Crossing borders in educational innovation: Framing foreign examples in discussing comprehensive education in the Netherlands, 1969-1979

Linda Greveling*, Hilda T. A. Amsing, Jeroen J. H. Dekker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In the Netherlands, crossing borders to study comprehensive schools was an important strategy in the 1970s, a decisive period for the start and the end of the innovation. According to policy-borrowing theory, actors that engage in debating educational issues are framing foreign examples of comprehensive schooling to convince their audiences. Framing therefore became the leading concept behind our study of the intellectual debate, examined through the leading Dutch scientific journal Pedagogische Studien (Educational Studies), and the public debate, examined through recordings of television programmes. Assuming that those debates were influential in the political middle school process, our analyses show that foreign examples indeed functioned as a framing device in the form of legitimisation, glorification, sensationalisation and caution. However, the impact of framing differed. In the phase of cross-national attraction, the reform-minded perspective in the scholarly debate had a stimulating effect on the development of the plans, but little influence on the governmental decision-making process. This contrasts with the frames that were brought forward by television programmes. Although the negative frames, such as "a factory-made sausage", were rejected by the programmes, such frames could linger in people's minds as a means to interpret ideas about middle schools. At the end of the 1970s, the middle school was reduced to a minor feature of educational policy and, eventually, the middle school experiments were brought to a close. As a result, the foreign solution of introducing comprehensive education was never transferred to the Netherlands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76-92
Number of pages17
JournalPaedagogica Historica
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 4-Mar-2014


  • television programmes
  • framing
  • comprehensive education
  • educational science
  • educational policy borrowing in the 1970s

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