Sundby 2014). This is a report on the use of a tool in the European Commission’s ‘open method of coordination’ toolbox, the country-specific recommendations, presented in a comparison of three countries’ cases of ‘Steering from the centre – new modes of governance in multi-level education systems’.

Both the OECD and EC are working with the global trends to develop a new model of, and paradigm for governance of education. The central theme is that policymakers and practitioners should build on the quantitative sciences (of which psychometric comparisons are seen as a part), rather than the traditional, qualitative science of educational philosophy. These processes are called, ‘The Political Work of Calculating Education’ (Lawn and Grek 2012). Statistics becomes the science of the ‘numerical study of social facts’ and the foundation for the emergence of ‘governing by numbers’ (Nóvoa 2013). That means de-ideologisating and objectivising governance, leadership and education, making it possible to treat social facts as things (Desrosières 2000, page 122). Over the past century, this development has been the background for the emergence of a new group of experts in the educational field: experts in statistics and psychometrics. Politicians and policymakers are particularly interested in their work, as numbers are seen as the best and cheapest foundation for political and governance decisions. This trend is often called an ‘evidence-based policy’.

When we take the foregoing observations together with the observation that the major tool, PISA, is actually measuring, what is not taught (Labaree 2014). National tests normally attempt to measure the outcomes of teaching in relation to national aims and standards. PISA was constructed as a tool that could facilitate a comparison of national outcomes across 20–30 different national educational systems. These national educational systems had their particular and very different sets of national aims and standards: therefore, a unified set of curricular aims was impossible. Thus, PISA constructed an independent, transnational set of aims: ‘skills to meet real-life challenges’. Those aims are skills that productive workers anywhere in the advanced world would need. So the OECD reduced learning to the acquisition of economically useful skills – for employability. In order to be able to compare outcomes, a set of aims and skills was produced that are actually taught nowhere (Labaree 2014).

PISA is more economically focused than is usually acknowledged. This should be no surprise, as the OECD is the originator of the neo-liberal new public management system of thinking and governance (OECD 1995). Measuring outcomes, and in particular. outcomes along one global set of criteria, is a very powerful technology of soft governance. As time goes by, politicians, policymakers and professionals become accustomed to this, to thinking that this is the ‘new normal’. As has already happened in so many ministries and local administrations, we will see a homogenisation of views on education, on the dominant discourses of education. This is like the old saying, ‘You get what you measure – and only that’. That is basically economically defined and excellently calibrated to a technocratic and economic administration.

Meta-Governance, Social Technologies and Self-Governance: New Public Governance (NPG)

In our study of Nordic superintendents (Moos et al. 2015b), we found that there are strong tendencies towards what we called ‘governments bypassing the municipal level in matters of education’. The straight governance chain from government through municipal authorities to schools is rather unbroken, when it comes to finances and administration, but when it is about education – setting aims, developing means and measuring outcomes – the Nordic governments circumvent the municipalities (except for Finland): The aims for education and learning are being more detailed. The measurements follows through international and national tests and the means are developed on the basis of social technologies, presented by the ministry as advice to schools.

This situation fits nicely with the concept of a mixture of meta-governance and self-governance. Meta-governance involves implementing financial and legislative frameworks and initiating discursive governance. It is a form of governance that does not resemble governance: it imposes frameworks and attempts to influence discourse, yet delegates actual governance activities to various levels. Important tools of this kind of governance are social technologies such as standards and testing, quality reports and student plans, regular staff appraisals and budget models (Moos 2009a). Through various frameworks, as well as soft governance (Moos 2009b), the government encourages local authorities and individual institutions to produce and find their own identity as an institution (March and Olsen 1976) with their own specific aims, meanings and accountability. On the other hand, self-governance (Foucault 1983) means that institutions can – and are willing to – govern themselves in self-governing institutions and networks. Some decisions are made at state level, while others are delegated to lower levels, creating new relations between policymakers, and civil servants and various combinations of these members at all levels.

