During the 2000s the educational policy discourse was sharpened, and the dominant learning discourse set the agenda. Policy programs and educational reforms seek to optimize learning by focusing on the teacher and demands for “high professionalism.” High teacher professionalism, it has been argued, promotes learning and is combined with functions, often concisely expressed as, for example, “learning management” and “digital formation.” Although this much-hyped political rhetoric is criticized, it is necessary to define appropriate concepts of professionalism as well as clarification on the significations of teacher practice, teacher role, and didactical functions. The meaning and consequences of changing demands for teacher professionalism appear during the process of “didactization.” Based on research findings from long-term fieldwork, a cross-case analysis is presented, drawing on Danish examples from 1980 to 2020. The examples referred to are: (a) the interdisciplinary and project-oriented university environment (from the 1980s); (b) developments in elementary school (from the 1990s); (c) IT classes in upper secondary school (from the 2000s); and (d) online learning and e-pedagogy in a nursing education program (from the 2010s). An overview of the spectrum of changing teacher functions and contemporary challenges is provided.
Barbara Crossouard and Máiréad Dunne
Education has been a central institution in the installation and legitimation of gender binaries and racialized difference in colonial and postcolonial eras. While the term “postcolonial” can refer to the period after which colonized nations gained their independence, a postcolonial critique also engages with the afterlife of the metaphysics of Western modernity. Notably, the imperial project of Western modernity assumed the superiority of the colonizers and provided the legitimation for the deep injustices of colonization to be framed as a “civilizing mission.” In particular, the processes of colonization imposed a “modern/colonial gender system,” which reconstructed the gender norms of many societies around the world, and which subordinated women by binding them to the domestic sphere. Its “biologic” presumed a heterosexual matrix in ways that were also profoundly racialized. Importantly, education was a critical institution that not only legitimated Western knowledges and values, but also secured women’s regulation and subordination. In postcolonial eras, education was given central importance in ways that have tied it to modern imperatives. For the newly independent postcolonial nation, education was critical in the construction of a national imaginary but this framing has reproduced rather than disrupting colonial gender norms. Harnessing education in support of national development inserted the postcolonial nation in a hierarchy of “developed” and “developing” nations. The focus on development similarly permeated efforts at curricular reform, such that they often reproduced the gendered, racialized, and classed hierarchies of colonial education. What counted as legitimate knowledge remained framed by Western elite institutions and their technologies of power. Importantly, from the moment of their independence, the global reach of multilateral organizations has constantly framed the postcolonial trajectories of “developing” nations and their educational reforms. Although often contradictory, the discourses of such organizations intensified the imperatives of education for national development. This compounded pressures to increase educational access beyond elite groups and to include more females. However, the technologies of power that support these international policy agendas bind such reforms to modern imperatives, so that they have become a critical site for the reinscription of binary understandings of gender. This is also true for contemporary international concerns for “quality” education. This is prosecuted largely through promotion of learner-centered education, a concept that is also infused with Western democratic ideals and values. Interrogation of the “hidden curriculum” further shows that the education in postcolonial contexts remains a key institution through which gender is instantiated in essentialized and binary ways, infused by modern ideals of presumptive heteronormativity. Resisting such binaries requires an understanding of gender as something that we “do,” or that we “perform,” within the contingencies and exigencies of particular social and cultural contexts. In turn, these theoretical understandings call for in-depth qualitative studies that can attend to the particularities of the gender regimes in different educational contexts and other intersecting structures of difference (race, ethnicity, religion, class, sexuality) that are rendered invisible by education’s legitimation of difference as a question of disembodied individual merit and ability.
Sukanya Chaemchoy, Thunwita Sirivorapat Puthpongsiriporn, and Gerald W. Fry
Thai higher education has a long history dating back to the 19th century. Its great modernizer, King Chulalongkorn the Great, was visionary in realizing the importance of expanding education to modernize his kingdom and avoid Western colonization. Thailand was the only country in Southeast Asia never to have been colonized. The country’s first formal institution of higher education, Chulalongkorn University, was established in 1917, named in honor of this visionary king. Since that time, Thai higher education has evolved in diverse ways. Key trends have been (a) massification, (b) privatization, (c) diversification, and (d) internationalization. Massification began in the 1960s with the opening of universities in each of Thailand’s major regions. In the 1970s, two open universities with huge enrollments were established. One of those, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University (STOU), was a university without walls, serving students throughout the Kingdom. Then Thailand’s teacher training colleges became a large system of comprehensive Rajabhat Universities (38 universities, across every region of the nation). In 1969, authority was granted for private universities to be established, and over the past decades there has been a proliferation of such institutions (now totaling 71). Thailand’s system of higher education is highly diverse, with many different genres of institutions under 12 different ministries and agencies. Another important trend is internationalization, with a dramatic growth in the number of international programs and students during the period 2000-2020. Major reforms of higher education have been primarily structural in nature. In 2003, the Ministry of University Affairs merged with the Ministry of Education (MOE) to become one of its five major commissions, the Office of the Higher Education Commission (OHEC). Then in 2019, OHEC was moved out of the MOE to become part of a new Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation (MHESI). As the nation moves into the decade of the 2020s, Thai higher education faces major challenges. The most critical is declining enrollments, primarily the result of Thailand’s great success in reducing its fertility rate. With the dramatic growth in higher education institutions, there are simply inadequate numbers of Thai students to fill available spots. A second related issue is the problem of the quality of Thai higher education. Reflective of this problem is the failure of any Thai higher education institutions to be highly ranked in international systems. Many of Thailand’s best students choose to study overseas. Another major issue is funding, with problems related to the ways funds are spent and the low pay of university professors. Also related to the funding issue is Thailand’s low ranking on how much it spends on research and development. This important area receives inadequate priority, though there were significant improvements in 2018 and 2019. There are also curricular issues in terms of what students should be taught and how, as well as concerns that Thai students are not being adequately prepared for the new digital 4.0 knowledge economy. In 2021, Thailand is mired in a “middle-income trap,” and to move beyond that, it is imperative that Thailand improve the quality, equity, and efficiency of its higher education system.
