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Article

Since the 1990s gender has become a prominent priority in global education policy. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs, 2000–2015) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, which replaced the MDGs) influence the educational planning of most low- and middle-income countries, along with the work of the various actors in the field. The historical antecedents to this era of gender and education policy include international development research beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, the Women’s Conferences in Mexico City (1985) and Beijing (1995), and increasingly nuanced academic research on gender and international development in the early decades of the 2000s. What began as calls to include girls in schooling and women in international development programs has become a much more complex attempt to ensure gender equity in education and in life. A wide variety of key policy actors are involved in these processes and in shaping policy, including the World Bank, the UN agencies (primarily UNICEF and UNESCO), governments (both donors and recipients of international assistance), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), corporations and private entities, and consultants. Partnerships among various actors have been common in the late 20th century and early 21st century. Persistent issues in the early 21st century include (a) the tension between striving to attend to quality concerns while increasing efforts to measure progress, (b) gender-based violence (GBV), and (c) education for adolescents and adolescence. These challenges are closely linked to how key concepts are conceptualized. How “gender” is understood (distinct from or conflated with sex categories) leads to particular ways of thinking about policy and practice, from counting girls and boys in classrooms (prioritizing sex categories and numerical patterns), toward a more complex understanding of gender as a social construction (and so presents options for curricular strategies to influence gendered social norms). Men and boys are acknowledged, mostly when they are perceived to be disadvantaged, and less often to challenge hypermasculinity or male privilege. Sexuality and gender identity are just beginning to emerge in formal policy in the early 21st century. Gender relations and patriarchy remain on the periphery of official policy language. Equity (fairness) is often reduced to equality (equal treatment despite differences in needs or interests). Although empowerment is theorized in research, in policy it is used inconsistently, sometimes falling short of the theoretical framings. Two broader concepts are also important to consider in global education policy, namely, intersectionality and neoliberalism. Engaging intersectionality more robustly could make policy more relevant locally; as of 2020, this concept has not made its way into global policy discourses. Neoliberalism, on the other hand, is a strong influence in shaping policy in gender and education globally, yet it is seldom made explicit. Building policy on a stronger conceptual foundation would enrich gender and education policy.

Article

Transnational flows of educational knowledge and research are fundamentally guided by the global geopolitics of knowledge—the historically constituted relations of power born out of the continuing legacy of modernity/coloniality. In the early nation-building stage of the 19th century, state-funded education was at the core of states’ pursuit for economic and social progress. Newly formed nation states actively sought new educational knowledge from countries considered more advanced in the global race toward modernity and industrialization. The transnational lesson drawing in education at the time was guided by the view of modernity as originating in and diffusing from the West. This created the unidirectional flow of educational influence from advanced economies of the West to the rest of the world. Central to the rise of modernity in Western state formation is the use of education as a technology of social regulations. Through the expansion of state-funded education, people were turned into the people, self-governing citizens, and then the population that was amenable to a state’s social and economic calculation and military deployment. But this development was embedded in the geopolitical context of the time, in which Western modernity was deeply entangled with its underside, coloniality in the rest of the world. Various uses of education as a social control were tested out first in colonial peripheries and then brought back to the imperial centers. Today, the use of education for the modernist pursuit of perfecting society has been intensified through the constitution of the globalized education policy space. International organizations such as the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) act as the nodes through which transnational networks of education policy actors are formed, where the power of statistics for social and educational progress is widely shared. Both developed and developing countries are increasingly incorporated into this shared epistemological space, albeit through different channels and due to different factors. The rise of international academic testing such as OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has certainly changed the traditional pattern of education research and knowledge flows, and more lesson drawing from countries and regions outside the Anglo-European context is pursued. And yet, the challenges that PISA poses to the Eurocentric pattern of educational knowledge and research flows are curtailed by the persistence of the colonial legacy. This most clearly crystalizes in the dismissive and derogatory characterization of East Asian PISA high achievers in the recent PISA debate. Hence, the current globalization of education knowledge and research remains entangled with the active legacy of coloniality, the uneven global knowledge structure.

