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Area-based ‘Positive Discrimination’ School Funding in Helsinki

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Title: Area-based ‘Positive Discrimination’ School Funding in Helsinki
Author(s): Silliman, Mikko Isak
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Research
Discipline: Social Policy (prior to 1.8.2011)
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2016
Finland has gained a reputation worldwide as a leader both in educational performance and equality of outcomes. In the last decade, however, the results of Finnish schools have grown more unequal. This trend is particularly visible in urban areas: both the bottom and top performing schools in the country are found in Helsinki (Kuusela, 2010). The current 'positive discrimination' (PD) funding model has provided additional support to schools in certain areas of Helsinki since 2008. The PD funding policy breaks from the universalist approach typical to Finnish education policy as one of the first policies to explicitly target existing inequalities. This thesis examines the institutional characteristics and impact of the PD funding policy. The theoretical framework for this thesis situates the PD funding model in Helsinki against a backdrop of Nordic welfare state policies more broadly before approaching the PD funding policy through a framework centered on governance, particularly education governance. This thesis employs mixed-methods, combining data from stakeholder interviews with a difference-in-differences econometric model. Semi-structured interviews conducted with municipal policy-makers, school principals, and teachers in spring 2016, and quantitative data from both Statistics Finland and the Helsinki Department of Education provide the empirical backbone for this research. The quantitative analysis in this thesis finds increased rates of enrollment in post lower-secondary education amongst students from schools that receive PD funding. Equally important, the stakeholder interviews suggest that the high levels of local autonomy and trust between stakeholders combined with a notable absence of performance-based accountability are central to the operation of PD funding in Helsinki.

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