How the Maori and Basque reversed language shift and gained state funding for minority language schools

Edurne Scott Loinaz (2013).

Though the Maori people of Aotearoa/New Zealand and the Basque people of Euskal Herria/Spain-France live on the opposite sides of the world, both are a brilliant example of the tenacious drive of minorities to conserve their own identity against a cultural and linguistic hegemony.  As ‘penetrated minorities’ (i.e., minorities that are locally outnumbered by another group), the Maori and Basque people have everything to lose – if their language and culture become extinct in their home country, they will vanish off the face of the earth forever – and thus it is no surprise that both minorities have made reversing language shift the main priority of minority education.  The aim of this paper is to research how both Maori and Basque political and social forces have overcome the threat of language extinction by creating their own schools outside the mainstream education system, and what educational policies allowed for the eventual public funding of minority schools in New Zealand and the Basque Country at the end of the 20th century.  By analysing the theories of Zimmer, who postulates that the nature of the state fluctuates depending on the government, and Deleuze, who states that minorities gain their power through the subjugation of the standard, this research concludes with five main findings: (1) Bilingual education has successfully reversed language shift in New Zealand and the Basque Country; (2) Bilingual and multilingual students have greater academic success than monolingual students; (3) The public funding of minority schools were due to revolutionary changes in the education system, rather than a step-by-step process; (4) Both the Basque and Maori languages, despite their institutional support systems, are still minority languages which have failed to become a part of work life and mainstream culture in their home countries; and (5) Minority schooling gives us a glimpse into the future where new generations of students are part of a global community in which membership to one culture will not be possible.

Basque/Maori Comparison

Basque

Over 2.5 million Basques (Govierno Vasco, 2008) presently live in Euskal Herria which comprises of both the Basque Autonomous Community (BAC) and Navarre in Northern Spain, and the Northern Basque Country in Southern France.  The Euskaldunak, or Basque people, have inhabited the Franco-Cantabrian region since Pre-Neolithic times over 7, 000 years ago (Behar et al, 2012), a theory supported by the Basque language itself, which is not related to any other Indo-European language in the continent.  The Basque have a long history as a penetrated minority, staving off invasions from Romans, Franks, Visigoths, Moors and finally the successful annexation of the centre of the Basque country, the Kingdom of Navarre, by the Spanish in 1512. Despite this, the Basque were still able to maintain a relative degree of autonomy with the creation of the Fueros, which, for instance, granted the Basques regional autonomy and excluded all Basques from military service or torture by the Castilian Crown.  At these times, like before, Basque was still the lingua franca of the region whilst Spanish (as its previous Romantic variety) was used as the language of formality and letters. Basque’s hegemonic linguistic position, however, was challenged in further decades by an array of factors, including ‘the industrial revolution and urbanisation, transportation and universal education [and] non-Basque speaking immigration.’ (Zalbide & Cenoz, 2008, p.6) By the time the Fueros were abolished by the Spanish in 1876, which rendered the Basque mere subjects to the Spanish, and the Falangist regime won the Spanish Civil War in 1939, the State language policy insisted on the outright ban of Basque (along with other regional dialects such as Catalan and Galician) and replacing it with Spanish as the lingua franca.  

Thus by the first half of the 20th century, the Spanish State had condemned the Euskaldunak to a linguistic and cultural death, ‘Basque was expelled from public life (Basque names of people, shops and hotels, for example, were banned), official life (the registry office), the church (services and doctrine), and the streets (use of Basque was forbidden in the market, the bars or the bus)’ (Aiesteran & Baker, 2004, p.9).   The remnants of this monolingual policy can be witnessed in the present day, primarily since Basque is still a minority language within the Basque Country itself. For instance, Basque is most prevalent in the Basque Autonomous Community (consisting of 70% of the population of Euskal Herria), where 26.8% of the population are Basque-dominant speakers, bilinguals account for 28.2% of the population and Spanish-dominant speakers are still the majority at 45% (Basque Government, 2003).  Thus, in Euskal Herria, most present-day inhabitants cannot even speak Basque, but despite this fact, there has been an increase in Basque speakers in the 16-24 age group which has almost doubled from 25% to 48% in less than 10 years (Zalbide & Cenoz, 2008) – a clear success story of bilingual education. Presently, there are 720, 000 Basque speakers as recorded in the last Basque Government census (Gobierno Vasco, 2012).

The first Basque schools, named Ikastolak, began in the late 1950s, the first of its kind established in Donostia/San Sebastian by Elbire Zipitria, though it was not till the 1960s that they came to the government attention, and though ‘these schools were not officially recognised in the beginning … the Franco government was eventually forced to accept them because they had attracted so many students that they could not be ignored’ (Zalbide & Cenoz, 2008, p.7).  It was not till the 1980s, however, and after the death of Francisco Franco, the Spanish fascist leader, that the new ‘A’ ‘B’ and ‘D’ Ikastola models, as they are called, were introduced in Euskal Herria: Model A solely taught in Spanish with Basque as a subject, Model B taught in both Basque and Spanish as the language of instruction, while Model D is the reverse of Model A, where only Basque is used as a language of instruction and Spanish is taught as a subject.  In the Basque Autonomous Community in 2007, for example, roughly 25% of students studied in Group A, 20% of students studied in Group B and 55% of students studied in Group D (Zalbide & Cenoz, 2008, p. 10). This table by Zalbide & Cenoz (2008) highlights the immense changes in Basque minority schools over the past forty years due to the Ikastolak:

(Zalbide & Cenoz, 2008, p. 10)

Maori

Over 620, 000 (Statistics New Zealand, 2006) of New Zealand’s indigenous people, the Maori, currently live in the country they call Aotearoa (the land of the long white cloud), an island region in the southwestern Pacific Ocean.  When New Zealand became a colony of England in the 19th century, the Maori had already inhabited both islands of New Zealand for approximately seven centuries, having arrived themselves from Eastern Polynesia in a series of canoe voyages between 1250 and 1300 AD.  A small number of renegade Europeans had already been settling in New Zealand since the end of the 18th century – a cultural exchange which radically changed the Maori way of life – but it was the following century’s loss of Maori lands, which saw Maori retain 4.7 million acres of freehold land by 1920 out of a total 66.3 million acres (Boast, 2008), that effectively turned Maori into a penetrated minority.  In the beginning of the 20th century, the Maori endured an assimilationist agenda which saw their language teeter towards extinction; in less than 30 years, Maori-speaking children declined from 96.6% of the population in 1930 to only 26% of the population in 1960 (May, 2013). Though this was partly due to the effects of urbanisation which wreaked havoc on rural Maori communities, and the Maori falling prey to diseases introduced by the colonialists, no one argued against its inevitable conclusion: language and cultural death.  In New Zealand today there are 60, 000 native Maori language speakers as recorded in the 17th edition of the Ethnologue (2013), although the latest official New Zealand government census cites that 157, 000 speakers are conversant about everyday things in Maori (Statistics New Zealand, 2006).