Article

Educational inequality is a persistent feature on the landscape of Irish educational history, and it remains a significant issue in the early part of the 21st century. There have been significant efforts at school reform in recent decades to intervene in a system that continues to provide significantly different outcomes based on socioeconomic position and background. These differentiated outcomes continue to be exacerbated by structural inequalities in the lives of people as well as by an increasing focus on neoliberal market principles in education. Interschool competition, particularly at the postprimary level, has fueled an ever-increasing marketplace where schools vie for desirable middle-class students through media-published school league tables. Indeed, this competitive landscape is partly constructed by an intense and high stakes race for third level places in Ireland. Nevertheless, significant policy measures have also been aimed at leveling the playing field and providing opportunities for people in communities that are more marginalized in terms of economic status and educational outcomes. Some of these policy interventions have had some impact in terms of retention in postprimary school, including the Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools program; curricular interventions into education such as the Junior Certificate Schools Programme; the Leaving Certificate Applied Programme; and the allocation of additional teaching resources to schools experiencing marginalization. Schemes such as the Higher Education Access Route and the Disability Access Route to Education have also done important work in terms of ameliorating opportunities for students from marginalized economic groups and students with disabilities, respectively. However, there are overarching sociopolitical ideologies that work to maintain educational inequality in Ireland, such as the significant impact of neoliberal choice policies on schools in communities experiencing poverty and educational marginalization. These neoliberal ideas are characterized by increasing focus on outcomes, testing and assessment, school and teacher accountabilities, within-school and between-school competition in terms of admissions policies, and “syphoningoff” high-achieving students (academically, musically, sports, etc.), and they often manifest in blunt instruments such as school league tables. These policies often benefit citizens with wealth and cultural capital who use their position to distance themselves educationally from the complexity and diversity of everyday society in favor of academic and cultural silos that work to reproduce advantage for the elite sectors of society.

Article

Anna Hogan and Greg Thompson

In the literature, a range of terminology is used to describe the reorganization of public education. In much critical policy sociology the terms marketization, privatization, and commercialization are used interchangeably. Our argument is that each of these denotes distinct, albeit related, characteristics of contemporary schooling and the impact of the Global Education Industry (GEI). We define marketization as the series of policy logics that aim to create quasimarkets in education; privatization as the development of quasimarkets in education that privilege parental choice, school autonomy and venture philanthropy; and commercialization as the creation, marketing, and sale of educational goods and services to schools by external providers. We explain the manifestations of each of these forms and offer two cases of actors situated within the GEI, the OECD, and Pearson PLC, to outline how commercialization and privatization proceed at the level of policy and practice.

Article

Satoshi P. Watanabe, Machi Sato, and Masataka Murasawa

The aim of internationalization for Japan during the early postwar period, still emerging from being an ODA (Official Development Assistance) recipient nation, was to promote student exchanges and mutual understanding across nations. Japan then successfully shifted its role to that of an ODA provider in the 1970s, engaging as a responsible citizen in the international community. However, the nation’s competitive edge has slipped with a long-stagnating economy from the mid-1990s onward, the national target has shifted from the ODA provider role towards desperate attempts to regain the lost edge through public investment in research and development as well as promoting internationalization of the nation. As the notions of world-class universities and global university rankings have prevailed worldwide over the last decade or so, the recent policies established by the Japanese government in response to an increasingly competitive and globalizing environment of higher education have transformed to leveraging domestic universities to compete for placement in the global university rankings. Balancing the reputation demonstrated in the global university rankings and generated inequalities in the service and quality of education provided among these institutions seems to be critically lacking in the current debate and hasty movement toward internationalization by the Japanese government. These hastily made policies do have some strong potential to build Japan’s universities into stronger institutions for learning, research, and producing globally competitive graduates. However, thorough long-range planning, keen insight into the overall impact of the policies, and clear long-term goals will be critical in attaining success.

