Tornedalian Teachers’ and Principals’ in the Swedish Education System: Exploring Decolonial Pockets in the Aftermaths of ‘Swedification’

  • Pär Poromaa Isling Umeå University
Keywords: National Minority, Tornedalians, Meänkieli, Decolonisation, Swedish Education System


This article explores decolonial pockets among Tornedalian teachers and principals by scrutinising the pre-requisites for school staff to integrate Tornedalen’s minority culture and practise the Meänkieli language in ordinary teaching and learning. It also investigates the challenges and opportunities aligned with such en-deavours. The data collection is based on qualitative focus-group and individual interviews with teachers, principals and pupils at upper secondary schools in two Tornedalian municipalities, in Northern Sweden. The findings reveal a practice in which teachers’ and principals’ Tornedalian cultural background is either more or less prominent, depending on the occasion. Particularly in the classroom context, teachers are obliged to mute and put aside their minority language, Meänkieli. Thus, they transform their behaviour and adopt a Swedish manner of conduct in their contacts with pupils. Consequently, teachers’ Tornedalian cul-tural identity becomes less prominent. Simultaneously, Swedish school culture takes precedence, and its authority controls what can be seen as proper educational subjects as well as the classroom’s social interactions. The analysis, guided by decolonising perspectives, reveals that minority language and cultural practices are mainly alive and active in the unofficial settings of the schools. These manifestations of resistance against the Swedish language and Swedish culture’s dominance of school practices, which remain alive in these decolonial pockets, is not organised and not part of official school practice. However, the conversations with school staff and pupils revealed that the competence, desire and strategies exist to ignite a pedagogy more inclusive of minority perspectives that can facilitate the transfer of Tornedalian minority knowledge and perspectives to pupils. This could empower decolonial Meänkieli practices and revitalise Tornedalian culture among young Tornedalians.


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How to Cite
Poromaa Isling, P. (2020). Tornedalian Teachers’ and Principals’ in the Swedish Education System: Exploring Decolonial Pockets in the Aftermaths of ‘Swedification’. Nordic Journal of Comparative and International Education (NJCIE), 4(1), 84-101.