The state education system in New Zealand, which began in the 1860s and 1870s, furthered the State’s assimilationist agenda of the time, and as Linda Tuhiwai Smith (1999) concludes, ‘schooling came to be seen as a primary instrument for taming and civilising the natives and forging a nation which was connected at a concrete level with the historical and moral processes of Britain’ (p. 60).  It was not till the 1960s that the re-introduction of Maori as a separate subject in high school was propositioned by a State review, the Currie Commission, though, as May (2013) states, the Commission, ‘itself remained deeply ambivalent about any greater role for the Maori language in the educational process. It certainly did not envisage the development of Maori-English bilingualism in schools’ (p. 314).  The first truly bilingual schools only emerged in the 1980s, starting with the Maori-medium pre-schools named Te Kohanga Reo which were formed outside the mainstream education system by a small number of Maori parents. The first Maori school was Te Kura Kaupapa Maori o Hoani Waititi established in 1985, and it was not till 1990 that the Maori immersion schools, called Kura Kaupapa, were given funding from the New Zealand government in accordance with the new Education Act of 1989.  Today there are three levels of Kura Kaupapa schooling: Kura Tuatahi (primary school), Wharekura (secondary school) or Kura Arongatahi (a primary/secondary overlap). Maori language is also taught in English schools through bilingual classes, and arrangements exist between mentoring schools (Kura Tuakana) and mentored schools (Kura Teina) (Ministry of Education, 2011).

Language shift – Maori/Basque comparisonThe important question with both Basque and Maori near-extinction, aside from the effects of state policy, is why parents would not speak their native tongue to their children or their children’s children, and much can be blamed on the bilingual deficit theory: the belief that knowing a minority language, such as Basque or Maori, would hinder the learning of the lingua franca, be it Spanish, French or English.  This theory, as Grant (1988) states, was conventional wisdom for centuries, ‘many parents acquiesced in the language being taught out of their children—even, in some cases, beaten out.’ (p. 158)  The bilingual deficit theory has been widely proved false, and in fact its opposite has been demonstrated by studies performed in Euskal Herria schools: bilingual pupils achieve higher results than monolingual pupils throughout the academic board (Baker, 2003; Lasagabaster, 2005; Sierra, 2008; Cenoz, 2009).  These studies have highlighted two interesting conclusions for the new millennium of bilingual and multilingual schools: ‘the use of the minority language as the language of instruction results in more balanced bilingualism’ (Cenoz 2009, p. 109), and Baker (2003) who concluded that even three languages for content delivery (Spanish/Basque/English) can be achieved resulting, ‘in no loss of linguistic achievement and increased metalinguistic awareness’ (p. 105). 

These positive research findings in defense of bilingualism help the cause of all minority schools, most of them susceptible to being labelled as separatist, which is the case in New Zealand, still deeply embroiled in race politics, and the Basque/Spanish conflict, where Ikastolas are still linked to the actions of armed Basque nationalists by mainstream Spanish media.  Thus, a future problem for minority language schools, and the children that attend them, is coping with attitudes towards the lingua franca of their respective countries, and how the majority culture perceives the minority languages in turn. Some Maori immersion schools, for example, have banned English altogether and only allow Maori to be spoken by both teachers and students.  As scholar Hornberger quotes Hamilton who visited a Maori-only Kura Kaupapa school in 2002, “The prohibition is controversial in a nation where English is socially and educationally dominant and highly desirable for academic and social advancement; and all the more controversial considering that the Maori children attending the school arrive as English speakers” (Hornberger, 2006, p.21).  This pendulum movement back to the minority language is the building of attitudinal fences to protect linguistic rights (Lasagabaster 2005). In Basque dominant areas of Euskal Herria (usually in towns with populations less than 100, 000 people), there has been a backlash against the use of Spanish too, and as Lasagabaster warns, ‘the political situation undergone during the dictatorship (1939-1975) is responsible for this situation … [yet] schools should endeavour to avoid the rigid isolation of languages and implement language awareness courses in the curriculum that can offer considerably greater pedagogical implications to expand students’ language attitudes’ (Lasagabaster, 2005, pp. 310-3011).  The greater academic achievement of bilingual and multilingual pupils vis-a-vis monolingual pupils proves that the answer is not to teach solely in a minority language, but to foster strong bilingualism using both the majority and minority tongue so the child can benefit from both.

It is also important to note, as is always the case when discussing the possibilities of education, that schools cannot compensate for society; the Maori and Basque have used education to make up for a lack of family reproduction of the minority language after all.  But as Baker (2003) warns, ‘Language revival requires other institutional support systems than bilingual education to succeed …  institutionalisation, legitimisation, corpus planning, language reproduction in the family, an economic or instrumental value to the language, and an integrative value such as in cultural, leisure, social, community, and religious activities’ (p. 96).  The main problem, according to Baker, has been the over-optimism of education policy at revitalising a language, which disregards the importance of minority language mass media, language rights and bilingual employment (Baker, 2003).  The next part of this research thus wishes to highlight what policies allowed for Ikastolak and Kura Kaupapa schools to gain state funding, and what Education Settlements resulted from the ideological conflicts and compromises of each government.  

