May we present our new researchers at the AGORA

This spring the AGORA Research Centre’s community has grown with two new brilliant researchers as Saara Vainio and Ivan Zamotkin have started their PhD research in the Doctoral Programme of School, Education, Society and Culture (SEDUCE).

Ivan Zamotkin’s PhD research topic is Theory of Anarchism in the Future Trajectories of Education. 

“The aim of my doctoral research is to examine the relevance of the theory of anarchism to the field of education, and thus create conceptual tools for interrupting problematic trajectories in prevailing educational practices. In the context of this research, anarchism refers to a radical theory of social justice and equality in which the fundamental political and economic preconditions of the state and their interconnectivities are challenged, this extending to the sphere of education. One of the recent and most problematic trajectories in education has been recently defined as precision education governance (PEG) — a specific form of organizing education, aimed at making it personalized and individually tailored rather than social, political and public.

The theory of anarchism provides a consistent critique of the forms of governance embedded in state-run education, and thus offers particularly fruitful new theoretical and conceptual tools for analyzing and interrupting PEG and creating forms of counterpolitics to it. By reclaiming the public role of education and examining the tensioned relation between the state and education, the anarchist perspective helps to create forms of political agency that are necessary for promoting equality and justice in education.

Saara Vainio’s PhD research topic is Rethinking Life Skills-based Education as a Form of Precision Education Governance.

“The aim of my PhD research is to examine life skills-based education (LSBE) in youth transitions in Finland. Traditionally life skills have been defined through psychological understanding as skills related to competence, sense of coherence, and self-efficiency, as well as coping and mastery. However, in this study I’m examining LSBE in youth transitions as a form of precision education governance. By youth transitions I mean various types of short-term education and training interventions, programmes, youth support systems and projects focusing on young people with various backgrounds. By PEG I mean tailored and personalised forming of youth education and the whole new set of theories and interests to shape the future of education of young people.
The rapid rise of LSBE, as reflected by the analysis of its incidence in youth policies and programmes, corresponds to the embrace of the concept in social, health and educational policy in many countries. In the developmental logic underpinning much educational and youth policy, intervening early to promote life skills is seen as vital. Framed by the genealogical approach, my aim is to make the present strange, with an overall strategy of problemisation and defamiliarisation of the rise of LSBE in youth transitions.

Ivan and Saara will be conducting their research as part of AGORA’s ongoing research project Interrupting Future Trajectories of Precision Education Governance (FuturEd). You can read more about the broader scope and aims of the research project at FuturEd’s own website.

Welcome to a book launch: “Youth on the Move. Tendencies and Tensions in Youth Policies and Practices”

The Helsinki University Press has chosen three most current and thought-provoking books from HU scholars which they want to publish as Open Access publications – and among them is Youth on The Move. Tendencies and Tensions in Youth Policies and Practices, edited by Kristiina Brunila and Lisbeth Lundahl.

where is THE LAUNCH: Tiedekulma Fönsteri, Yliopistonkatu 4

When is it: Wednesday 26th Feb, 14:00– 16:00

What is the book about?

The book addresses one of the most urgent social problems in many countries, the uncertain school-to-work transitions of young people. As a result, a ‘transition machinery’ has been created, consisting of various education and training measures realised by e.g. teachers and youth workers.

The volume demonstrates that discourses related to youth transitions do not simply describe young adults but create them. For example, young people are expected to be active citizens who make themselves attractive to employers, and those who fail in doing so may be labelled having psychological deficiencies. When failing transitions, resulting in lack of higher education or unemployment, are treated as individual’s problems rather than rising from structural factors, the solutions are likewise individualized. The book thus underlines the importance of analysing power relations reflected by gender, health, social class, and ethnicity.

The articles of the book combine perspectives from young people, policymakers, teachers, and youth workers in Iceland, Finland, Sweden, and England.

The editors of the book are Kristiina Brunila, professor of social justice and equality in education at University of Helsinki, and Lisbeth Lundahl, professor of educational work at Umeå University.