In an overarching way, ministries and their agencies are still in control of purposes, aims, frameworks and organisation, since they make use of regulative forms of governance (legislation, regulations, economic frameworks, etc.) (Scott 2014). They set the goals and monitor the outcomes. However, for some areas of responsibility they have delegated decisions on how to achieve these goals and outcomes to lower-level agencies and to institutions. It is important to underscore the fact that the governments intend to keep a firm hand on issuing aims and measuring outcomes, ‘steering from the centre’ as the OECD called it in the 1995 report (OECD 1995). This produces a special form of self-governance: the neo-liberal, Panopticon form (Foucault 1961/1972; Foucault 1972), where the agents take over their own steering and monitoring, because they expect that they are being monitored, even if they cannot see a guard.

In all the Nordic countries, there are clear tendencies towards meta-governance when it comes to educational aims, accountability programmes and overarching financial frameworks for municipalities. Operations, human resource management and educational practices are, to some degree, left to self-governance by the practitioners in the workplace. However, the steering is left to practitioners to only a certain extent, because Ministries continuously attempt to influence reflection and practice through quality-assurance initiatives with clear national standards or indicators, and through monitoring and assessment of outcomes.

Education Is Also About Content

A general and ground-breaking analysis of education and student learning, write Moos et al. (2015b) with reference to Rømer et al. (2011), distinguishes between pure education, found in evidence-based and best practices, for example, and, on the other hand, impure education, described as follows:

The impure education is an education where methods of education cannot be separated from the content and the anchorage in cultural, ethical and political processes. (p. 7)

The argument is that in education one cannot separate form from content. It is an eternal and very old discussion in philosophy, dating back to Plato and to Kant. The proponents of impure education hold that one cannot separate the learning processes from the content, the object of learning. However, the separation of content from form is very common in contemporary educational policies, where learning has become the individual student’s endeavour to lead and monitor her/his own learning processes. This is often labelled ‘meta-learning’: learning to learn, which may be supported through various methods of cognitive empowerment. In this understanding, students do not need a teacher or learning material, such as textbooks. They need to acquire only a set of cognitive learning strategies.

However, theories such as those of Dewey’s and Brinkmann’s (Brinkmann 2011; Dewey 1929/1960) hold that learning is not exclusively an academic, cognitive practice, but is also about establishing habits through non-verbal signals and concrete manipulations with real objects and people. One learns in the interplay between student, teacher and content. Here, both academic and social learning take place, because all parties try to make sense of the information, the situation and the relations. Here, students also form their social identities, as aspiring members of the learning community of practice (Wenger 1999).

Making exclusive use of the social technologies mentioned above would exclude both the content and the relational aspects of learning. The social technologies describe procedures, in forms that are intended to be applicable in all similar situations. Therefore, they do not include the actual practice and situation, the actual people and learning objects involved in learning (Brinkmann 2011). The technologies make us forget that education, teaching and learning are, as also are all levels of leadership, very practical processes: students learn something when they manipulate objects and take part in communication, sense-making and enacting. School leaders and superintendents lead – they plan, they manage, they arrange, discuss, and negotiate real-life situations, challenges and problems. Budgets and strategies are not solely words on paper, but thoughts about actual schools, teachers and students. Therefore teachers as well as leaders need to be in close contact with the objects of their practices, both students and staff, so that they can interpret and act on both clear and weak signals about the practice processes.

The discussion looks very similar when we talk about educating students, leading schools and governing educational systems. Individualisation is spreading into more and more fields and levels. Both challenges and practices of course differ from level to level: what is meta-learning in the classroom is self-governance in schools and in municipal governance. But the basic understanding of what is needed is very much the same – or rather, should be the same – because all three levels of education work in pursuit of the general, overarching purpose of educating the next generation to take over, eventually. The superintendent strives to provide education in schools with the best of opportunities and frameworks. The school leader does the same at the school, as does the teacher with the class, groups of students and the individual students. However, the use of these internationally-inspired social technologies seems to determine the societal, cultural and political discussion of what they are there for. And the answer to that question is, for the purpose of schooling and upbringing. But the discussion of the upbringing and education of the kind of human beings to which society and schools want to contribute is often absent from discussion in the national contexts and obscure in the international context (Biesta 2009; Moos 2014a, b; Rømer 2011). The OECD has no public vision of a general Bildung with strong educational ties to history, ethics and culture; it issues directives related only to the question of skills required for the labour market.