Theory 1: Zimmer

According to scholar Zimmer’s theory, there is a pendulum movement in the state’s affairs and treatment of particular groups which coincides with governmental changes – this theory is proved by the changes in educational policy by both New Zealand and Spanish states, which flip-flopped dramatically from actively repressing minority languages to granting them official status and subsidising their schools in little more than three generations.  Zimmer’s theory is described by the scholar himself as a state-centred theory, compared to a culture-centred theory, and as he claims, ‘The civic nation, so the argument goes, is primarily a political reality. As such, it is rooted in the institutional framework and administrative apparatus that underpin the modern state, resulting in a near equation of ‘nation’ and ‘state’’ (Zimmer, 2003, p. 176). To analyse Zimmer’s theory further, this section will highlight not only the distinction between policy making and policy implementation, but the importance of the internal conflicts of the State which can usually explain the contradictions of state educational policy agenda.  Such ideological conflict can result in ‘Education Settlements’:

Depending upon the nature of the compromise achieved, an education policy settlement may be more or less stable. It may achieve a considerable internal consistency of principle, in which case it is likely to be a relatively long-lasting policy settlement. On the other hand, it may, as a result of various exigencies, be characterized by internal contradictions which will soon provoke another crisis. (Grace, 1991, p. 28)

As both the Maori and Basque political contexts prove, every major education policy in the last 35 years has been a compromise between competing interest groups, yet despite this, both the New Zealand and Spanish States have created relatively stable Education Settlements which exist to this day, despite mixed results for minority schools.  

Euskal Herria / Spain

In 1979, four years after Francisco Franco’s death and forty years after its public banning, the Basque language regained its rights by becoming the co-official language of the Basque Autonomous Community (BaC).  In fact, since Spain’s adoption of democracy, the Basques of the BaC, ‘virtually govern themselves in sectors such as education, health, culture and housing. Other sectors, including research, industrial policy and transport and communications also contribute to a high degree of autonomy, financed by an economic agreement struck with the Spanish central government’ (Aranguren et al, 2006, p.259).  The first educational policy drafted by the BaC was the Law for the normalisation of the use of the Basque Language (1982) – the law which was followed by the Bilingualism Decree (1983) that set into motion the ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘D’ model of bilingual schooling discussed above, which, at the time, was simply a solution to the biggest problem for Ikastolak: a lack of fluent Basque-speaking teachers and the need to fulfil their new objective, ‘the public authorities have to guarantee that all students have a sufficient practical knowledge of both official languages by the time they finish their compulsory studies’ (Law for the normalisation of the use of the Basque Language, 1982: article 17).  With power to create their own educational policy and allocate funding through their own public institutions, the number of Basque-speaking teachers rose dramatically; though there were on average 5,093 teachers in Basque-language training in the school year of 1981-1982, for example, this number had risen to 13,575 by 1990-1991 (Zalbide & Cenoz, 2008, p. 10).

(Zalbide & Cenoz, 2008, p.10)

What this pendulum movement in policy proves, as Zimmer’s theory states, is just how different the State works depending on who is in power – in this case, the radical change between a fascist state, which could ban a language and push it to the brink of extinction, and a democratic state, which could give Basque co-official status and create a new generation of bilingual speakers.  As hard as it may be to believe, the delegation of education by the democratic Spanish state to the BaC was not particularly revolutionary either as it continued the long-held tradition of the Spanish state to pass the responsibility of education elsewhere. As scholar Bonal (2000) explains, ‘One of the most significant features of Spanish education has been the historical retreat of the state from its provision … public authorities delegated the control of education to the Catholic Church and did not make relevant efforts either to finance or regulate the education system’ (p. 203).  It was this system that created the public versus private schooling divide in Spanish education which solidified the class difference between rich and poor – whilst the well-to-do could provide a good education for their children through the Catholic Church, the poor were ‘subject to a cultural transmission model based on ideological control rather than on instrumental knowledge’ (Bonal, 2000, p. 203). The minimum educational standards were raised by the 1978 Constitution, though this too was a negotiation between the socialist Left and conservative Right who both had to renounce some of their principles to set up the main goals of article 27 of the Constitution and create the first democratic Education Settlement of Spain- whilst the Left were able to make religion a non-compulsory part of the curriculum in both private and public education, and allow for the empowerment of the educational community and teacher’s rights, the Right were able to grant significant public financing to the private education sector along with a parent’s right to choose a religious education for their child (Bonal, 2000).

Despite the existence of language rights and institutional backing, the Basque language, according to many loyalists, has yet to leave the classroom and enter both the mainstream culture and the working world, which, as Sierra (2008) concludes, ‘is one of the reasons why the use of Spanish is found in every place and situation, while there has been little increase in the use of Basque in everyday situations’ (p. 40).  This was obvious to me whilst I was living and working in Pamplona/Iruña during 2008-2010: though all my friends and co-workers were bilingual in Basque and Spanish, they all used the latter to speak to one another; on another occasion, a family friend was told to either translate or take down his notice written in Basque from his work’s staff board in case it was related to any type of ‘terrorist activity’- the offending note simply asked his fellow employees whether they would like to join him mountaineering on the weekend, a popular Basque pastime.  

To understand why Basque has yet to penetrate mainstream culture, scholars Zabilde and Cenoz (2008) believe that one must return back to the tenets of bilingual education itself:   

(1) Schooling is the basis of reversing Language Shift (rLS): school is the means whereby Basque bilinguals are being created or will be created.  After that, it will be possible to spread the use of Basque throughout geographic and sociofunctional space.

(2)  If it is properly organised, the school will be able on its own and unaided to achieve fully balanced bilingual new generations in the BaC.  In this formulation, ‘proper organisation’ means, above all, school subjects (as many as possible) being taught and learnt through the medium of Basque.  The amount of exposure to the language, although not the only factor, is regarded as paramount.

The scholars believe these tenets to be over-ambitious- it is one thing to be immersed in a minority language in the classroom, and another altogether to replace it for the lingua franca in everyday life.  It is no surprise then that the majority of grants given by the BaC government to promote language use have been to fund extracurricular activities (Zalbide & Cenoz, 2008).

Aotearoa / New Zealand

It was not till the year 1990 that the first Kura Kaupapa Maori school was publicly subsidised by the New Zealand State – three years after Maori had been granted co-official status along with English in 1987, and one year after the Education Act of 1989 became law, the result of a radical reconstruction of New Zealand’s education system.  The late 1980s in New Zealand politics are thus a great example of Education Settlements in action: though the mainstream education system was changed by a Left-wing Labour government, the policies the party proposed were initiated by the Right, or more specifically, the New Zealand Treasury which had become a vehicle for promoting New Right Ideology (education was not a public right but a market commodity; schools are providers and students are consumers; the State was not capable of providing a better education service than one controlled by the free market system) (Grace, 1991).  The main example that the treasury used to prove that the state was failing to provide an optimal education to New Zealand’s youth was the low academic achievement of Maori, and as Grace (1991) states, ‘An education system which failed such a cultural and political community, in such evidence and dramatic ways, was highly vulnerable to both internal criticism and to external ideological attack’ (p. 32). Labour had no choice but to make education their main re-election policy or face losing to their rivals, the Right-wing National party.

