Accountability Practices in the History of Danish Primary Public Education from the 1660s to the Present


  • Christian Ydesen Aalborg University
  • Karen E. Andreasen Aalborg University



accountability, Denmark, history of education


This paper focuses on primary education accountability as a concept and as an organizational practice in the history of Danish public education. Contemporary studies of education policy often address questions of accountability, but the manifestations of school accountability differ significantly between different national settings. Furthermore, accountability measures and practices have an impact on both the ways and means by which societies approach their educational systems. Hence there is a need to clarify the characteristics and traits connected with the concept. One way of approaching this endeavor is to turn to the history of education, because the discourse and practice of accountability incorporates numerous historical antecedents, technologies, and arguments. Based on primary as well as secondary sources this article presents the case of Denmark, analyzing the period from 1660 to the present. The article is analytically divided into four chapters, one treating the period of absolute monarchy, from 1660 to 1849; one treating the era of the nation state, from 1849 to 1933; one treating the welfare state, from 1933 to 1990; and one treating the era of globalization and the marketization of education, from 1990 to the present. The key analytical findings are that changing forms of government are reflected in accountability practices and accountability practices exert strong disciplining effects.


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Author Biographies

Christian Ydesen, Aalborg University

Christian Ydesen is the author of The Rise of High-Stakes Testing in Denmark, 1920-1970 (2011) as well as a number of articles on the history of educational testing and accountability in Denmark and wider Scandinavia. He is currently an assistant professor of evaluation and testing at the Department of Learning and Philosophy at Aalborg University, Denmark.

Karen E. Andreasen, Aalborg University

Karen Egedal Andreasen is PhD in education and associate professor in education and pedagogical assessment at the Department of Learning and Philosophy, Aalborg University. She is doing research within the area of education. Her main interests are socialisation, social mobility and processes in communities with focus on inclusion and exclusion and marginalization in different educational contexts. In her recent research, she has focused on the role of assessment in the comprehensive school in a historical perspective.




How to Cite

Ydesen, C., & Andreasen, K. E. (2014). Accountability Practices in the History of Danish Primary Public Education from the 1660s to the Present. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 22, 120.



Comparative and international history of school accountability