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Critical Policy Discourse Analysis in Higher Education  

Jane Mulderrig

Critical Policy Discourse Analysis (CPDA) is a method for critically investigating the linguistic mechanisms by which education policy is constituted and contested in specific contexts. It involves a systematic methodology for textual and contextual analysis, designed to explore historically specific policy problems and their ideological significance. The analytical procedures involved in this approach are illustrated by means of a case study examining the introduction of quality-assurance governance practices and market-oriented reforms to U.K. higher education (HE). Specifically, the “Teaching Excellence Framework,” introduced in 2017, has two core purposes: to audit and rank universities by teaching quality and to open up the university market to private (for-profit) providers. The two main government documents which introduced this policy are examined in order to explore the prominent themes within this policy, as well as the linguistic strategies that contribute to its ideological framing. A critical investigation of the language through which this policy was introduced and legitimated reveals the neoliberal principles which underpin it and demonstrates how it operates as a dehumanizing technique of calculation and surveillance, while subordinating universities’ societal role to the needs of the economy. Corpus-aided methods are combined with a framework for close textual analysis of policy data, focussing on presuppositions, evaluation, modality and pronouns. The analysis shows the systematic linguistic processes by which student-consumer subjectivities are constructed and the rhetoric of “choice” and “value for money” is (mis)represented as the key to greater access and social mobility for students. This policy takes a significant step toward recasting educational relations in extrinsic, exchange-value terms, which are deeply damaging to universities’ original purpose of building communities of critical reflection, intellectual freedoms, and trust.

Article

Teacher Education in Poland  

Joanna Madalinska-Michalak

Teacher education in Poland is viewed as a lifelong journey, encompassing preservice training, induction, and ongoing professional development. The primary emphasis is on empowering teachers as perpetual learners and tailoring their education to meet individual needs, as well as the needs of educational institutions and students. In Poland, teacher education is deeply integrated with higher education and has been shaped by substantial reforms. The current landscape of teacher education in Poland is a result of significant reforms initiated by the state, aligning with the Bologna process. The Bologna process aims to harmonize higher education systems across Europe by establishing the European Higher Education Area. This facilitates student and staff mobility, enhances inclusivity and accessibility, and boosts the competitiveness of European higher education globally. The changes in teacher education in Poland have also emphasized quality assurance, qualifications frameworks, recognition processes, and more. The overarching objective is to elevate the quality of teaching and learning. Comparative analysis of Poland’s teacher education system and international findings suggests several policy initiatives that should be implemented. These initiatives can be broadly categorized into two sets: strategies aimed at improving the status and competitiveness of the teaching profession, and targeted approaches for attracting and retaining specific types of teachers, particularly in specific schools. To enhance teacher education in Poland, recommendations include limiting the number of teacher education candidates based on demand, increasing funding, and implementing more selective admission processes within higher education institutions. Moreover, strengthening support for teacher mentors and improving the socioprofessional position of teachers is seen as essential. Attracting and recruiting the best teachers in Poland is a critical challenge, particularly in the face of emerging trends and teacher shortages. To address this issue effectively, it is essential to improve the image of the teaching profession, enhance working conditions, and provide incentives for aspiring educators. Additionally, more flexible teacher education programs that accommodate a diverse range of candidates and prepare teachers for the changing educational landscape are necessary to ensure a continuous supply of high-quality teachers.

Article

Multilingualism in Monolingual Schools and the German Example  

Ingrid Gogolin

The majority of European countries consider themselves as monolingual nation-states. Some exceptions are countries composed of different linguistic territories, such as Belgium and Switzerland. Another form of exception is countries where certain territories are inhabited by linguistic minorities who are granted particular linguistic rights. Monolingualism with exceptions for special constellations or cases is therefore considered the “linguistic normality” in European nations. This understanding of normality is also reflected in the nations’ public institutions and is particularly pronounced in the national education systems. The linguistic reality in Europe, however, contrasts with this notion of normality. Since time immemorial, the regions that have become European nation-states have been characterized by linguistic diversity, not only across but also within their boundaries. Since the second half of the 20th century, however, the number of languages that are vital and used daily has considerably increased. The most important driver of this development is international migration. Some European countries—Germany in particular—belong to the most attractive immigration destinations of the world. Despite of this reality, European national education systems largely persist in their monolingual mindset—or in other words: in a monolingual habitus. This ambiguity can be amply illustrated by the example of the German education system. Education research shows that it belongs to the causes of educational disadvantage for children from immigrant families. This is precisely why innovation initiatives have been launched to mitigate the risks to teaching and learning associated with multilingualism, while making the best use of the resources offered by linguistic diversity to all children—be they growing up in monolingual or multilingual families.