School Leadership Functions

In order to further explore concepts of school and educational leadership, we will look at the tasks and functions that school leaders are supposed to take care of. The first perspective will be that of the OECD, again, because it has had a great impact on the governments’ thinking. In the Improving School Leadership Report (Pont et al. 2008), the functions are summarised into three categories, each with each three subsets.

  1. 1.

    School autonomy with:

  1. (a)

    ‘Running a small business’

  2. (b)

    Managing human and financial resources

  3. (c)

    Adapting the teaching programme

  1. 2.

    Accountability for outcomes with:

  1. (d)

    A new culture of evaluation

  2. (e)

    Strategic planning, assessment, monitoring

  3. (f)

    Use of data for improvement

  1. 3.

    Learning-centred leadership with:

  1. (g)

    New approaches to teaching and learning

  2. (h)

    Supporting collaborative teaching practice

  3. (i)

    Raising achievement and dealing with diversity

The main concepts being used are clearly taken from areas of economy, (1a) and (1b), and governance, (2b) and (3c), with an emphasis on information technologies and number technologies, (2a), (2c) and (3c), and thus are very much in accord with the general governance trends, seen from the neo-liberal OECD kind of soft governances. Therefore, it does give advice to political and administrative managers, and not to school leaders. They are not given advice as to what to do, and how they may lead their schools.

Another approach would be to look at the findings of a big meta-study (Leithwood and Riehl 2005) of school leadership. Here, they found that four main categories of leadership functions were apparent in almost all contexts:

  1. 1.

    Setting the direction for the school with a focus on student learning

  2. 2.

    Seeing and empowering teachers

  3. 3.

    Structuring and culturing the organisation

  4. 4.

    Legitimising the school to the community

The first issue is very principal-agent driven: The principal sets the direction. In a participative, democratic setting one would phrase it differently: Leadership is setting and negotiating directions, making internal sense: even though schools in some systems are managed in some detail when it comes to outcomes (standards, inspections and tests), they have to find ways to achieve these outcomes themselves. They have to interpret demands and signals from the outer world and choose the means by which they want to respond to them. It is a major challenge to school leadership to interpret signals and make them into discourses and narratives, communications about differences, which form the premises for the next decisions in the community (Thyssen 2003a, b; Weick 1995, 2001).

The second issue acknowledges the fact that school leaders have no direct influence on student learning, as they do not participate in the daily interactions with students. Teachers do that, and therefore they need to be given the conditions in which to carry this out. They also need to be included in the school’s educational community, and participate in maintaining and developing it. There are at least two reasons for that: they need to be part of, and sympathetic to the directions chosen in the school in order to contribute to a shared educational practice, and that is the second argument.

The third issue is acknowledging that learning, teaching and leading take place in organisations that need to be organised in ways that allow teachers and leaders to function in the best ways possible. One prerequisite for this is a focus on the integrity of the organisation: the ability for it to be both a convincing internal work- and life-framework, and to appear reliable in the eyes of all stakeholders. Inspiration for discussing community and membership may be drawn from Etienne Wenger’s theory of how learning and identities are constructed within communities of practice (Wenger 1999). Identity construction is a dual process in a field of tension between our investment in various forms of belonging and our ability to negotiate the meanings that matter in those different contexts. The production is partly identification (investing the self in relations) and partly negotiability (negotiating meaning).

The fourth issue reminds us that schools are parts of larger systems, such as societies and communities, such as political and governance systems, and such as educational and cultural systems. It is important that schools acknowledge these systems in ways that may secure their support and acceptance. So, they can find them legitimised (March and Olsen 1976).

Organisation or Organising

Many theories are concerned with understanding and analysing organisations. Here, only one will be presented, because this new institutional understanding is in line with the general understanding of governance, leadership and education in this chapter: the core of all of them is communication and relations.

