Strategic Practices of the Institutional School

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Pinni B building, auditorium 1097, address: Kanslerinrinne 1.


Doctoral defence of M.Sc. (Admin.), M.A. (Educ.) Kristiina Engblom-Pelkkala

Institutionaalisen koulun strategiset käytännöt : Diskursiivinen lähestymistapa (Strategic Practices of the Institutional School : Discursive approach)

The field of science of the dissertation is Local Public Economics.

The opponent is professor Jouni Välijärvi (University of Jyväskylä). Professor Jarmo Vakkuri acts as the custos.

The language of the dissertation defence is Finnish.

Traditions and reforms battle with each other in school management

The school has been considered to be a building block of Finnish society and culture. Our educational system stands out from others worldwide. The oversight of government and the strategic management of the municipalities control the school and its activities. The educational system also implements social and educational policies, which is why issues related to the organization of education cause tensions.
The practices of strategic management shape the school and its transformation. The school is not an isolated island. It is a part of society and that is why it has to encounter societal changes and the demands of the tightening economy. The slowness of the changes and the well-established practices do not necessarily only lie with the structure of the school institution; the school actors also play a role in maintaining the culture of their organization.

Kristiina Engblom-Pelkkala, Master of Administrative Sciences, Master of Education has reviewed the strategic practices of school management in her doctoral dissertation.

- I define strategy as a shared understanding of the goals of the organization, generated by language and actions. This includes the idea of how to allocate limited economic and human resources in order to achieve educational policy and pedagogical goals, the researcher describes
This research offers new perspectives to use when looking at (public administration) strategy and doing strategy work in practice. Studying strategy as social practice shows how strategy is reflected and operates in everyday life.

- 52 interviewees described the school’s operating environment from the point of view of headmasters, the administration and political actors. This enabled the study of strategic practices at different levels: policy, educational system, municipal organization and individual level.

Strategy is implemented as the social practices in school management. Government oversight of schools has by no means diminished but diversified and changed. In addition, at the municipal organization level, the strategic management of the education department highlights the importance of political decision-making. On the individual level, the practices of strategic management are emphasized by the discourse of the school management.

Based on this research, the management of the school highlights the following issues: the school’s resistance to change, larger school units, the development of projects and relying on the support of government oversight rather than strategy management. The approach to strategy work of school took many forms in the discreet discourses of headmasters, and they saw the management of school economics as challenging. The headmasters felt that they were the enablers of their school’s daily operation, which is mandatory for the ethos of cooperation. Their task is to put strategy into practice in spite of whether they have the resources or even the will to implement the strategy into operational practices. The headmaster is the central contributor in the school, but management work is complicated by slowly changing practices and financial control.

The researcher calls for a wide-ranging discussion on how the school in the constantly changing society is responsible for the task assigned to it. School transformation requires an external change, as its transformation is slow: the school seeks to preserve the traditional values and norms of its institution, securing its own existence in the future, despite the changes in society.

With the changing role of municipalities, the school becomes an increasingly important part of service production. The schools should seize this opportunity. The future of education can only be constructed if strategy moves into practice and action.


The dissertation is published in the publication series of Acta Universitatis Tamperensis; 2340, Tampere University Press, Tampere 2018. The dissertation is also published in the e-series Acta Electronica Universitatis Tamperensis; 1845,, Tampere University Press 2018.

The dissertation can be ordered at: Juvenes e-bookstore or by e-mail:

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