Kimberley Pressick-Kilborn, Melissa Silk, and Jane Martin
STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education has become a global agenda, with schooling systems around the world in developed and developing countries seeking to incorporate STEM programs into their in-school and out-of-school curricula. While disciplinary integration has been common practice in primary (elementary) schooling for many decades, in the early 21st century the STEM education movement has promoted an increased focus on project- and problem-based learning across disciplines in secondary schools as well. Research suggests, however, that STEM education programs can face barriers in their implementation, often depending on whether they are designed to align with existing curriculum outcomes or whether they are developed as cocurricular programs. Challenges are also presented by the need for professional learning to equip teachers with new skills and knowledge in designing and delivering STEM education. In addition, some researchers and educators have argued for STEAM—integration of the arts in STEM education. For those concerned with school reform, a great strength of STEM and STEAM education approaches lies in the potential for transdisciplinarity. As such, new opportunities and possibilities for framing driving questions and addressing contemporary societal challenges are created. Two particular issues identified as critical are (a) the potential contribution of STEM education to creating a sustainable future, and (b) the importance of STEM education for social justice, in ensuring all children and young people have equitable access to learning opportunities.
Since the 1980s there has been significant reform in the development, delivery, and evaluation of all areas of public policy and services provision, including schooling. The reforms are prompted by a general “turn” from direct government determination and provision of public services to indirect governance undertaken by a mixture of public, private, and philanthropic actors. Orthodoxies about public sector governance and schooling system reform have shifted over this time from a preference for bureaucracy to preferences for markets, contracts, and most recently social networks. Schooling system governance in many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries has seen devolution of substantial statutory powers, responsibilities, and accountabilities to local parent communities or shared-interest coalitions, both for-profit and not-for-profit. Schooling policy, governance, and services provision work is now distributed across multiple state, parastatal, and nongovernmental actors. Trust in the actions of others within devolved and distributed systems is identified as an essential social lubricant of contemporary schooling governance and reform. Studies of the role played by trust in schooling systems remain relatively rare.
Alex Kostogriz and Nikolay Veresov
The concept of the zone of proximal development (ZPD) emerged in the cultural-historical theory of Vygotsky as a result of the broader quest for a new psychology and forms of education in the post-revolutionary Soviet Union. The project of unprecedented socioeconomic transformations created a political demand for education that would build intellectual, physical, and moral capabilities of the new generation of young people. Cultural-historical psychology, at that point in time, emerged as a result of such a demand, investigating the development of psychological functions and the role of education and upbringing in mediating this process. This meant an advancement of the study of mental activity as embedded in social and cultural practices where any intellectual function appears, first, on the social plane and then on the psychological plane of the child. The concept of the ZPD was formed as a result of this genetic law of psychological development that laid a methodological foundation of the new psychology. In terms of developing this foundation, Vygotsky was among the first psychologists to apply the principles of dialectics, searching for a fundamentally new approach to the analysis and explanation of psychological phenomena, especially their causal-dynamic nature. The concept of the ZPD is illustrative of Vygotsky’s dialectical method insofar as it represents the development of the child as a unity of contradictory relations between her actual level of development and the potential level that the child can achieve in collaboration with others. Initially, Vygotsky introduced the ZPD as a diagnostic principle of defining the child’s abilities to collaborate with others in order to determine the area of evolving and future intellectual functions, rather than evaluating the outcomes of the child’s past development. By prioritizing the role of collaboration in the development of intellectual functions, Vygotsky’s ZPD bridged the world of psychological development and the world of education. The ZPD, from this perspective, opens up the internal relation between development and education, with the process of education leading the development of intellectual functions. Education creates opportunities for children to build their future capabilities, wakening up, as it were, those processes that could not be possible without their participation in intersubjective encounters or dialogical classroom events. The ZPD, in a pedagogical sense, is a social space of learning and communication in which children can build their consciousness, understandings, self-regulation, and agency. Yet, this is also a space where children’s differences and particularities are most visible. Depending on how diversity is recognized, the process of education can either stimulate or repress intellectual development.