An organisation is a network of intersubjectively shared meanings that are sustained through the development and use of a common language and everyday interactions (Moos 2011s p. 38; Moos et al. 2015b; Walsh and Ungson 1991; Weick 1995).

Agents negotiate membership in a community as they share the meanings of relationships and tasks. Community and affiliations emerge in day-to-day interactions and communication.

The sense-making processes between school leaders and teachers are pivotal, because they can and should serve as models for the sense-making processes throughout the whole school. Sense-making takes place in many forms of communication, language and behaviour, interactions and communication. The sense-making focus on language that has been at the forefront for some time should be supplemented. We need to focus more on what Weick (1988) describes ‘enactment’: the notion that when people act, they bring structures and events into existence, and put them into action. Weick uses this term in the context of sense-making by managers or employees. He also describes how they can enact ‘limitations’ on the system, to avoid unwanted issues or experiences. This too is seen as a form of social construction, focusing more on the actions we want to take in a given situation, and their materiality – for example, an agent’s mimes, body language – as well as the purposes and organisational context of the interaction in which the communication takes place, and the content of the communication.

According to Weick et al. (2005), sense-making is communication through words and action that builds on the interactions that school leaders and teachers have experienced and undergone when ‘the flow of action has become unintelligible’ (2005, p. 409), and when external expectations seem strange and unintelligible, and there is a need for explanations and defence: What happened? What did I/we do? How can this be interpreted and understood? A similar argument is made by Vivien A. Schmidt (2008), when she discusses discursive institutionalism: Discourses are ideas in institutional contexts and interactions. Some of them are communicative discourses that emerge in the interactions between agents, when they are arguing for a given course of action. Therefore, deliberation is essential and at the core of discourse (Uljens and Ylimaki 2017).

The argument is similar to arguments about distributed leadership, made by Spillane and Woods et al. (Spillane and Orlina 2005; Woods 2004; Woods et al. 2004). They write that distributed leadership may take many forms. At the core of their concept of leadership is the notion that leadership does not lie in the actions of the leaders per se, but the interactions between leaders and other agents. Therefore, leadership is a relationship of influence between leaders and followers that takes place in situations (which may be described by their tools, routines and structures). Leadership is about interactions that influence and that are understood to influence other persons.

The basis for sense-making and for enactments is the life-world (Coburn 2004) of each participating group and individual. Life-worlds differ because of differences in background, experience, position and interests. This means that the positions, training and prior experiences of school leaders matter.

Weick’s concepts of sense-making and enactment (Weick 2001) are often linked to face-to-face, real-time interactions and communications. As the distance between agents such as school leaders and teachers in contemporary Nordic schools grows so they seldom or never actually meet, they find it difficult to relate their understanding to other agents and communities, and correspondingly have a greater need to relate to regulations, norms, manuals and so on, that are transmitted in writing. This means that they have to operate at a more general level. They cannot, as in reciprocal, face-to-face encounters and deliberations, describe particular or specific situations, contexts and content. Therefore, we see the introduction of numerous social technologies that are intended to guide and lead agents to act and think along prescribed lines – models of classroom management; models of learning instruction that exclude teachers and enable individual students to learn at their own pace and in their own fashion; models of conflict resolution and peer support, such as supervision and mentoring schemes; comparisons made by translating learning outcomes to numbers (Moos et al. 2015b).

Diverse Visions of Education

At present we see two dominant orientations or visions of education: one emerged from the welfare state model and may be called the ‘deliberation orientation’. The other is attached to the competitive state, and we will call the ‘outcomes orientation’. As has been already described, over the past two to three decades links have been constructed because of international competition in the global marketplace. Thus, education is intended to provide for a good position in the global race as constructed by international comparisons such as the PISA: In order to be competitive, education needs to produce students with high levels of attainment outcomes. Therefore, education is being constructed along ‘management-by-objective’ lines: The principal (the government) draws up the aims and measures the outcomes, while schools, teachers and students need to learn the correct answers to test questions. Very often, the curriculum that is developed in this situation is a scientific curriculum: experts know how to attain their politically administrative ends, and they describe every step in detail, for schools, teachers and students to follow. In this orientation there is a focus on ‘back to basics’ and skills, because those are what may be easily measured.