By highlighting the crisis of minority academic achievement, the treasury thus created the main policy which both Labour and National adopted for their election campaign: the reform of education to benefit Maori and other disaffected minorities.  Despite this, the triumphant Labour party had to go back on many of its historical policies, the most evident being the reliance on large educational bureaucracy. This Education Settlement allowed for the empowerment of parents through their positions in Boards of Trustees and members of the community through Community Forums, yet more drastic still was the abolition of the Department of Education itself which was replaced with a smaller Ministry of Education which only had policy rather than administrative functions; this solidified the new powerbase of parents and community leaders, rather than far away centres of bureaucracy to manage schools (Grace, 1991).  This rejection of educational bureaucracy was of course a policy pronounced by the Right, but ‘any particular education policy settlement is a compromise among competing interest groups who perceive in it ways to realise their own socio-political, educational, cultural, or economic agendas’ (Grace, 1991, p.28).

The Maori had everything to win from the abolishment of an educational bureaucracy in New Zealand, even if it was by the Party who had established it in the first place (which proves that the colour of government, as Zimmer describes it, changes not only from party to party, but from cabinet to cabinet).  The changes made by the Education Act of 1989 allowed for the empowerment of parents which in turn fostered greater community power, the very fuel that had created the Kura Kaupapa schools to begin with. The Maori Language Act of 1987 also allowed for the use of Maori language to be used with government and legal agencies which added greater institutional support systems to the language.  Since then, the New Zealand state has had to take on the added responsibility of being the main agent of Maori language preservation after the 1994 ruling by the Privy Council of the United Kingdom – a responsibility that the state has upheld by, for example, funding two Maori Television channels launched in 2004 and 2008 respectively. Despite these state-backed developments, the last New Zealand census shows that only 23.7% of the Maori population are able to converse in Maori, which is a slight drop from past census results, solidifying the English language as the lingua franca for Maori people for the time being:

(Statistics New Zealand, 2006)

Theory 2: Deleuze

According to scholar Deleuze, minorities prosper not by attaining the same power as the majority, nor by pushing themselves to become a new constant within the hegemonic framework, but by becoming a non-denumerable force, ‘The power of the minorities is not measured by their capacity to enter and make themselves felt within the majority system, nor even to reverse the necessarily tautological criterion of the majority, but to bring to bear the fore of the non-denumerable sets, however small they may be, against the denumerable sets’  (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 471). In other words, the only way Basque and Maori populations have been able to assert their language and its continued teaching is by creating their own codes of identification: Basques recognise their country’s independence, continue to fly its Ikurriña flag and have defined its borders as Euskal Herria, despite the Spanish and French States refusing to recognise them to this day; the Maori, too, have their own Tino Rangatiratanga flag, continue to fight the validity of land confiscations by the British 150 years ago, and have their own successful party in the New Zealand parliament (the co-leader, Dr. Peter Sharples, being one of the prominent Maori figures in the late 1980s helping to investigate alternative schooling models that would benefit Maori).  

(top) Basque Ikurriña, the flag of Euskal Herria and (bottom) the Maori Tino Rangatiratanga flag, meaning ‘absolute sovereignty’

As Deleuze further explains, “Becoming-minor involves the subjection of the standard to a process of continuous variation or deterritorialisation” (Deleuze and Guattari, 1987, p.106).  This beautifully describes the constant repositioning of identity, especially vis-a-vis the majority culture, that the Basque and Maori need to mitigate in the present day, a task which is helped by the fact that minority and majority labels do not have to be mutually exclusive.  As Grant (1988) concludes, ‘Conscious membership of one culture need no longer rule out any of the others… we live in an increasingly international, interdependent world community [and] it follows, though it is taking some an unconscionable time to realise it, that we are all minorities now’ (p. 164-165).  Basque and Maori minority schooling thus gives us a glimpse at the future where various identities will have to be mitigated by a new generation that is part of a global, as well as local, community.

Conclusion

Penetrated minorities, like the Basque of Euskal Herria and the Maori of Aotearoa, have been able to reverse language shift by using their native tongue as the lingua franca of a public-funded classroom – a revolutionary development that has been possible due to great changes in the education system of both countries and historical Education Settlements like Article 27 of the Spanish Constitution, and the New Zealand Education Act of 1989.  The positives of bilingual minority schooling have shattered what was once conventional wisdom in the form of the bilingual deficit theory, and stand as symbols of the institutional support that can be obtained for a minority culture and language when a community joins together in solidarity. Despite this, it was the efforts of Maori and Basque parents that created the Ikastolak and Kura Kaupapa outside the mainstream education system, and it will be the efforts of the next generation of parents that will decide whether or not their language will be used in everyday life rather than the classroom; in Skype calls rather than formal speeches; in popular literature rather than road signs.  The challenge for the future of minority schooling is to help students deal not only with the attitudinal fences against their language from mainstream culture, but their own also, bringing language attitudes – of both the majority and minority tongue – to the forefront of the syllabus. Education can only go so far in reversing language shift after all, regardless of whether a minority tongue shares co-official status or not. It is also important to look at the future – a world so interconnected and interdependent that membership to simply one culture will be unthinkable – and it is this fact that puts into focus Deleuze’s theory that the whole world is in the process of ‘becoming minor’.  The Basque and Maori are thus the vanguard for the bilingual minority schooling of the future.

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Are in-school suicide-prevention programmes and strategies converging in four countries with high youth suicide rates?