Please join us for interesting conversations with some of the book’s authors!

Current challenges for equitable and socially just education: case Finland

While visiting Melbourne University last year Prof. Kristiina Brunila was interviewed by Dr. Babak Dadvand on the Finnish education system and context, education policies and current challenges for socially just and equitable education. Questions that were discussed included the following

  • What is the significance of ‘policy’ for socially just and equitable education,
  • What are some of the most pressing challenges to equitable and socially just education,
  • What are some of insights in the context of Finnish education that might bear relevance to the Australian education, and
  • What role do educators play in addressing inequalities and injustice in education.

You will be able to listen the 10 minute interview here:

Agora onnittelee Suomi-palkittuja Ruskeita tyttöjä!

AGORA kasvatuksen ja koulutuksen tasa-arvon ja oikeudenmukaisuuden tutkimuskeskus haluaa onnitella lämpimästi Ruskeat tytöt -yhdistystä ja mediaa tiede- ja kulttuuriministerin myöntämästä vuoden 2019 Suomi-palkinnosta ansioituneille taiteilijoille ja yhteisöille!

Ruskeat tytöt on poliittisesti ja uskonnollisesti sitoutumaton ”ruskeilta ihmisiltä ruskeille ihmisille” tarkoitettu yhdistys, jonka tavoitteena on laajentaa representaatioita kulttuurin, erityisesti median, viestinnän ja kirjallisuuden alueella, normalisoida ruskeista ihmisistä kerrottavia tarinoita sekä toimia alustana ruskeille kulttuuriammattilaisille ja asiantuntijoille toteuttaa omia luovia ja merkityksellisiä projektejaan. Ruskeilla ihmisillä tarkoitetaan tässä yhteydessä kaikkia Suomessa rodullistetuiksi tulevia ihmisiä, eli sellaisia henkilöitä jotka nähdään ei-valkoisina ja ei-suomalaisina.

Ruskeat tytöt on toimittanut yhdessä Radio Helsingin kanssa Kaikkien koulu? -podcast-sarjaa, jossa pureudutaan koulun rakenteisiin ja haastetaan suomalaisen koulun normatiivista valkoisuutta ja keskiluokkaisuutta. Sarjassa kootaan yhteen niin tutkittua tietoa kuin tavallisten ihmisten kokemuksia sekä käydään keskustelua koulutuksen yhdenvertaisuudesta poc (people of color) -näkökulmasta käsin.  Sarjaa toimittaa opettajataustainen vapaa kirjoittaja, Mona Eid.

AGORA:n tutkija Tuuli Kurki vieraili tutkija Anna-Leena Riitaojan kanssa syksyllä 2019 Kaikkien koulu? -sarjan toisessa jaksossa Koulun toiseuttavat rakenteet”, jossa luotiin katsaus koulun toiseuttamisen mekanismeihin sekä oppilaan ohjaukseen. Tuuli keskustelee rasismista, rodullistamisesta ja maahanmuuttajaistamisesta oman väitöskirjansa ja käynnissä olevan tutkimustyönsä pohjalta.

Kaikkien koulu- sarjan viimeisessä jaksossa “Vallan toimintaa ja yhteiskunnallisia erontekoja pitäisi tunnistaa paremmin koulutuksessa” haastateltiin AGORA:n professori Kristiina Brunilaa yhdessä tutkija Tuija Saresman kanssa. Podcastissa jatkettiin kasvatuksen yhteiskunnallisuuden pohtimista erityisesti kriittisen ja feministisen pedagogiikan kautta.

Invitation to seminar 23 January: “Medieval Sickness and Modern Education”


AGORA for the study of social justice and equality in education -Research Centre, Society, Culture and Education (SEDUCE) Doctoral Program and Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki invite you a seminar by Dr. Ansgar Allen, University of Sheffield.