Core elements of the criticism of the foregoing orientation is, write (Blossing et al. 2013) firstly that the idea of curriculum objectives, originating from (among others) Franklin Bobbitt (1924); second, the conception of ‘learning outcomes’ as objectively measureable; and third, the technological means-end model formulated by Ralph Tyler (1949). These three elements have contributed to seeing education as an end rather than a process, as Dewey proposed; they serve as important tools in the neo-liberal governance systems that have been developed since the 1990s, across the world.

The first orientation, democratic Bildung for deliberation, has been an important vision in Nordic educational systems since WWII. Both education orientations have longer historical roots, but policies and practices have been located in the periods mentioned. The descriptions of the outcomes orientation is closely linked to the construction of the neo-liberal competitive state of the marketplace. The logic and theories governing this orientation are a good fit with the basic economy and management logic of the general governance. The description of the alternative, the democratic Bildung, it based on another kind of understanding of the needs of societies and agents: We need to develop democratic systems, thinking and practices, in order to develop sustainable societies (Moos 2011) that are able to survive the current economic and technocratic dominance. It is a normative choice, based on educational values and not on economic needs, but then, education is normative at its very core.

Democratic Bildung for Deliberation: The Core of Education and Schooling

When we discuss education in a more educational/pedagogical way, we often use terms that are related to the intentions of education, rather than to the functions of schools (Moos 2003).

Educational functions are rarely explicit. Educational functions are effects of the educational system being one of the state institutions that is responsible for socializing (or forming) children to become well-functioning citizens in the society in which they are being brought up. Educational systems have this dual function: on the one hand, they further the optimal development of children’s competence, and on the other hand, they teach them to be effective, well-functioning citizens. In this way, educational systems have always played a part in societal governance, which is about both building structures and institutions to maintain the dominant culture, and socializing citizens to willingly cooperate in this effort.

Educational intentions are reflected in a society’s culture, in the formal objectives of educational institutions, and they are examined by educational theories. In Denmark, the intentions of the educational system are set out in Article 1 of the Act on the Folkeskole (1993, 2000), which states:

The school shall prepare the students for active participation, joint responsibility, rights and duties in a society based on freedom and democracy. The teaching of the school and its daily life must therefore build on intellectual freedom, equality and democracy. (authors translation)

In the Nordic countries, the foregoing means that teachers and principals must be aware of the socio-cultural environment and the learning conditions. Thus, students should not only be taught how a democratic society functions at a structural level (parliament, government, system of justice, police, and so on), they should themselves experience and live a democratic life, even at school. This means that not all methods of instruction or teacher behaviour are considered appropriate.

According to educational theory devised and discussed on the Continent in the historical epoch called Modernity (starting in the late eighteenth century), education is basically the responsibility of every generation to educate the next generation to be able to live in their society (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Johann Friedrich Herbart and Dietrich Benner, to mention key French and German figures). In this discussion, I build on the work of Alexander von Oettingen (2001). Children depend on their parents to educate them, as they are born ‘prematurely’: they are born into a ‘not-yet-condition’. In other words, they are not able to grow and survive without assistance from the older generations. Humanity depends on one generation of human beings educating the next generation of human beings (Uljens and Ylimaki 2017).

Education includes the acquisition of skills and proficiency, the assimilation and construction of knowledge, and the development of motives and values. It involves what is traditionally called subject content and liberal education, in German, ‘Bildung’. Children must learn to become human beings, and therefore they must be educated so that they are able to function on their own in their culture and society. They cannot go on living with their parents forever, but must leave their childhood homes, and make a living and start families of their own. As these theories were devised in the ‘Age of Enlightenment’, they build on a concept of society – or rather, a vision of society – as enlightened and democratic. Therefore, the ideal human being, the goal of education, was the participating, democratically-minded citizen who was willing and able to be a qualified participant in the community and in society.