Edurne Scott Loinaz

Considering the myriad cultures of the world and all their differences – customs, ideas, social behaviours and languages – the very notion that they could all assimilate into one ‘world culture’ is hard to imagine, yet this is essentially the crux of globalisation theory.  The notion that culture is just as susceptible to international influence as goods and services is a relatively new concept, but one that fundamentally affects the way in which we understand how education systems are influenced by international forces. This paper wishes to discuss whether globalisation is indeed causing a global convergence by comparing and contrasting four countries with a common issue – nearly double the average youth-suicide rate – and a proposed solution to the problem: in-school suicide-prevention programmes.  The theory of policy borrowing will also be touched upon to analyse how suicide-prevention strategies were adapted from country to country. By analysing both globalisation and policy borrowing theories this paper has come to four conclusions: (1) National suicide-prevention strategies are indeed converging in the four case studies and all cover similar topics: the need to implement programmes, the need to reduce means of suicide and the need for further research on the subject; (2) Suicide-prevention in-school programmes are converging in that they exist in all the case studies, but the programmes vary significantly from culture to culture, which points to a case of divergence; (3)  Policy borrowing occurred in the four cases due to one (or more) of three factors: geographical proximity, a shared problem (high youth suicide rates) and influence of supranational organisations; (4) Glocalist rather than hyper-globalist theories are better equipped at analysing both the converging and diverging elements in cross-cultural comparison.

Globalisation

For more than twenty years now, globalisation theory has dominated the academic arena splitting itself into two camps- the ‘hyper-globalists’ and ‘transformationalists/glocalists’: the former predicting worldwide convergence (universalising), the latter ‘zooming’ into particular contexts to report both converging and diverging elements (particularising) (Green & Mostafa, 2013). But before discussing these two camps in detail, it is imperative to define globalisation theory itself which is no easy task considering that it encapsulates international interactions in myriad ways – culturally, politically, economically, socially and technologically.  The present paper uses Giddens’ (1990) definition which describes globalisation as the “intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa” (21).  What globalisation theory thus postulates is that education systems (and education programmes within the system) are now themselves subject to international influence as much as (or even more so than) national agents.  The aim of this paper is to analyse the implications of this theory and apply it to four countries – New Zealand, Finland, Ireland and Lithuania – that were specifically chosen due to the fact that they all share youth suicide rates at nearly double the global average (or more), as can be shown in the graph below:  

Thus, if the suicide-prevention programmes and strategies are identical in all four countries it will provide evidence for the hyper-globalist argument of convergence (nomothetic homogenisation); if there are similar policies – such as State suicide prevention strategies – but the programmes in the education system are different, it will provide evidence for the glocalist argument of particularising (ideographic hybridisation); if all or some of the four countries are dealing with the same issue differently – which includes doing nothing about it at all – it will highlight the limits of globalisation theory to explain divergence.  

Hyper-globalists versus Glocalists

The hyper-globalist argument states that there is a ‘world culture’ gradually eroding systemic differences between countries, which of course includes national education systems themselves.  This ‘stateless’ process is propelled as much by top-down processes at a global and national level, as well as by bottom-up grassroots movements, in turn leading “to a degree of structural isomorphism in national societies despite the latter’s enormous differences in resources and traditions” (Green & Mostafa, 2013, 17).  This type of whole-scale convergence, claim the hyper-globalists, can be found within the national curricula of different countries which share the same purpose of “socio-economic development, welfare and individual justice, rights and equality” (ibid, 17). Hyper-globalists claim that this cultural diffusion has been responsible for the modernisation of education (Wiseman et al., 2010).  It is interesting to note that such a philanthropic purpose for education has allowed for suicide prevention programmes to become part of the curriculum in the first place, and if this phenomenon was part of a ‘world culture’ these programmes would indeed be seen around the globe in different countries.

Hyper-globalists too point at the evidence of convergence due to supranational agencies exerting pressure on individual countries to adopt common policies; education in a hyper-globalist world would thus be more centralized, with fewer national decision-making authorities.  In terms of suicide prevention policy, for instance, supranational agencies exist like the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) which is an official partner of the World Health Organization, the European Network of Health Promoting Schools (ENHPS) and the United Nations who in 1996 released their publication ‘Prevention of Suicide Guidelines’.  By 2002, the World Health Organization commissioned a European monitoring survey on national suicide prevention programmes and strategies where “Programmes are here understood as concise action plans, combining various specific national strategies in order to achieve predefined goals and objectives, whereas national strategies are defined as different preventive approaches established nationally in different settings” (World Health Organization, 2002).  Though the WHO found that Ireland and Finland both had national suicide prevention strategies and programmes (as did New Zealand at this time), Lithuania only had a strategy and the promise to draft national programmes in the near future. By comparing its differences to other countries – and thus its lack of available programmes – the World Health Organization thus exerted pressure on Lithuania to create practical solutions for suicide prevention, inevitably pushing for a convergence with suicide-prevention programmes in other countries.  This is the case with any other educational policy since, “Educational decision-makers in these ‘target’ countries, in turn, look at other countries’ systems to evaluate, benchmark, and develop their own educational systems using the experiences and evidence from them” (Wiseman et al., 2010, 6). This policy convergence is what hyper-globalists would describe as the forming of a ‘world culture’.

Glocalists, on the other hand, believe hyper-globalists are over-simplifying a complicated process: the converging and diverging elements in every country that result in adaptation and hybridisation.  One must compare the results of identical policies, argue the glocalists, to be able to judge properly whether whole-scale global convergence is actually happening. For instance, it is not enough to say that there is a worldwide convergence due to a shared curriculum based around socio-economic development since this is a “very high level of generality … [but rather] focus more on the details of what is in the constitutions or curricula, or how they are put into practice, and at this level may find much more divergence”  (Green and Mostafa, 2013, 18). As Green et al. (1999) concluded, there is a difference between ‘policy rhetorics’ converging, and practices on the ground converging. The case of Lithuania’s suicide prevention policy is a case in point, in that even though the country has suicide prevention policies in the form of a ‘strategy’, this did not translate into long-term suicide-prevention programmes being implemented. Glocalists therefore paint a very different picture of the future of education than that of the hyper-globalists, the main difference being the impact of the cultural context and its role in decentralisation.  In the four countries studied for this paper also, suicide-prevention programmes have been run by charities alongside State initiatives (and were around long before any national strategy), which shows how grassroots movements can help solve problems without policy rhetoric.