Time and place: Thursday 23 January, 14:15-16:00, Siltavuorenpenger 3A, Athena, room 261

Medieval Sickness and Modern Education

“In this seminar I will outline a new project investigating links between education and sickness. This project will contrast medieval Christian conceptions of sickness as education with modern conceptions of education and health. In the medieval context sickness provided opportunities to learn about the fallen condition of humanity. It performed a positive role in the education of the individual as a form of divine intervention and tutelage. In the modern context, sickness loses its educative function. As the forces of secular education are allied with the promotion of health, sickness becomes something education must combat. Sickness is only allowed to perform an educative function as a negative force, or example, against which the forces of education are stacked.

This seminar argues that sickness still performs an important, if disavowed, function in modern education. Given that educational critique is blindsided by its commitment to educational health, other forms of analysis are required. Through a reading of the work of Friedrich Nietzsche and Maurice Blanchot, this seminar will consider how alternative modes of analysis might function, and how educational critique might be transformed, drawing from genealogy, literary theory and experiments in post-critical analysis.”

 Discussant: Johanna Sitomaniemi-San, University of Oulu


The seminar is open to all interested scholars but due to the available space, we kindly ask you to secure your place by registering online. Space will be filled in order people sign up.


Ansgar Allen works at the intersections of education, philosophy and literary theory. He is the author of several books including Cynicism (MIT forthcoming), and co-edits Risking Education, an imprint of Punctum Books. He is based in the University of Sheffield, UK.


Johanna Sitomaniemi-San engages genealogically oriented forms of inquiry at the intersections of education, history, and geography. Her work examines the national, moral and colonial order of things in cultural-educational practices.


Future Trajectories of Education in Uncertain Times

Text: Sanna Toiviainen

AGORA and FuturEd project together with the Helsinki University Department of Education and Education and society research network organized a two-day international event to discuss some of the on-going and future changes in education, 23–24 September 2019.

What is Precision Education?

Kristiina Brunila setting the scene of the event by talking about precision education governance.           Caption: Venla Järvensivu

After Dean Johanna Mäkelä had opened the event by underlining the importance of looking at educational policies and practices through critical lenses, professor Kristiina Brunila outlined the focus of the following days with an introduction to precision education governance (PEG).

Precision education promotes the idea that human subjects are no longer defined by cultural and societal aspects, but as distributed cognitive systems with human, biological, technical and profitable components. Marketization and privatization, digitalization and datafication, psychologization and neurologization of education has brought new actors, new paradigms, and new ideas of knowledge, various services and products, and changing cultures and practices in education which all point towards a new engineering of learning.

In these knowledge regimes and practices children and youth are being positioned as objects for psy-knowledge, psycho-emotional interventions, neurotechnologies and plasticity programming. What is important for scholars in education, is to conduct critical research about the consequences of outsourcing essential parts of education into a private market, with new stakeholders and new paradigms.

Global changes and  educational ‘futures’

Fazal Rizvi discusses changes in education in a global context.  Caption: Venla Järvensivu

Professor Fazal Rizvi in his talk focused on global transformations and how these reflect educational futures thinking. Currently, a common global ethos concerning the future of education is in a sense of crisis in education, created by pressures to adapt to social forces. Educational values are no longer considered on their own terms but have become derivative of neoliberal economic thinking. In the desired future, according to policy texts, education is to meet the needs of the accelerating and rapidly changing global economy, satisfy the requirements of the labour market, meet the rapid growth in demand for education and align education to developments of technology and distributed processes of knowledge production and dissemination. Professor Rizvi talked about educational futures in the plural, referring to the existence of a multiplicity of ways for imagining the future. These ways of thinking about the future are possible, even if one of them might take the dominant position. Neoliberal discourses imagine only one future of education, but these imaginaries can be transformed through collective political agency.

From education towards science of learning

Ben Williamson talking about datafication in education.          Caption: Venla Järvensivu

Dr. Ben Williamson from the University of Edinburgh talked about how data-intensive technologies, neuroscience, genetic sciences and bioinformatics are reformulating the idea of education toward that of precision education. New psychological and neuroscientific theories and genetic science are reshaping the understandings of learning and have also begun to animate ed-tech development. Organizations with expertise in algorithmic systems are becoming new legitimized authorities in diverse educational matters. Commentator Associate professor Nelli Piattoeva reminded us that educational sociologists and governance researchers need to become interested in the digitalization and technologization of education. She called for more research on the sociology of edu-technologization.