The debate on Democratic Bildung is still vivid in the Nordic and Danish contexts. In 1976 the Norwegian philosopher Jon Hellesnes formulated an often-quoted differentiation between conditioning and liberal education as two forms of socialization:

  • Affirmative education reduces humans to objects for political processes which they do not recognize as political; a conditioned human being is thus more an object for direction and control than a thinking and acting subject.

  • Non-affirmative education means that people are socialized into the problem complexes pertaining to the preconditions for what occurs around them and with them. Educational socialization emancipates humans to be political actors. (Fedotova 2014; Hellesnes 1976)

The ideal of liberal education, ‘Bildung’, is to educate human beings to be authoritative, competent and autonomous. In the Danish debate it has been called ‘action competent’: the individual is willing and able to be a qualified participant (Jensen and Schnack 1994). This ideal created a fundamental paradox, which has occupied theorists and practitioners ever since:

How is it possible – through external influence – to bring human beings to a state where they are not controlled by external influences?’ (Leonard Nelson, 1970 in Oettingen 2001, p. 9)

This has been a fundamental question for all the educational theorists mentioned, and for many more. We know from experience that children are not able to take care of themselves; they must be educated. Parents educate children and they leave it to schools and other institutions to educate them on their behalf. Thus, education is an external influence that is somehow able to bring about a liberal education, a Bildung or educational socialisation. In principle, there are two agents in education: the child and the teacher. The questions are, what are the pre-existing conditions of the child, and what can the teacher do to further education for Bildung, for authority and autonomy?

According to Oettingen (2001), Rousseau, Kant, Schleiermacher, Herbart and Benner point to two fundamental principles in overcoming the paradox: the ‘Bildsamkeit’ of the child and the request for ‘self-reflection’. ‘Bildsamkeit’ is difficult to translate into English, but it means the fundamental, innate ability (and willingness, I would add) to be open-minded and to participate in a shared praxis. The concept acknowledges the child’s ‘not-yet-condition’ – it has not yet become what it is going to be – but it must participate in the educational interaction in order to become human.

‘Self-reflection’ means that the self is able to focus its attention on something in the outer world and at the same time, on itself. This ability (and, again, willingness) enables the human being to act and to reflect on their actions, and thereafter initiate other actions. Therefore, educators should encourage children to engage in self-reflection.

When it comes to teacher activities Uljens and Ylimaki (2017) argue that two main actions are pivotal: recognition and summoning the child to self-activity. Recognition means respect, esteem, love and friendship (Honneth 1992), which are the basis for developing self-confidence and self-respect, and those are seen as the basis for learning. Following recognition is the quest for summoning to self-activity, inviting the student to become aware of her/his freedom as a cultural and political being with the option of realizing her/his aims. Thus, teachers may need to invite children to act and reflect in ways for which they are not yet ready, much like parents who invite children to walk, even when observation and experience indicate that they may not be able to walk yet. Focusing on these principles should facilitate the aim of all educational praxis, which is to ultimately render itself superfluous.

This outline of an educational introduction/discussion illustrates the ways in which educational problems and questions have a fundamental bearing on democracy: there is always a question of what kind of citizen a society or a culture wants to educate in the family, in the community and in institutional settings. Therefore, we cannot limit our discussions of education in schools to matters of subject content and curriculum. We must engage in research and debate the entirety of school life, the relations between students and teachers, the relations between teachers and principals and their relations to the local and national communities.