Convergence versus Divergence

Wiseman et al. (2010) define convergence as, “The effects of a process of policy change over time toward a common point, which goes further conceptually than the alignment or harmonisation of isomorphism.  Consequently, policy convergence is an increase in similarity over time of a certain policy across a predetermined set of jurisdictions” (13). Though it is beyond the scope of this paper to answer why some cultures have higher suicide rates than others, it is interesting to note that all the countries in this study have steadily declining suicide rates every year for the past ten years (World Health Organization, 2009), which in itself is a converging trend.  It also must be mentioned that scholars Milner et al. (2011) and Kelleher and Chambers (2003) have pointed to globalisation as a possible explanation for suicide. Milner et al. (2011) came to this conclusion using globalisation indices – like the KOF – that have been developed to show the level of influence globalisation has had on a particular country, and they concluded that the globalisation index was related to increased suicide rates – an argument supported by the fact that suicide rates in Lithuania jumped from 26.1 per 100,000 people in 1990, to 44.1 per 100,000 people in 2000 (World Health Organization, 2009).  

(Countries from bottom to top: Finland, Ireland, Lithuania and New Zealand)

Regardless, the KOF graph above undoubtedly highlights the similarities between the four countries of this study – the major change being Lithuania after the fall of the Soviet Empire – but as Wiseman et al. (2010) warn, “Convergence is more than an approximation of similarity.  It is a growing together (sigma), catching up (beta), process of dynamic mobility (gamma), and the minimisation of the distance to an exemplary model (delta)” (15). Thus, Lithuania’s ‘beta convergence’ in its attempt to ‘catch up’ to the other countries in this study, and Finland, Ireland and New Zealand’s ‘sigma convergence’ in their attempt to ‘grow together’, prove that the convergence concept espoused by globalisation theory is indeed taking effect.

Another point of convergence between the four countries, and a direct development of globalisation, is the use of technology – specifically in the way that it is reshaping the classroom.  As scholars Rizvi and Lingard (2000) state, “[Technological] developments and many others associated with globalization now define the space within which education takes place, and which must be taken into account when analyzing education policy … Technology is able to uncouple culture from its territorial  base so that, unattached, it can reach through the airwaves to anyone with the means to receive its sentiments; the result is new hybridized cultural practices that can be packaged for consumption by those connected to the network society” (Rizvi & Lingard, 2000, 424). Technology is thus changing not only how we teach but who we teach and where.  This is an important consideration when discussing how suicide prevention programmes are disseminated to students – especially those that do not have in-school prevention programmes like Lithuania. Though this will be discussed in much greater detail in the case studies, it is interesting to note that all four countries do indeed have suicide-prevention websites specifically targeted to young people (both State-run and charity-run), highlighting the Internet’s capacity to act as an extended classroom.  For two of the countries in the study that share a language – Ireland and New Zealand – it means that young people from either country on opposite hemispheres of the world can access and utilise the exact same resources- this technological development associated with globalisation has thus redefined the space in which suicide-prevention can take place.

Policy Borrowing and Lending

Why four countries with different histories, languages and cultures would converge to have similar (or sometimes identical) policies regarding suicide-prevention can be analysed through globalisation theory.  How convergence takes place rather than why it takes place, however, is the study known as policy borrowing and lending, defined here as, “The transfer of ideas, policies and organisational models from one place to another … with lending, one is typically more interested in the context from which a given idea, policy or organisational model originates; with borrowing, one is usually more concerned with the context in which it is received” (Waldow, 2012, 411).  It is also important to emphasise, as scholar Phillips (2005) states, that policy borrowing is itself a conscious, deliberate and purposive act, “There is much in a country’s approach to education that might influence practice elsewhere, and that ‘influence’ might take many forms, but influence does not imply a process of ‘borrowing’ unless there has been a quite deliberate attempt to ‘copy’, ‘appropriate’, ‘import’ (etc.) a policy or practice elsewhere identified as being of potential value in the home country” (24).  There is thus a marked difference between susceptibility to influence and ‘conscious’ borrowing – the term ‘policy borrowing’ only refers to the latter category. Some common reasons why one country would like to borrow an educational policy from another include:

  • Serious scientific/academic investigation of the situation in a foreign environment;
  • Popular conceptions of the superiority of other approaches to educational questions;
  • Politically motivated endeavours to seek reform of provision by identifying clear contrasts with the situation elsewhere; and
  • Distortion (exaggeration), whether or not deliberate, of evidence from abroad to highlight perceived deficiencies at home.

(Phillips, 2000, 299)

How borrowing policy shapes globalisation theory is another interesting point since borrowing/lending policy focuses on the details – the hybridisation of policy from culture to culture – and thus borrowing policy cannot help but gather evidence for the glocalist camp, a fact that becomes clear when reading Waldow (2012), “Whether borrowing takes place, and in what form it does so, depends on the borrowing context, not the place of origin of what is borrowed.  The model is in the eye of the beholder” (417). Waldow’s statement argues that all policy is up for subjective interpretation, a conclusion that he shares with Niklas Luhmann, the German sociologist, who coined the term ‘externalisation’ to describe how other countries’ policies are used as checks and balances for the education system: “Externalisation does not come to the system from the outside: it is both instigated from within and processed within the system … These include externalisation to values, to organisation or to the principles and results of science” (Waldow 2012, 418).  It is then a given that if policy can be interpreted subjectively by each country – let alone by each policy maker therein – that there would be a considerable difference in the implementation of the same policy in each country.

So what of suicide-prevention strategies and policy borrowing?  Though the history of suicide-prevention will be discussed at length below, a summary of policy borrowing within this very specific subject is useful to mention here.  Suicide-prevention programmes have been active from the mid-20th century onwards thanks to charities such as The Samaritans in England that was established in 1952 with the aim to listen and talk to people experiencing suicidal thoughts.  The first ever national-scale suicide-prevention strategy, however, was published in Finland in 1986 and after six years of research on 1,397 suicides, Finland implemented a nation-wide suicide prevention programme in 1992 when its youth suicide rates were the highest in the world  (Upanne, 1999). This strategy was closely followed by Sweden (1993), Norway (1994), Australia (1995) and finally the United Nations (1996) who published their ‘Prevention of Suicide Guidelines’ and recommended that national suicide strategies should have “support from government policy; a conceptual framework; well established aims and goals; measurable objectives; identification of organisations capable of implementing objectives; and ongoing monitoring and evaluation” (United Nations, 1996). 

