When Myth-Building Meets Nation-Branding: Fabricating the “Swedish Educational Model” in French Media Discourse (1964–2019)


  • Piero Colla Strasbourg University




nation-branding, cultural diplomacy, school reform, national identity, educational transfer


The educational reforms carried out in Sweden have aroused persistent interest in the French public debate. This paper focuses on the evolution of the media’s portrayal of an alleged Swedish “educational model,” by highlighting cross-national influences over an extended time horizon. The origin of a stereotype is addressed from the point of view of the interaction between the Swedish branding of its own model and the demand, on the part of French elites, for a handy reform paradigm. Two crucial phases of idealisation are identified. At first, the popularity of the Swedish experiment in education coincides with the idealisation of Sweden as a laboratory for social reform. Since 2010, TV reporting has focused on both the resistance of this myth and the diversity of its possible uses. The expansion of market-oriented principles in educational culture is stigmatised as a “betrayal” of values associated with the Swedish reform experience (pupil autonomy, inclusiveness, anti-authoritarianism), while other players—such as international ranking organisations—intervene in shaping the media image.

Author Biography

Piero Colla, Strasbourg University

Adjunct Professor of North European Political Models




How to Cite

Colla, Piero. 2020. “When Myth-Building Meets Nation-Branding: Fabricating the ‘Swedish Educational Model’ in French Media Discourse (1964–2019)”. Nordic Journal of Educational History 7 (2):73-98. https://doi.org/10.36368/njedh.v7i2.202.