Public or Private – Does It Matter? How School Leaders in Public and Private Schools Perceive Their Roles

Jenny Madestam, Göran Sundström, Göran Bergström


This article takes its stand in an international discussion about how NPM reforms affect public servants’ notions about public core values. More specifically, it analyzes how school leaders relate to the values of political control, rule of law, economic efficiency, professionalism and users’ influence. It raises the question whether it matters, in terms of how they embrace these values, whether their organization is public or private. 975 school leaders (481 working for public schools and 472 for private schools) have completed a written questionnaire containing 15 postulations linked to the five core values. The study’s main finding is that the differences between the two categories of school leaders are quite small. The study indicates that school leaders on both sides try to defend all values ​​simultaneously. When trying to handle value conflicts they seem to avail themselves of other strategies than those connected to dominating models of rationality, which often conceptualize public actors’ response to value conflicts as a matter of balancing or striking trade-offs.

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Scandinavian Journal of Public Administration

School of Public Administration, Box 712 - SE-405 30 Göteborg

ISSN: 2001-7405, E-ISSN: 2001-7413