The geographical proximity between Finland, Sweden and Norway will no doubt provide evidence as to why policy borrowing took place between the three countries in such a short amount of time, but as Play (2011) warns, “Geographical proximity does not mean necessarily that individual nations will share all the same cultural, political or historical imperatives … hence, automatic and systematic ‘policy borrowing’ should be avoided”  (167). This proves to be the case when you look at suicide statistics for young men (15 to 24 years old) in the three countries directly before the suicide prevention programmes were set in place: Finland’s rate was the highest at 43.7 per 100, 000 (higher than Lithuania’s today for the same age range and gender), Norway’s rate was 26.0 and Sweden’s rate was 15.5.

(Kelleher and Chambers, 2003, 178)

It was Finland’s decreasing youth suicide rate that no doubt caught the attention of the country’s neighbours, and in fact from 1990 to 2005 Finland’s suicide rate has decreased by 40% (European Union, 2008, 2).  Yet after Finland’s neighbours adopted similar suicide-prevention strategies, the next country to adopt a suicide-prevention strategy, Australia, was in a different hemisphere altogether. Though geographical proximity had nothing to do with Australia’s adoption of its own suicide-prevention strategy in 1995, it could be argued that it did in the case of New Zealand’s first Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy in 1998.  In this case, policy borrowing of suicide prevention strategies – started by Finland’s research in the 1980s – would be explained by Phillips (2000) as serious scientific/academic investigation of the situation in a foreign environment. By 1996 the involvement of the United Nations allowed for a supranational agency to exert pressure on individual countries to adopt common policies, thus creating the situation in the present day where it is rare to find a country with a high youth suicide rate without a suicide prevention strategy.  And what of the last two countries in this study? Lithuania published their suicide-prevention strategy in 2002, meaning that policy borrowing between the country with the highest youth suicide rates in 1992 and the country with the highest youth suicide rates in 2002 took 10 years to converge. In Ireland the National Health Strategy was published in 2001, and only two years later Ireland had made it compulsory to integrate suicide-prevention programmes in the form of its ‘Social, Personal and Health Education programme (SPHE)’ in its curriculum.  It was not till 2005 that Ireland officially published its suicide-prevention strategy, ‘Reach Out – A National Strategy for Action on Suicide Prevention’.

Suicide Prevention History

The study of suicide and the discussion around what would constitute effective suicide-prevention programmes can be traced back to the late 19th century to Durkheim (1897) who just like Milner et al. (2011) concluded that increased suicide rates were partly due to modernisation and thus that suicide is influenced by social factors.  In terms of youth suicide, Hosanky (2012) states that researchers did not start paying attention to this subject before the 1970s, mostly due to the fact that most psychologists believed young people could not suffer from depression. It was not till 1980 that childhood depression was finally listed as a, “diagnosable psychiatric condition in the authoritative Diagnostic and Statistical Manual on Mental Disorders (DSM-III) … The increased suicide rate forced psychologists and policymakers in the 1990s to begin viewing mental health disorders in the young as a significant public health problem” (Hosansky, 2012, 307).  The impetus to provide suicide prevention programmes in public education as a solution to high youth suicide can also be attributed to academic suggestion and research also:

  • “Taking a population-health perspective, we advocate a continuum of response with a series of levels, from the community through to specialist services … Schools and colleges in particular offer a unique setting for mental health promotion in young people, via the emphasis on reducing risk factors and strengthening protective factors” (Patel et al., 2007, 1308);
  • “Recent research suggests that school-based skills training and direct screening programs can increase coping skills and identify individuals at risk of committing suicide” (Hosansky, 2012, 309);
  • “ It is clear that suicide prevention requires intervention also from outside the health sector and calls for an innovative, comprehensive multi-sectoral approach, including both health and non-health sectors, e.g., education, labour, police, justice, religion, law, politics, the media)” (World Health Organization, 2014). 

The World Health Organization’s ‘Preventing Suicide: A resource for teachers and other school staff ‘(2000) fundamentally changed suicide-prevention strategies from the top down since it described teachers as vital agents in curbing high youth-suicide rates.  From then on it was natural that suicide-prevention programmes would become available in schools – both in offline and online classrooms.

Case Studies

New Zealand

Ever since New Zealand’s first suicide-prevention policy, ‘Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy’ was published in 1998, the island country in the Southern Pacific Ocean has been a point of ‘externalisation’ for other countries in regards to suicide-prevention programmes.  The New Zealand Ministry of Health is prolific in its studies of suicide-prevention and as of 2014 has eleven separate suicide-prevention initiatives including Kia Piki te Ora (addressing suicidal behaviour in New Zealand’s indigenous Maori community), Towards Wellbeing (where clinical psychologists make site visits to support young adults with suicidal thoughts) and finally Travellers (a first-year secondary school suicide-prevention programme specifically targeted at students who are experiencing major upheaval in their lives)  (Ministry of Health, 2008). The latter in-school programme, Travellers, was developed by the Ministry of Health in partnership with the University of Auckland’s Injury Prevention Research Centre, and is currently in its tenth year with over a third of secondary schools in the country using the programme and with 300 trained facilitators. The programme uses the ‘life is a journey’ metaphor to explore four subjects: (1) change, loss and transition experiences; (2) navigating their movement through change, loss and transition in safe and adaptive ways; (3) linking how they think and feel about change, loss and transition situations and how their thoughts and feelings influence how they cope and respond; and (4) enhancing supportive environments and improving their learning outcomes (Travellers, 2014).  The programme ‘Kia Piki te Ora’ highlights the fact that young Maori men still have the highest suicide rates out of any age, gender or ethnicity in New Zealand.  As a whole the, “Maori youth suicide rate for 2011 was 36.4 per 100,000 Maori youth population – 2.4 times higher than that of non-Maori youth (15.1 per 100,000 non-Maori population)” (Ministry of Health, 2008).  In terms of online support, New Zealand has countless hotlines and websites specifically dedicated to youth, run by both the Ministry of Health and charities.

