University of Eastern Finland (FINLAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2013 Proceedings
Publication year: 2013
Pages: 21-30
ISBN: 978-84-616-2661-8
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 7th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 4-5 March, 2013
Location: Valencia, Spain
The purpose of my ethnographic study is to understand the phenomenon of market orientation in the context of Finnish schools. In recent years, the Finnish school system has scored very well in Pisa surveys and has acquired an excellent worldwide reputation. It has been suggested that the success of the Finnish school system has, inter alia, been founded on social justice, equality and a national core curriculum; furthermore, the role of teachers has been consistently emphasised (Alasuutari 2009.). However, since the 1990s, many global and political changes have occurred in the school environment arising from social and economic crises in Western countries; these changes also have found their ways into the Finnish school system (Oravakangas 2005; Seppänen 2006). Previous literature has specifically discussed neo-liberalism and market orientation in school policy. Many researchers have argued that school policy and education have become one of the most important competitive issues in many Western and Asian countries (Arnesen & Lundahl 2006). Some scholars have even argued that these changes that stress competition, parents’ possible choices and custom-based school services have inevitably impacted school policy implementation by increasing differences between schools in Finland, and are thus threatening to dissolve the welfare society, as well as the parity between Finnish schools and pupils. In addition, from a social perspective, various scholars (Thrupp & Lupton 2006) have highlighted the importance of school context, social capital and social justice in school improvement.

Despite some research we still have little knowledge about the fact that school practice, that is, what practitioners really do (Orlikowski 2010; Sandberg & Tsoukas 2011) in different schools is embodying market orientation (Narver & Slater 1990; Jaworski & Kohli 1993; Oplatka 2007). Therefore, the purpose of my ethnographic research is to examine this gap and increase the knowledge of this current phenomenon in the school context. Based on my study, I describe and highlight novelties and new arrangement in my paper, as well as innovative and strategic changes that schools have created in times of turbulence. I do this through four practice-based narratives and school context-based descriptions.

I gathered data for the research studying lived experiences (Denzin 1997) and using several methods during a field study in 2009. First, I was interested in what market orientation means in different schools. Second, since I noticed that these schools had created different forms of market orientation, I was interested in how different forms of market orientation change practice in these schools. The data revealed differences among the leadership styles of the headmasters. In addition, the schools have planned different kinds of strategies to try to survive and become more attractive amidst pressure and conflicting expectations that have been placed upon them by both government and parents. For example, the schools emphasised pedagogical thought, subjects, learning methods or school implementation as a whole. Moreover, the schools have used marketing methods to acquire more pupils, endeavouring to improve their market position. Finally, this kind of improvement is changing work and practice at schools.
Acknowledgement: This research has been supported by the strategic funding of the University of Eastern Finland.
Market orientation, Finnish schools, practice, innovation, ethnography.