Managing free time under an ever-present demand to learn. - an analysis on Danish 8th-graders balancing leisure-time activities under the recent school reform

Publikation: Konferencebidrag uden forlag/tidsskriftPaper/skriftligt oplægForskning


Following a line of seemingly unsatisfying results on the OECD-structured PISA tests, political reforms was completed in the municipal primary and lower secondary schools in Denmark in 2014. The reform meant an increased number of in-school hours in the form of more lessons, mandatory homework club and supported education for all pupils enrolled in the Danish national public school system (Gravesen & Ringskou 2016a: 48-50). This means that out of all 35 OECD-countries Denmark now demand the second largest number of in-school hours in the world, with Australia coming in first. The Danish pupils will now be expected to put in roughly 11.000 hours in total throughout their primary and lower secondary school life - roughly 4000 hours more than the OECD-average of 7000 hours (OECD 2016: 380). For the pupils, more time spend in school obviously means less self-governed free time and space for leisure-time activities. So, what effects will this reform, resulting in more pedagogically structured and controlled activities, have on the young peoples’ structuring of their everyday routines and activities? Educational progress has become a core imperative of the Danish state. A so-called 95-percent-objective relates to the official idea that “Denmark must be prepared to seize the opportunities of the global economy”, consequently ensuring that 95% of each youth cohort achieve at least upper secondary education (Frostholm & Gravesen 2016). We are interested in exploring how this governmental target, will affect the everyday life of our young target group. Through fieldwork and interviews we ask around 100 8th-graders, from four public schools in a medium-sized provincial town in Denmark, how they seem to manage their free times and spaces between structural, political and institutional demands on the one side and their own personal needs, motivations and desires on the other – How do they manage to make ends meet? In this presentation, we seek to answer and further problematize such key questions through a comparative preliminary analysis on parts of the empirical set of data, of our still ongoing research project. Like most young people in 8th grade, the young informants involved in this research project seem to navigate between both structured and seemingly more unstructured schedules in their free time in the after-school hours. Following the overall lines of the present ECER Call for Papers, and the emphasis on the prevalent Knowledge Economy discourse found here, our research points towards the fact that the completion of the 2014 school reform causes, as a rather natural consequence, one might add, the young people to have less individual free time on an everyday basis. The increased amount of pedagogically structured activities, being the practical result of the completion of the school reform, leave the young people faced with an ever-present demand to learn, to perfect and qualify themselves. Following the sociological insights of Jean-Pierre Tabin, the state is becoming ever more omnipresent in the everyday life of the citizen, trying to invoke a right to control the individual by giving out orders (Frostholm 2016) – in the light of our empirical findings, this means orders on how to spend time. Following the theoretical framework of Nikolas Rose, we state that the school reform seen as a pedagogical technology is completed to help forming responsible citizens and to: “bind the inhabitants of a territory into a single polity, a space of regulated freedom” (Rose 1992: 158) (Frostholm & Gravesen 2016). Such sociological insights and perspectives will be elaborated on in our future publications following our research project and in our ECER 2017 presentation. Method The methodological setup involves a variety of experimental, qualitative methods for approaching the 8th graders everyday life and hereby self-governed free time and leisure-time perspectives (Featherstone 1992; Jacobsen & Kristiansen 2014). As part of the fieldwork, several research-facilitated workshops and subsequent follow-up studies are conducted in four public schools in a medium sized provincial town in Denmark. A socio matrix-inspired approach (Beum & Brundage 1950) along with cartographic everyday life mappings (Anvik & Gustavsen 2012) were preferred in the workshops, to gain insight into the young people's use and spending of time and their movement between different spaces and places in their local environment. In the follow-up studies, we move away from the classrooms where the workshops are situated, to take a more street-based ethnographic approach (Hastrup 2010; Spradley 1980). In this part of the data collection process, we follow core informants from each of the four classes when they move around in their locality. We conduct walk-and-talks, photo elicitation interviews (Jensen 2008; Schjellerup Nielsen 2013; Sand 2014; Pyyry 2015) and place interviews (Sand 2014) to gain a more thorough understanding of how the local areas, leisure-time and structural requirements are linked to the young people’s sense of belonging and time spending. Expected Outcomes Expected conclusions/Findings: By conducting this research, we strive to outline how the young people featured in the project spend, consume and value their self-structured free time. This analysis should give us valuable sociological insights into the field of the ordinary everyday life of provincial youth, in the time after the completion of the school reform. We seek to accumulate knowledge on the young people’s balancing of their own individual motivations and desires on one hand and the seemingly ever-present political and societal demands on the other and importantly where points from both sides of the matter might seem to overlap and take influence from each other. Furthermore, a sociological analysis on political and societal incitements and motivations along with the policy framework forming the basis of the completion of the school reform will have priority. References References: Anvik, C.H. & Gustavsen, A. (2012) Ikke slipp meg! Unge, psykiske helseprobelmer, utdanning og arbeid. NF-rapport nr. 13/2012. Nordlands Forskning. Beum, C. O. & Brundage, E. G. (1950). A method for analyzing the sociomatrix. Sociometry 13: 141-145. Featherstone, M. (1992). The Heroic Life and Everyday Life. I: Theory, Culture & Society, 9: 159-182. Frostholm (2016). Part-time gangsters –a social analysis on urban youth’s attitude toward school in a medium-sized provincial town in Denmark. Conference presentation from FESET 2016: European Social Education Training. Frostholm, P. H. & Gravesen, D.T (2016). The inner city skater facility - playground or control mechanism? - On urban youth, civic learning and pedagogical dilemmas. In: Learning the city - Cultural approaches to civic learning in urban spaces. Springer Gravesen & Ringskou (2016) Rum for kvalifikation, plads til inklusion? - om mødet mellem børn, rum og pædagogik i den danske folkeskole. In: Nordisk tidsskrift for pedagogikk og kritikk, Vol. 2, 2016, pp. 47-63. Hastrup, K. (red.) (2003). Ind i verden: En grundbog i antropologisk metode. København: Hans Reitzels Forlag. Jacobsen, M.H. & Kristiansen, S. (red.) (2014) Hverdagslivet – sociologier om det upåagtede. Hans Reitzels Forlag Jensen, Signe Mette (2008) Mellem rum: om unges identitet og fællesskaber i og udenfor skolen - i forstaden, på landet og i byen. Ph.d.-afhandling. Institut for Psykologi og uddannelsesforskning Roskilde Universitet OECD (2016) Education At a Glance 2016: OECD Indicators. OECD Publishing, Paris Pyyry, N. (2015). “ ‘Sensing with’ photography and ‘thinking with’ photographs in research into teenage girls’ hanging out”. I: Children’s Geographies, 2015, Vol. 13, No. 2, 149–163 Rose, N. (1992) Governing the enterprising self. In: Heelas, Paul & Morris, Paul (eds.) (1992) The Values of Enterprising Culture: The Moral Debate. Routledge Sand, Anne-Lene (2014) Matrikelløse rum – en undersøgelse af selvorganiserede måder at bruge byen på. Ph.d.-afhandling. Marts 2014. Institut for Kulturvidenskaber, Syddansk Universitet. Schjellerup Nielsen, H. (2013). Fotografier som børns perspektiver på deres hverdagsliv. I: Rasmussen (red.), Visuelle tilgange og metoder i tværfaglige pædagogiske studier. Roskilde: Roskilde Universitetsforlag. Spradley, J. P. (1980) Participant Observation. Wadsworth.
Publikationsdatoaug. 2017
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2017


  • Skoler, fag og institutioner
  • Børn og unge
  • Læring, pædagogik og undervisning


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