Article

William T. Pink

From a comprehensive analysis of the extant educational literature on school change, it is evident that two activities are essential for the successful reform of schools in the United States. While the focus in this article will be on the programmatic shifts implemented in U.S. schools, the danger of exporting these same failed programs to other countries also will be noted. The first requirement is a systematic critique of the major school reform strategies that have been employed since the 1960s (e.g., the Effective Schools model, standardized testing and school accountability, the standards movement, privatization of schools, charter schools, and virtual/cyber schools). The major conclusion of this critique is that each of these reform strategies has done little to alter the connection between schooling and their production of labor for the maintenance of Western capitalism: beginning in the early 1970s an increasingly strong case has been made that the design and goal of U.S. schooling has been driven by the need to produce an endless supply of differentiated workers to sustain the U.S. economy. Moreover, while both equality and equity have entered the conversations about school reform during this period, it becomes evident that the relative position of both poor students and students of color, with respect to their more affluent White peers, has remained at best unchanged. The second essential requirement is the exploration of an alternative vision for school reform that is grounded in a perspective of equity, both in schools and in the society. Beginning with the question “What would schools look like, and what would be the role of the teacher in a school that was committed to maximizing equity?” such an alternative vision is built on the concept of developing broadly informed students able to play both a thoughtful and active role in shaping the society in which they live, rather than be trained to fit into a society shaped by the interests of capital. From this exploration of the literature emerges a new role for both schools and teachers that repositions schooling as an incubator for social change, with equity as a primary goal. Also addressed is the importance of inequitable economic and public policies that work to systematically inhibit student learning. A key element in forging a successful transition to schools functioning as incubators for reform is the ability of preservice teacher preparation programs to graduate new teachers capable of doing this intellectual work, and for current classroom teachers to engage in professional development to achieve the same end What is clear from a reading of this literature is that without this re-visioning and subsequent reform of schooling, together with a reform of key public policies, we must face the high probability of the rapid implosion of the public school system and the inevitable escalation of class warfare in the United States.

Article

Any nation’s educational policies are forged in settlements that serve as a discursive frame, which is subject to inherent destabilizing tensions and contradictions bounded within identifiable historical and geographical periods. Vietnamese policymakers have viewed education as central to nation building, which was first realized through the forging of a revolutionary Marxist-Leninist educational settlement when independence was attained in 1946. Then a second settlement was achieved as part of its neoliberal Doi Moi policy pivot in the late 1980s, which has led to the nation’s global political, economic, and cultural integration. This pragmatic resetting, aimed at nation building through increased foreign investment and scientific and technical links with regional competitors and Western liberal democracies, swept aside past presumptions while retaining a strong one-party state. Vietnam’s initial revolutionary educational settlement was forged in the years prior to 1945 and 1954. One of its achievements was the use of Vietnamese as the principal language of instruction in education. Pre-independence, in the late 1930s, mass education drives were important influences on this new policy. The French colonial regime was compelled to use Vietnamese for translation and communication, replacing Mandarin as the medium of instruction in schools and the language of the previous feudal civil service. One of the first acts as part of the revolutionary educational settlement initiated in 1945 was to proclaim Vietnamese as the official language of the nation, which was expanded to North Vietnam in 1954 and later consolidated in the nation’s reunification in 1975. From its inception, Vietnam’s revolutionary educational settlement faced a legitimacy problem that undermined its nation-building agenda. It was mistakenly believed that economic advancement would follow revolutionary educational schooling. Voluntary mass education gave way to bureaucracy and careerism, and a traditional curriculum took hold; the Vietnamese state struggled to build and support schooling. A burgeoning young population meant it was difficult for state expenditures to meet the need for classrooms, qualified teachers, and quality instruction. Faced with challenges that were exacerbated by the collapse of the Soviet Empire, in 1986 the Sixth National Congress of the Vietnamese Communist Party broke with its previous policy frameworks. Termed “Doi Moi,” this “renovation” realigned its command to a market economy. Subsequent related educational reforms overhauled preschool, general vocational, and higher and postgraduate education. In a radical departure from its past, these reforms established a dual system of state-built, -operated, and -managed public and private schools. Educational settlements are partial and tenuous. Just as there were tensions within its revolutionary educational policy settlement, so too the hegemonic nature of Vietnam’s current neoliberal consensus has its own stresses. Two are ongoing concerns about the quality of teaching and learning and the weight of a strong culture of centralism in decision making as an aspect of Vietnam’s revolutionary legacy.