Edu-technologies and the new subjectivies of teachers and students

Malin Ideland talked about edu-technologies and their re-structuring impact on teacher and student subjectivities. Caption: Venla Järvensivu

Professor Malin Ideland from the University of Malmö in her presentation “Google and the end of the teacher?” talked about an ongoing research project on edu-preneurs. She described the new cultural figurations of a teacher, the “googlified” teacher, which is also becoming a normative and more-than-a-discourse inscription concerning the teacher’s role and activities. The rise of a playful, fun, flexible, innovative, collaborative, engaging, anytime, anywhere, creative, dreaming, innovative learner – the new “googlified” teacher – is also de-politizing the idea of education. The new image of the teacher also offers an idea of education which is personalized, individualized, tailored and atomized. What is missing when the aim of education is seen only through individualized learning outcomes? What are the alternatives? How can we think about school, which is also about participatory practices, community building and social fostering? Professor Ideland concluded that there is a need for a profound discussion about the values and meaning of education. Education is more than individual learning outcomes constituting the flexible worker-citizen; it is also about learning to be in a community and becoming socialized into a democratic society.

Impacts of privatisation on early childhood education

Jaana Pesonen and Satu Valkonen mapping out the impacts of privatisation on early childhood education in Finland.                     Caption: Venla Järvensivu

Dr. Satu Valkonen and Dr. Jaana Pesonen presented their ongoing research on privatization and marketisation of early childhood education and care in Finland.

Private companies have already established a strong position in early childhood education in Finland. The right to make profit through early childhood education has led to significant changes and variability in the quality and equality of provision of early childhood education and care services. In many ways, the priority of the child’s best interest, as emphasized in Law on Early Childhood Education, is jeopardized.

Messages to take home

The two-day event with its different critical views on the ongoing changes in education was an eye-opener in many ways: it made clear that there is a need to scrutinize and problematize current processes of privatization, edu-technologization and learnification which are changing the ways we think about education. One aim of the FuturEd project is also to pay attention to the counterpolitics of precision education, which also means keeping our eyes open for the different forms of the political agency of children, young people and professionals. Democratic education can also be intentionally developed as a form of counterpolitics for precision education governance.

Critical Perspectives to Global Mental Health

Welcome to discuss and reflect critical perspectives to global mental health, with a special focus on young people and education on Monday 14 October 2019, at 9-12, Siltavuorenpenger 3A, Athena, seminar room 302.

The event is organized by CoSupport research project (Academy of Finland)

Registration by 10 October 2019:

Invited keynote speakers are Sami Timimi and China Mills. Sami Timimi is a Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist working in the National Health Service in Lincolnshire and a Visiting Professor of Child Psychiatry and Mental Health Improvement at the University of Lincoln, UK. China Mills is a Senior Lecturer in Public Health at the City, University of London, and the Principal Investigator on a British Academy grant looking at the ‘social life’ of global mental health technologies designed to be used all over the world.


9:15-9:30       Opening words, Kristiina Brunila

9:30-10:15     Keynote: Culture, mental health and growing up, Sami Timimi

10:15-10:45   Commentator Juho Honkasilta + Discussion

10:45-11:30   Keynote: Diagnostic liquidity and global mental health, China Mills

11:30-12:00   Commentator Tuuli Kurki + Discussion

For more information:

Follow our event online: Future Trajectories of Education in Uncertain Times

AGORA Research Centre, FuturEd-research project, Education & Society-research community and Faculty of Educational Sciences are co-organizing a two-day event Future Trajectories of Education in Uncertain Times, which is about to begin now!
We kindly remind you that you are also most welcome to follow the event online HERE.

