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Johannes Westberg - new professor 2017

Portrait Johannes Westberg

Johannes Westberg is professor of education. He conducts research content of education and its social, economic and cultural context from a historical perspective. He has been particularly interested in providing new answers to questions about the development of Swedish preschools and schools.


  • 1978 Born in Hökmark, Sweden
  • 2008 Obtained his PhD in history at Uppsala University with his thesis The birth of early childhood education: Pedagogical changes in Swedish early childhood care and education programmes, 1835–1945
  • 2011 Guest Scholar at University of Zurich
  • 2014 Docent in historia at Uppsala University
  • 2016 Professor of education at Örebro University

Read more about Johannes Westberg

In his thesis, Johannes Westberg examined the emergence of pre-primary education in Sweden. He has since devoted himself to the material culture of pre-primary and school, international history and social and economic history.

“The current discussion about the decline of schools is an example of an analysis often based on pure delusions about the school’s history. The subject of pedagogy has an important educational function in this respect,” says Johannes Westberg.

He is primarily interested in the fundamental questions about how and why the Swedish education system has changed. His view is that these are important questions and provide a basic understanding of how the Swedish education system has developed.

Among Johannes Westberg’s most important contributions include his research on the growth of primary and lower secondary school systems. Other research in the area is devoted to identifying the root cause of introducing the national school system in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

“In my research of in-depth historical case studies, I devoted my focus to the conditions that needed to be in place for this development to take place. I have been able to show how the Swedish school system was established thanks to the organisation of the church congregations, the development of the real estate market, the local availability of labour and the change in the Swedish credit market.”

Johannes Westberg emphasises the importance of a broader understanding of the education system and its emergence and reasons that broad knowledge is key to communicating current research, both to other research fields and the general public.

He currently leads the project How did education policy shape the race towards mass education? This international project, funded by the Swedish Research Council, covers the development of school systems in France, Italy, Spain and Sweden from 1840–1940. The project contains both historical case studies and econometric analyses. The goal is to provide a better picture of what factors determine the development of a school system.

“Questions about the importance of politics are intriguing. Both sides of pedagogical research and the public debate are characterised by a strong belief in politics and its ability to influence our education. However, we still do not know enough about the significance of political decisions.”

He is also researching the expansion of pre-primary education in Sweden after 1970.

“The expansion of the Swedish pre-primary education is an area that raises many questions about its conditions and its consequences. Despite rapid expansion, and the fact that Swedish pre-primary education in its scope and character is unique internationally, there is still much to do in this area,” concludes Johannes Westberg.

Read more about Johannes Westberg.