Article

Anti-oppression Education  

Tonya D. Callaghan, Jamie L. Anderson, Caitlin A. Campbell, and Nicole Richard

Throughout history, education systems have operated as a primary mode of socialization wherein students are invited to learn about the world around them by way of dominant narratives that define what is “normal” and “commonsense.” To that end, schooling bifurcates the “normal” from the “Other,” ascribing power to one and over the other. Both explicit and implicit curricula reinforce hegemonic ideologies and serve to reproduce social structures of power through racism, sexism, coloniality, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, and more. Despite the insistence of pedagogical and curricular neutrality, schools are places in which bodies and knowledge are perpetually regulated. As a result of the unequal power dynamic between teachers and students, educators regularly participate in the transmission of hegemonic ideologies and values in their practices. Anti-oppression education (AOE) refers to the mobilizing of pedagogy, curricula, and policymaking to work against the modes of oppression that operate within and outside of schools. Specifically, AOE is concerned with challenging the normalization of inequities at the nexus of race, sex, gender, ability, place of origin, et cetera. Drawing on critical theories, including queer theory, intersectional feminism, and critical race theory, AOE captures numerous pedagogical practices that attend to the social construction of knowledge and consider alternative ways of being, thinking, and doing. In that way, AOE not only seeks to disrupt the repetitions of discursive violence and the material inequities that result from systemic oppression but also aims to reimagine the purpose of schooling altogether as a means for transformation and liberation. Despite waves of political resistance in Canada and the United States that demonize AOE praxis as left-wing radicalism, there remains a need to further examine the role that anti-oppressive practices can play in transforming education systems and improving the well-being of students, staff, and school communities.

Article

COVID-19 and Pupils’ Learning  

Katharina Werner and Ludger Woessmann

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the life of school children in major ways. In many countries, schools were closed for several months, with various modes of distance learning in place. This challenged pupils’ learning experiences. In addition, social-distancing rules impeded their peer interactions, potentially impeding their socio-emotional development. We summarize the available evidence on how the pandemic affected the educational inputs provided by children, parents, and schools, how it impacted children’s cognitive and socio-emotional skills, and whether the experiences will leave a persistent legacy for the children’s long-run development. The evidence suggests that in most countries, a majority of children experienced substantial losses in the development of cognitive skills. The learning losses tend to be highly unequal, with children from low-socioeconomic-status families and children with low initial achievement suffering the largest losses. The COVID-19 pandemic also interfered with the socio-emotional well-being of many children, although serious longer-term repercussions to their socio-emotional development may be restricted to a limited subgroup of children. Because child development is a dynamic and synergistic process, in the absence of successful remediation the initial skill losses are likely to reduce subsequent skill development, lifetime income, and economic growth and increase educational and economic inequality in the long run.

Article

Critical Qualitative Research and Educational Policy  

Madeline Good and Sarah Diem

Critical qualitative research is full of possibilities and explorations that can assist in transforming systems for social change and the public good. It is an approach to research that at its core is concerned with the role of power; how it manifests in systems, structures, policies, and practice; and how contexts can contribute to and reify power and its deleterious effects. The use of critical qualitative methods and methodologies within the field of education has grown significantly since the 1990s. This is a large area of work that encompasses studies throughout the spectrum of educational topics, from early childhood learning to higher education and beyond. In the area of educational policy, while scholars use a multitude of critical qualitative methodologies and methods, critical policy analysis (CPA) has continued to grow in popularity. CPA provides opportunities for researchers to question policy in general––how it is formed, implemented, and evaluated, as well as its assumed impact. It is appealing because it gives space for scholars to not only critique educational policy issues but also offer new perspectives, approaches, and alternatives to the policy process. Critical inquiry, however, does not occur within a vacuum, so the dynamics of conducting critical qualitative research within a hyperpolarized sociopolitical context must also be considered. Contentious times make it increasingly important for critical qualitative scholars to (re)commit to the work of transforming education with the goal of creating a more just society. There are a multitude of hopes and opportunities for this burgeoning area of critical research, challenging us all to not only look toward creative approaches when studying issues of educational policy but also to persistently interrogate how our own positionalities and relations impact the work we do.