Monday 23 September at 12 pm–4 pm
12:15 pm Dean and Professor Johanna Mäkelä: Why the future of education matters
12:25 pm Associate professor Kristiina Brunila: The rise of precision education and why we should care
12:45–2 pm Professor Fazal Rizvi: Global transformations and educational futures
Commentator Dr. Johanna Sitomaniemi-San
Coffee break
2:15–3:30 pm Dr. Ben Williamson:  Data-intensive technology and life-sensitive science: neurotechnologies, bioinformatics & precision education
Commentator Associate professor Nelli Piattoeva
3:30–4 pm Open discussion
Tuesday 24 September at 10 am–3 pm
10–11:15 am Professor Malin Ideland: Google and the end of the teacher? How edu-tech business actors imagine future education
Commentator Associate professor Janne Varjo
11:15 am–12:30 pm Dr. Satu Valkonen & Dr. Jaana Pesonen: Privatisation and marketisation of early childhood education in Finland
Commentator PhD researcher Marjo Mäntyjärvi
12:30–12:40 pm Closure

In the FuturEd-project, we are interested in future trajectories of education in the Nordic countries.

We use the concept of precision education to study some of the on-going and future changes in education. These changes relate to new networks of private, public and third sector actors, new paradigms, and new ideas of knowledge, services and products, and changing cultures and practices of education in terms of democracy.

Fall greetings from AGORA

AGORA’s autumn is filled with interesting events, seminars and visitors, and you are welcome to join our activities! Please find below what is happening in the near future:

Future Trajectories of the Precision Education Governance (FuturEd)-project together with the Education & Society-research community and Department of Education is co-organising an event Future Trajectories of Education in Uncertain Times on 23-24 September 2019 at Minerva-plaza, Siltavuorenpenger 5A. You are most welcome to discuss with researchers, policy-makers and educational professionals, how global transformations, marketization and privatisation, edu-tech business, dataintensive technologies and precision education are currently changing cultures and practices of education globally and in Finland. The seminar will also be streamed so you can also follow the seminar online at Unitube.

We are also proud to welcome visiting scholars during September and October. Dr. Johanna Sitomaniemi-San (University of Oulu) will be joining AGORA on 23-27 September 2019. Here is how Dr. Sitomaniemi-San describes her current work: “I situate my own work most comfortably (yet not exclusively) in the fields of curriculum studies and history of education. I am currently working on a three-year post-doctoral research project, ‘Dividing the World through Wonder: How We Became Curious,’ that is funded by the Academy of Finland (2018-2021). It is a project about the Western cultural-education notion of ‘curiosity:’ the self-evidence of it in the making of the learner, child and global citizen; the entangled discourses and histories of education, travel and science that it is embedded in; the colonial residues it perpetuates; and the multiple affectivities around it.” During her stay Dr. Sitomaniemi-San will be joining AGORA’s activities to discuss more about her research.

On 14th October 2019 Dr. Tuuli Kurki and Dr. Juho Honkasilta are organizing a seminar Critical perspectives to global mental health. The seminar is part of the CoSupport-project that is funded by the Academy of Finland (2017-2021). Place and time: 9:00-12:00, Seminar room 302, Athena building, Siltavuorenpenger 3A, Helsinki. The invited keynote speakers are Sami Timimi (University of Lincoln) and China Mills (City, University of London). Register to the seminar here:

AGORA also has a new research coordinator! I am Dr. Sanna Toiviainen and my professional and research background is in career guidance and sociology of education. I completed my PhD last spring 2019 at the University of Eastern Finland in the School of Educational Sciences and Psychology. My PhD focused on the life narratives of North-Carelian young adults categorised as ‘NEET’ and the institutional support networks and career guidance practices surrounding them. I have also worked as a researcher in national development projects of guidance and counselling at basic school and upper secondary school levels. I have also participated in the national core curriculum design of guidance and counselling. Please see most updated info about my research in Researchgate and

During this autumn we will begin to make some reforms in AGORA research centre. In the meanwhile you are more than welcome to follow us in Facebook (AGORA for the Study of Social Justice & Equality in Education) and Twitter @AGORAsocjust.