University of Oulu

Kettunen, M., & Prokkola, E.-K. (2022). Differential inclusion through education: Reforms and spatial justice in Finnish education policy. Environment and Planning C: Politics and Space, 40(1), 50–68.

Differential inclusion through education : reforms and spatial justice in Finnish education policy

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Author: Kettunen, Marika1; Prokkola, Eeva-Kaisa1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: SAGE Publications, 2022
Publish Date: 2022-02-18


The paper studies the changing spatial rationalizations of Finnish education policy with a particular focus on upper secondary education, which has gone through significant reforms in recent decades. The fostering of social and spatial equality has long represented the cornerstone of Finland’s Nordic welfare state education system. The establishment of a widespread network of educational institutions also formed an important means of building social and territorial cohesion in the country. Since the late 1980s, Finnish education policies have turned towards neoliberal ideals, underlining economic rationalizations, individualization and flexibility. Also, education policy has come to play an increasingly important role in the constitution of the knowledge-based economy and embedded spatial restructuring. The paper scrutinizes recent state upper secondary education reforms from the perspective of spatial justice and its scalar dimensions, underlining the consequential juncture of choosing between upper secondary education paths. It is shown how the rationalization of Finnish education policy differentiates places, favouring urban over rural, and produces particular citizen-subjects: while general upper secondary education forms a site for producing skilled and globally minded citizens, vocational education prioritizes the availability of regional workforce and the prevention of youth marginalization. Rather than providing equal opportunities, it is argued that the dual-path Finnish education policy reinforces spatial differentiation and the differential inclusion of citizen-subjects in the knowledge-based economy.

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Series: Environment and planning. C, Politics and space
ISSN: 2399-6544
ISSN-E: 2399-6552
ISSN-L: 2399-6544
Volume: 40
Issue: 1
Pages: 50 - 68
DOI: 10.1177/23996544211001383
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 519 Social and economic geography
Funding: The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The Finnish Cultural Foundation’s North Karelia Regional Fund and Kyösti Haataja Foundation.
Copyright information: © The Author(s) 2021. Article reuse guidelines: The final authenticated version is available online at