In bringing educational theories closer to practice, Dewey’s writing has been a great inspiration. In Democracy and Educational Administration (Dewey 1937) he wrote:

What the argument for democracy implies is that the best way to produce initiative and constructive power is to exercise it. Power, as well as interest, come by useand practice … The delicate and difficult task of developing character and good judgement in the young needs every stimulus and inspiration possible… I think that, unless democratic habits and thought and action are part of the fibre of a people, political democracy is insecure. It cannot stand in isolation. It must be buttressed by presence of democratic methods in all social relationships. (pp 345–346)


Democratic education is (Moos 2014b) described by Biesta (2003) as ‘creating opportunities for action, for being a subject, both in schools and other educational institutions, and in society as a whole’ (Biesta 2003). Besides the opportunity for action or participation, the most important concepts related to democracy are the critique and diversity, because they give a more precise direction to the concept of participatory and deliberative democracy. In line with this understanding, Beane and Apple (1999), Furman and Starrat (2002), and Woods (2005) describe the central concerns of democratic schools as: (1) the open flow of ideas that enables people to be as fully informed as possible, (2) the use of critical reflection and analysis to evaluate ideas, problems and policies, (3) the welfare of others and the common good and (4) concern for the dignity and rights of individuals and minorities.

This section is the brief interpretation of schools’ ethical accountability. Pursuing goals of this kind has been a major concern for many educationalists over time. Besides the opportunity for action, participation and deliberation, the most important concept related to democracy is the critique, because it gives a more precise direction to the concept of deliberative democracy.

One cornerstone for learning is the capacity for self-reflection, enabling the self to simultaneously focus its attention on something in the outer world and on itself. This ability enables human beings to act and reflect on their actions, and then initiate other actions. So one of the primary tasks of teachers involves encouraging and helping children to engage in self-reflection (Moos 2003).


If we again change the perspective from a micro- to a macro-sociological and policy perspective on societies and states – a discussion of democracies – we may be able to shed new light on the micro-sociological analyses. The intention behind doing so is to try to develop links between the trends and intentions in democracies at a societal level, and the discussion of how leaders and teachers, the professionals in schools, can build the practices in schools in ways that are supportive of students’ ‘democratic Bildung’.

The theories mentioned in the previous section (Beane and Apple 1999; Bernstein 2000; Biesta 2003) demand that it is pivotal to give students voice and that is seen as the opportunity for deliberations in schools. This builds on a notion of a deliberative democracy that attempts to build a connection between liberal and communitarian democracy (Louis 2003).

The basis for liberal democracy is described as a special form of governance, where the free individual is capable of making his/her own choices and pursues his/her own interests and so take care of his/her own life. Another dimension of this kind of democracy is the protection of the free individual, in that it is given certain rights or makes social contracts. In other words, individuals are seen as autonomous, even if they are part of a community and they have formed their opinions before entering the community. They are not bound by shared values, but majority votes are the preferred way of mediating opinions and reaching decisions.

In the communitarian democracy, individuals are seen as partners in social communities, bound by a set of shared moral and social values. Values are generated within the community, and may change over time. Members of a community are orientated towards a set of shared goals, and are conscious of the social bonds. These communities may be the state, or smaller parts of states.

The connection between those two forms of democracy thinking is the deliberative democracy: Both liberal and communitarian democracy concepts see the state as a central arena for all kinds of communities. The liberal concept sees politics as being formed through the complex interplay between agents in different arenas and networks, both within and outside the state. Society is seen as decentred, and political processes may take place in many arenas, within and outside elected bodies, such as parliaments and city councils. Deliberative democracies are seen as associations whose affairs are governed by public deliberation by its members (Englund 2006). A number of conditions must be met in this kind of democracy: The individual’s rights that can be met in that the democracy is representative. The other condition is that the deliberations demand that individuals are able to a high degree of reflexivity and responsiveness towards other members of the community. A basic understanding in this concept is the concept of social identity.

The position Karen Seashore Louis takes is enlightening in this argument:

Many contemporary democratic theorists argue that the most essential element of democratic communities today is their ability to engage in civilized but semi-permanent disagreement. Articulating a humanist voice that calls for respecting and listening to all positions – but then being able to move forward in the absence of consensus – will be the critical skill that school leaders need to develop when the environment makes consensus impossible. (Louis 2003)

The theoretical or philosophical background for this chapter (Moos 2013) is a basic understanding of communication, the communicative rationale developed by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas (1987). In his theory of universal pragmatism, a communication is seen as being legitimized if it strives for ‘the strange unconstrained force of better argument’. This means that the relations in communication aim for mutual understanding with a minimum of domination it in what will always be asymmetric relations in bureaucratic organizations.