Article

Traditionally, the Norwegian education system has been built on equality and democracy as core values, but the disappointing results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) introduced the perception of a “crisis in education” and increased the occurrence of national reform initiatives. New assessment policies with an emphasis on performance measurement and emerging accountability practices have characterized the transition processes over the last decade. With increasing focus on monitoring based on performance indicators, there is a risk that the purpose of promoting democracy in schools will be downplayed by instrumental and managerial regulations. However, the Norwegian school reform of curriculum renewal in 2020 also highlights democracy and participation as separate interdisciplinary themes and includes a concrete elaboration of this topic, which strongly emphasizes that schools should promote democratic values and attitudes as a counterweight to prejudice and discrimination. To obtain more knowledge about how school professionals deal with possible tensions and dilemmas in their work with the contemporary reform, it is important to unpack the interplay between managerial accountability based on performance indicators and identify how educators legitimize their work on promoting democracy in schools. To capture the dynamic nature of educational leadership and the daily subtle negotiation, a micropolitical perspective and theory on democratic agency were used to analyze theoretical and empirical material from two larger studies focusing on certain aspects of school reforms in Norwegian lower secondary schools. The findings suggest that educational professionals respond to the policy of inclusion through negotiating and translating tensions between equalizing students’ life chances and being subjected to collective monitoring and control. The findings also illuminate stories characterized by a predominantly individualistic interpretation of the democratic purpose of education and the challenges and opportunities involved in balancing academic achievement with students’ well-being.

Article

Gunn Elisabeth Søreide, Hanne Riese, and Line Torbjørnsen Hilt

Twenty-first-century skills are a global network of corporate and governmental influences that promote competences suited to fit the future knowledge economy. The competences described as 21st-century skills vary across frameworks and initiatives, but the emphasis is predominantly on metacognitive, social, and emotional skills. Some of the most prevalent capabilities are learning to learn, self-regulation, in-depth learning, creativity, innovation, problem solving, critical thinking, ethical and emotional awareness, communication, and collaboration. Research tends to portray 21st-century skills initiatives either as evidence-based knowledge based on the latest research or as part of an economization of the learner to the interests of the market economy in line with neoliberal ideology. The ideas associated with the 21st-century skills movement have nevertheless become part of educational reforms worldwide and are currently also translated into a Nordic education policy context. When global ideas such as 21st-century skills are taken up and used, they are colored by national concerns and consequently change as they travel across contexts. The Norwegian LK-20 reform for compulsory and upper secondary school is an example of how policymakers include global educational ideas in the national curriculum and educational policy, by balancing core 21st-century skills elements with national cultural sentiments about assessment, childhood, educational purposes, and schools’ responsibilities. The balancing of global and national educational ideas can be done by promoting 21st-century skills as a solution to specific national challenges and thus urgent for pupils’ and the nation’s future. A more sophisticated technique is when policymakers frame 21st-century skills by familiar concepts and language associated with existing traditional national educational values, thus seemingly promoting change and continuation simultaneously. In such an intersection between global educational ideas and national educational sentiments, both core elements of the 21st-century skills as well as the more traditional educational concepts and values can be adjusted and altered.

Article

Any analysis of inclusive and special education in Asia, past and present, must account for the immense variation in what constitutes Asia and recognize that finding patterns in the development of inclusive and special education across this vast continent is difficult. The variations relate to geographic topography, historical experiences, and cultural values, as well as to contemporary socio-economic and political conditions. For example, although both Oman and Timor Leste struggle with issues of accessibility and providing services in remote areas, Timor Leste’s mountainous terrain presents very different challenges from Oman’s desert conditions. Similarly, the different cultural influences of, say, Hinduism in Nepal, Islam in Jordan, and Buddhism in Cambodia have significant implications for attitudes towards disability, while differences in economic development between Japan and Bangladesh, for instance, have rendered the former a donor of international aid that sets the inclusive education agenda and the latter a recipient of both aid and agenda. While efforts to identify patterns in inclusive education globally have also attempted to define the nature of development in Asia, these analyses do not always account for the unique intra-continental variations. Overlooking these variations in socio-political and economic contexts becomes problematic when attempting to find solutions towards providing culturally responsive and culturally specific services appropriate to these unique circumstances. Additionally troubling is the more recent development of a geopolitical climate which assumes that inclusive and special education could and should, in fact, be the same, whether in Bangladesh or in Japan. Embodied by international aid agencies, such as the World Bank, the United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), these expectations have been captured within global policies, such as the 1994 Salamanca Statement on Inclusive Education, the 2008 UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, and more recently, the 2015 Millennium Sustainable Goals, and furthered through UNICEF’s and UNESCO’s curriculum packages and professional development training on inclusive education. There is a nascent body of scholars in some Asian countries that is beginning to identify indigenous alternatives, which, if allowed to thrive, could contribute to the development of an amalgamated structure of services that would be more appropriate to the individual contexts.