Christopher B. Crowley
The study of the curriculum and educational knowledge is a study of ideology. The curriculum is never neutral. It always reflects or embodies ideological positions. Ideologies present within the curriculum are negotiated and formulated through multilayered processes of strategic compromise, assent, and resistance. And as such, the curriculum ideologies become operationalized in both overt and hidden means—constructing subjects and objects of knowledge in active as well as passive ways. Teaching is always a political act, and discussions and debates over curriculum ideologies have a long history within the field of curriculum studies. In terms of its function related to the organization and valuing of knowledge, it remains important to recognize not only the contested nature of the curriculum but also how such contestations have ideological dimensions in the framing of the curriculum. Curriculum ideologies manifest in terms of what might be thought of as values, visions of the future, and venues or forms. This is to say, the curriculum is imbued with processes for valuing assumed choices related to its design, development, and implementation. These choices draw from ideologically based assumptions about the curriculum’s basis in political, economic, historical, sociocultural, psychological, and other realities—whether they be discursive or material in effect. Additionally, these curriculum choices also pertain to the means by which the curriculum achieves these goals or objectives through the formulation of designed experiences, activities, or other forms of learning opportunities. The curriculum—in certain regards as finding principle in the conveying of knowledge through a system of organization related to an outset purpose—has, as a central component to some degree, a vision of a future. The curriculum is something simultaneously constructed and enacted in the present, with often the expressed purpose of having implications and ramifications for the future. The curriculum’s role and purpose in constructing both tested and untested or imagined feasibilities again has to do with some type of vision of learning inflected by ideology. This may even take the form of envisioning a future that is actually a vision of the past in some form, or perhaps a returning to a remembered time that may have existed for some but not others, or by extension a similarly romanticized remembering of a mythic past, for instance. Ultimately, the curriculum, whether translated into practice or in being developed conceptually, is in all likelihood never exclusively one of these, but instead is in all probability an amalgamation of such to differing degrees wherein a multitude of possibilities and combinations exist. Among the key questions of curriculum studies that remain central in terms of both analyzing and theorizing the curriculum are: Whose knowledge counts and what is worthwhile? These questions help to raise to a level of concern the ideological underpinnings of all curricula in ways that through sustained critical dialog might work to collectively build a more sustainably just and equitable world.
Wenyang Sun and Xue Lan Rong
Language education is becoming an increasingly important topic in education in Asian countries, especially as schools in Asian countries have become more multilingual and multicultural as a result of rapid urbanization and globalization. A comparative analysis of the issues in language education reform in Asian countries—using China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore as examples—shows that, historically and currently, English language education policies are shaped by various underpinning ideologies such as linguicism, nationalism, and neoliberalism. English can serve as a vehicle for upward socioeconomic mobility, or an instrument of linguistic imperialism, or both, in Asia contexts. These ideologies, through language education policies and reforms, impact the status as well as the pedagogy and promotion of the English language. There is a trend and a need with regard to addressing critical consciousness in English education in order to counter the forces of linguicism and neoliberalism in an increasingly multilingual, multicultural, and globalized world.
Nicholas D. Hartlep
Stereotyping Asian Americans as successful or model minorities is not positive. Instead, it is a form of racist love that reinforces White supremacy. How can a positive stereotype reinforce White supremacy? Because the process of revering Asian Americans as model minorities leads to other groups of people, such as people of color and Indigenous people, being reviled. But if the model minority characterization of Asian Americans is inaccurate, what should curriculum studies scholars do? Disproving a “stereotype” is impossible. Curriculum studies scholars and theorists should not attempt to disconfirm something that is untrue, or something that is racist, but instead should narrate the reality of being Asian American. The model minority stereotype of Asian Americans has been studied and contested over 50 years within the context of the United States. Over these 50 plus years, the model minority stereotype has taken on a transcendent meaning. Overcoming the dominance of Whiteness requires Asian Americans to transcend “positive” stereotypes via critical storytelling. This will require curriculum studies as a field to continue to interrogate: What are the realities of living in racist Amerika for Asian Americans?
Paul Farber and Dini Metro-Roland
Moral education and technology seem to represent two fundamentally different kinds of concern and domains of inquiry. But these domains are fused in educational practice. Teaching as a fundamental human endeavor and form of activity has been a central component of human cultural evolution and regeneration from the earliest human social groupings. As a distinctive form of activity, teaching braids together ethical and instrumental norms and values. The modern, global institution of schooling has added layers of institutional support, constraint, and governance on the teaching it structures as well as increased scrutiny of the ethical and instrumental values in play; schooling is in effect a kind of moral technology for advancing certain norms and values in an efficient way. At present, technological developments with modern society make possible new forms of teaching and learning that likewise warrant scrutiny as they impact the ethical and instrumental ends of teaching and instructional practices today.