The potential for rationality in communication is inherent in communication itself. Thus, communicative rationality refers primarily to the use of knowledge in language and action, rather than to a property of knowledge.

This means that, on one hand, the person who produces the ‘better argument’ is the de facto leader in the situation. On the other hand, leadership in schools also consists of formal management delegated to formal positions in bureaucratic organisations: teachers over students, principals over teachers and so on.

The principal is of course the formal leader in a school, as teachers are in classrooms. Their position is designated as one involving the power to make decisions. According to the thinking presented here, anybody involved in the communication can influence the decision-making if they make the ‘better argument’, which refers to the argument that is being accepted as the better argument by persons who are involved in the communication, and who are affected by the associated decisions. This kind of influence is most often positioned in the ‘construction of premises’ phase or in the ‘connecting phase’, and these forms may be seen as deliberations or negotiations.

This ideal is often contested in real life, but according to Habermas (1987), this is still inherent in communication itself. Therefore there is a better chance for it to prevail if relations in schools involve communication at short range, where all participants have a chance of being heard, listened to and eventually given influence. Therefore, deliberation is the foundation on which schools may build their leadership, success and development, and thus for schools to become and stay ‘self-renewing’.


The vision of education for the competitive state is built on a set of core values or logic: management by objectives and outcomes-based accountability. Proponents of this paradigm often refer to scientific management and the scientific curriculum as core theories (Blossing et al. 2013; Moos et al. 2015b). It is a deeply inapproproiate that the adjectives of science are use in this way, as scientific management is fundamentally concerned with centralising the power at one centre, be it the owner, a manager or a government. Similarly, the scientific curriculum also hides the power to decide on the purpose, content, relations and methods of education behind the pretexts of expertise and value-free decisions.

This is only one interpretation of the shift in paradigm in educational governance and education itself. Both paradigms build on a set of a core logic and core purposes that are inseparable: The traditional governance paradigm, the welfare paradigm, advocates democratic equity and deliberation in society and its institutions, while the competitive paradigm builds on central management, managing by objectives and hierarchies. The traditional (Danish and European) educational paradigm builds on individual authority and democratic participation and deliberation for democratic Bildung, while the competitive paradigm builds on acquiring basic skills for employability.

It should be evident that the image drawn here takes an extreme view, but that may be legitimised by the argument that only by knowing the extreme can we see and understand the development and the moves.

In this chapter it was argued, partly on the basis of research, that competitive- and outcomes-orientated practices use more social technologies than we have seen prior to their appearance (Moos et al. 2015b). Social technologies can be seen as silenced carriers of power. They are made for a purpose – often hidden from the practitioners – and they specify ways of acting. Therefore, they point into a non-deliberative and top-down steered and managed practice.

School governance, finance and staff management, strategic development, liaising with external partners (parents, community, local authorities, politicians, national level) and educational leadership (of students as well as staff and organisations) are all parts of school leadership. These aspects of leadership cannot be separated, even if they are very different from one another. Ideally, they should be viewed from the same perspective: the education – the ‘the democratic Bildung – of students and the leadership of professionals.

The leadership parallel to the Bildung of children should not be carried too far, but it may open our eyes to important aspects of educational leadership: if the intention of schooling is ‘democratic Bildung’, then the intentions of educational leadership must be to create a climate, a dominant discourse and a community that support the educational intentions. Thus, the community should not be governed by hidden structures and discourses of power, but should move towards transparency of relations, democracy and autonomy. If teachers and other staff are to support children in becoming democratic actors, then they themselves must be subject to transparency, democracy, deliberation and autonomy. Staff must be treated as agents, not as subordinates.

We argued that teachers should focus on recognition, summoning to self-activity, and students’ Bildsamkeit. In much the same way, school leaders should focus on recognition of the professionalism and the personalities of teachers, on encouraging to self-activity and a belief in teachers’ ability and willingness to be autocratic, in sense-making and reciprocal interactions.