Lithuania

Since Lithuania’s 2002 suicide-prevention strategy was published, along with the Suicide prevention programme for 2003-2005 (approved in 2003), the only programme put into place in schools has been the aptly titled ‘Suicide Prevention Programme’ (2005) which was implemented to improve the skills of school teachers to identify students at risk of suicide – this programme finished in 2007 (ASPEN Project, 2007).  In terms of support offered to suicidal young people, there is a State-funded programme called Child-line which can be reached by phone, internet or post yet, “In 2005 there were 1.2 million attempts to reach the service by phone but only 50,000 could be answered” (European Union, 2007, 3). The only other youth-line available in Lithuania is that run by the Youth Psychological Aid Centre (YPAC) which has been running since 1993 with 12 staff and approximately 120 trained volunteers.  This charity runs the hotline, a mobile crisis intervention group, an internet counselling program with “Letters to a Friend” and a day-care centre for at-risk children and families.  It also organises annual suicide prevention concerts called “Choose Life” (JPPC, 2011).  In the 2007 Mental Health Briefing Sheet about Lithuania conducted by the European Union, the resistance towards suicide-prevention programmes and the field of mental health in general is briefly discussed, “Modern approaches in the field of public mental health are often met with resistance by dominant biomedical attitudes amongst a large part of the population, as well as major stakeholders and decision makers. Such attitudes based on historical tradition, which lacked tolerance of vulnerable groups, were associated with stigma and discrimination of people with mental health problems. Therefore reforms in the educational curriculum for the future public health professionals are being undertaken” (European Union, 2007, 4).  In this way Lithuania plans to use education as a means to combat the stigma of suicide and mental health.

Ireland

Ireland has been successfully integrating its suicide-prevention programmes within the national curriculum since 2003.  Ireland has pushed the envelope as to how much schools should be involved in students’ mental health through the ‘Social, Personal and Health Education” programme (SPHE)’ as can be witnessed in the Department of Health and Children’s 2005 publication ‘Reach Out’ (Ireland’s first suicide-prevention strategy), “Education about mental well-being and mental health problems should become an integral part of the school curriculum, starting in primary school. It is especially important to address the myths and stigma surrounding mental health which, for many young people, are barriers to seeking help for emotional and mental health problems. Finally, the support needs of staff in developing mental and emotional health promotion must be acknowledged and met” (21).  There is also information for schools as to how to best respond to suicide (tertiary post-vention), and the need for collaboration between departments, specifically the Department of Education and Science (DES) and the Department of Health and Children (DoHC). Ireland is also concentrating on anti-bullying programmes (‘Mental Health Matters’) as a form of suicide-prevention in collaboration with the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the National Youth Council and the National Youth Federation  (European Union, 2008, 3). Groups like ‘BeLonG’ are helping lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender youth who “are more likely to be medicated for depression and are more likely to engage in … deliberate self-harm” (Reach Out, 2005, 37). The Internet is also being utilised by many groups to provide information on suicide prevention, the most prominent being SpunOut which is run by youths for youths and aims to “guide young people through life with quality information and support as well as providing a platform for young people to express their opinions, realise that they are not alone and get heard” (European Union, 2008, 3).

Finland

And what of the first country to introduce suicide-prevention strategies and programmes in the world?  Finland’s school programme is named YHTEISPELI (meaning ‘playing and working together’) which aims at promoting “children’s socio-emotional development in kindergarten and in elementary school.  Tools and practices for teachers and other school personnel are being developed to enable schools to promote children’s psychological development more systematically and efficiently” (European Union, 2008, 2).  Finland’s other initiatives include the Effective Family project which works with parents suffering from severe mental illness to prevent their children from suffering the same fate. Finland is also the only country to target the gender imbalance in suicide rates which is common to all four countries.  The programme ‘Time Out! Getting Life Back on Track’ aims to develop a “psycho-social support programme for preventing the process of exclusion among young men. The purpose of the project is to develop the content of support interventions, draw up models for service organisation and to examine the impact of support interventions” (European Union, 2008, 2).

Discussion

If a hyper-globalist were to review the suicide-prevention strategies of Lithuania, New Zealand, Ireland and Finland she would find evidence of convergence: all four countries after all have almost identical strategies that wish to reduce suicide rates, implement programmes for specific groups, reduce means of suicide, support the bereaved, help the media in how to deliver news sensitively and support new research.  She would also find evidence of convergence in declining suicide rates, the disproportionate number of young men killing themselves compared to young women and the use of technology as a means to disseminate online suicide-prevention programmes. A glocalist, however, would find examples of hybridisation (and thus divergence) in all four countries from the nearly identical national strategies: New Zealand’s programmes targeted at secondary-school students rather than Finland’s and Ireland’s socio-emotional development programmes in primary schools; Lithuania’s lack of any available programmes compared to the ongoing commitment in the other three countries; and finally, how each country has tailor-made programmes for specific high-risk groups – Maori, LGBT and young men – for instance.  At the end of the day, as with any theory, one sees what they want to see, yet the hyper-globalist argument that national differences are eroding to create a ‘world culture’ fails to stand up in this case considering the vastly different programmes that are being implemented in each country (if any at all). Why Lithuania has been so reluctant to put any long-term programmes in place proves to be a very clear case of divergence, one that can be explained by Green’s (1997) theory that globalisation theory may describe convergence in Western countries but falls apart thereafter. In terms of suicide rates this proves to be the case too as the World Health Organization (2005) concluded that, “The gap between the newly independent states of the former Soviet Union (NIS) and European Union (EU) countries is 15.8 per 100 000 population.”  In terms of policy borrowing there is a clear-cut case that Finland’s geographical proximity to other Nordic countries led to similar strategies being implemented in such a small space of time, though it was the similar problem of high suicide-rates that led to Australia and New Zealand adopting similar practices from the other side of the world. After the new millennium, however, most countries’ national suicide strategies have no doubt been greatly influenced by supranational agencies and publications, like the World Health Organization’s “Monitoring survey on national suicide prevention programmes”.   

Conclusion

The comparison of four countries’ suicide prevention strategies and programmes  – the common thread running through the four being the high youth suicide rates they share – proves the glocalist theory that globalisation can only be seen to be eroding national differences if one ignores the finer details.  As the four case studies in Lithuania, New Zealand, Ireland and Finland have hopefully shown, there is a vast difference between policies and implementation, and though policies and national strategies might be converging, their implementation is still very much subject to cultural hybridisation.  There has been a convergence in national strategies for suicide-prevention, mostly thanks to policy borrowing in three situations: influence of supranational organisations, geographical proximity and a shared common problem. One can only hope that the continuing global reduction of suicide rates means these shared policies and their consequent programmes are working, no matter how they change to adapt to different environments.  

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