Article

School Choice Policies in Postapartheid South Africa  

Bekisizwe S. Ndimande

School choice is a fairly new phenomenon among Black communities in postapartheid South Africa. “Choice” has historically been state-determined; in other words, parents were instructed where to send their children to school based on race and based on the urban/rural homeland division of Black South Africans. Even after 1994, the new and democratically elected government gave very little direction to schools or school districts as to school choice for the purpose of desegregating public schools; there was no bussing, for example, as in the United States when desegregation started in the 1960s. Nor was there a strong rezoning policy that would force White public schools to give Black students access to White schools. In theory and according to the law, parents could choose to send their children to any school regardless of race. In practice, White schools determined who gained access to their schools through self-created policies based on high tuition fees, exclusive language policies, and self-defined “catchment areas” from which students would be chosen. Together, these strategies effectively excluded the Black poor, even though it provided access to the small numbers of Black middle class parents in the mainly English-medium White schools.

Article

Ethnic Minority Education in China  

Mei Wu, MaryJo Benton Lee, Forrest W. Parkay, and Paul E. Pitre

The introduction of bilingual education, the institution of preferential policies, and the implementation of 9-year compulsory schooling and its strengthening measures have resulted in educational attainments that are significant for a country with the size and diversity of China. The percentage of the ethnic minority students receiving education has increased greatly since the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949; however, bilingual education is still challenging because of an inadequate supply of qualified teachers and other resources. Preferential policies created educational opportunities for ethnic minorities but did not improve educational quality. Instead, these policies created disparities among different ethnic groups and the Han who live in ethnic minority areas. China’s minority groups are diverse, and its policymaking mechanisms are highly centralized. Designing programs that allow ethnic minorities to benefit from the PRC’s rapid economic development will continue to be a challenge.

Article

An Overview of Historical Transitions in Politics of Education in Spain  

Gonzalo Jover and Mariano González-Delgado

Politics of education constitutes a major line of research in Spain in recent years. This interest is the result of a long process. Enlightened thought and the emergence of new ideas led to thinking about the need to develop a national education system. The 19th century witnessed the birth of just such a system, along with the unfinished debate between liberals and conservatives on who should control education (church or state) and how it should be funded. By the 20th century, the education system had become one of the main resources for achieving social modernization in Spain and grew accordingly. Despite the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), this push for modernization carried on into the Franco dictatorship, with the typical peculiarities of a totalitarian regime. By the end of World War II, the Spanish education system was characterized by following the development of educational policies inscribed in the model of Western societies, or what has been called “global governance in education.” This conception of education was continued during the restoration of democracy in 1978. Despite its intention of configuring an education system based on the agreement between the major political parties of the day, the Constitution of 1978 did not manage to end the “school war,” which has caused considerable instability in the system. Since the end of the 20th century, the Spanish education system has been inserted in the context of international trends such as the resizing of political spaces, the push of the neoliberal global economy, and the move toward multicultural societies. The battle of statistics, figures, and scores has led to a supposed depoliticization of the debate. In face of this alleged depoliticization, an argument can be made in favor of resituating the politics of education as a field of knowledge that concerns social aspirations forged in the course of history and ethics.

Article

Student Voice, Inequalities, and Class  

Rachel Finneran, Eve Mayes, and Rosalyn Black

It is well-understood that systems of education tend to disproportionately benefit already advantaged social groups. Students have been positioned in recent reform efforts as agents with the right to be involved in decision-making on an increasing range of issues related to their education, in practices commonly termed “student voice” in policy, practice, and research. Student voice has been argued to be a mechanism to intervene in educational inequalities and a means to enhance students’ choices at school. Student voice is frequently represented as a neutral proposition: that is, that students’ involvement in decision-making will directly benefit both the school and the students themselves. This apparently neutral proposition elides how, in practice, some students may benefit from experiences of “student voice” more than others. Critiques of student voice, as well as contemporary calls for a return to class analysis in education, compel attention to the potential ways that student voice practices can aggravate existing inequalities. Classed dynamics contour even well-intentioned attempts to intervene in educational inequalities. The dynamic experience of class has shifted in relation to student voice across contexts and over time, particularly in individualistic, market-driven educational systems structured by the rhetoric of “choice.” Further research into the shifting nature of class in relation to student voice may include longitudinal processes of “studying up” to understand how student voice can be mobilized to cultivate educational advantage and distinction in class-privileged schooling contexts. What is also needed is a renewed uptake of the concept of class consciousness in student-voice practice—that is, beyond voice as a strategy to personalize individual students’ learning and toward enactments of student voice as collective work—if student voice is to disrupt the reproduction of structural inequalities through schooling.