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Article

Esther Dominique Klein

Accountability has always been deemed a necessity for schools to fulfill their purpose in society. Because of the nature of their operational core, this has for a long time been based on bureaucratic and professional accountability in most countries. In the second half of the 20th century, several countries have started implementing instruments of managerial accountability. While bureaucratic accountability means that accountability is focused on functionality and regularity, and professional accountability means that the profession itself defines standards and mechanisms of holding one another accountable, managerial accountability focuses on the effectiveness of schools based on externally defined standards instead. In many countries, this change of focus in the accountability system has entailed strengthening the managerial power of school leadership and introducing performance measurement through tests and inspection. This has shifted the power balance between teachers and schools on the one hand, and education authorities on the other. At the same time, it has created the opportunity for schools to use the new data for improvement, albeit with varying results. The fact that so many countries have adopted managerial accountability accordingly is not based on evidence about its positive effects, but on convergence in an international organizational field. However, comparisons of accountability systems in the United Stated, Germany, and Finland show that the adoption of this global strategy is dependent on how it fits with the local institutional norms in each country. While the United States have traditionally had a system of managerial accountability, the other two countries have only recently supplemented their systems with elements of managerial accountability, and the instruments are therefore adapted to each context.

Article

In Germany, at the beginning of the 2000s, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) not only served as a catalyst for the development and implementation of an overall strategy for quality assurance and development of the state school systems. The school effectiveness movement has also brought the issue of educational inequality, which had been lost out of sight in the 1980s, back on the agenda. In ongoing reforms, the improvement of the educational success of children and young people with a migration history and/or a socioeconomically deprived family background has been declared a priority. However similar to the situation in Anglo-American countries, where output-oriented and data-driven school reforms have been implemented since the 1980s, considerable tensions and contradictions became visible between the New Educational Governance and a human rights- and democracy-oriented school development. A Foucauldian discourse analysis of central education and integration policy documents at the federal political level from 1964 to 2019 examined how, and with what consequences, demands of inclusion, social justice, and democracy were incorporated, (re)conceptualized, distorted, or excluded in the New Educational Governance, which was a new type of school reform in Germany. The results of the study indicate that the new regulations of school development are far from shaping school conditions in a human rights–based understanding of inclusion and democratic education. The plethora of measures taken to improve the school success of children and young people with a history of migration (in interaction with other dimensions of inequality such as poverty, gender, or special educational needs) is undermined by a far-reaching depoliticization of discourse and normative revaluations. In the interplay of epistemology, methodology, and categories of school effectiveness research with managerialist steering instruments, spaces for democratic school development and educational processes, in which aspects of plurality, difference, and discrimination can be thematized and addressed in concerted professional action, appear to be systematically narrowed or closed. But the case of Germany also discloses some opposed tendencies, associated with the strengthened human rights discourse and new legislation to combat discrimination.

Article

Bildung-centered general didactics is a tradition of schooling and teacher education in Germany and the Nordic countries. It originated from the late 18th century during the development of nation-states, when the professions had designated areas of responsibility. The teacher’s duty was to interpret the curriculum, transforming it into meaningful teaching for the students in the classroom. Teaching comprises the totality of the three aspects of any teaching situation; the teacher, the student, and content, and their relations in specific practices. Bildung-centered general didactics puts content to the fore. It is a hermeneutical discipline centered on the topics of the culture as a whole. Bildung, in German and Nordic general didactics, is a concept grasping the normative ideals behind any educational phenomenon. Hence, the meaning of Bildung will vary from culture to culture and across time. However, the idea of Bildung is mostly associated with the ideals of modernity in Western history; the core question being how to educate autonomous and responsible democratic citizens. Since then, pedagogy has implied a paradox: how to cultivate the freedom of individuals through the exercise of power. Bildung-centered general didactics centers on this paradox in theory and practice, and at the macro and micro levels of the educational system. The most influential Bildung-centered general didactic approach is that of Wolfgang Klafki (1927–2016). Klafki’s primary term is categorical Bildung, a dialectic of the content and the student, and a didactic analysis as the means for teachers to contribute to the empowerment of students.