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Article

Sylvia Chong and Saravanan Gopinathan

Establishing and maintaining teacher quality in Singapore is a process-oriented strategy that requires good policies at the macro level and effective processes at the implementation level. High teacher quality requires rigorous entry requirements, effective evidence-based preparation, and continuous professional development and support at the school level for teacher professionalism. Further adequate compensation and incentives to upskill or reskill are essential. These policies and practices are especially important in this era of challenging pedagogic reform, evolving views of learning and new roles for teachers as learning designers. Teacher policies and practices contribute to the high standing of teachers in Singapore and the consistent high performance of Singapore students in international assessments.

Article

Michael Grenfell

The French social Pierre Bourdieu became known as a key sociologist of education from the 1970s, contributing seminal books and articles to the “new” sociology of education, which focuses on knowledge formation in the classroom and institutional relations. His own social background was modest, but he rose through the elite French schools to become a leading intellectual in the second half of the 20th century. Much of his early work dealt with education, but this only formed part of a wider research corpus, which considered the French state and society as a whole: culture, politics, religion, law, economics, media, philosophy. Bourdieu developed a highly original “theory of practice” and set of conceptual thinking tools: habitus, field, cultural capital. His approach sought to rise above conventional oppositions between subjectivism and objectivism. Structure as both structured and structuring was a central principle to this epistemology. Early studies of students focused the role that education played in social class reproduction and the place of language in academic discourse. For him, pedagogy was a form of “symbolic violence,” played out in the differential holdings of “cultural capital” that the students held with respect to each other and the dominant ethos of schooling. He undertook further extensive studies of French higher education and the elite training schools. He was involved in various education review committees and put forward a number of principles for change in curricula, all while accepting that genuine reform was extremely challenging. He catalogued some of the tensions and conflicts of contemporary education policy. Both his discoveries and conceptual terms still offer researchers powerful tools for analyzing and understanding all national education systems and the particular individual practical contexts within them.

Article

Inclusive education is a widely accepted pedagogical and policy principle, but its genesis has been long and, at times, difficult. For example, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights included statements about rights and freedoms that have, over the decades, been used to promote inclusive educational practices. Article 26 of the Declaration stated that parents “have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.” This declaration later helped some parent groups and educators to advocate for equal access to schooling in regular settings, and for parental choice about where their child would be educated. Following the widespread influence of the human rights-based principle of normalization, the concept of inclusive education received major impetus from the Education of All Handicapped Children Act in the United States in 1975, the United Nations (UN) International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981, and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2006. A major focus of the UN initiatives has been the right of people with a disability to participate fully in society. This focus has obvious consequences for the way education is provided to students with a disability or other additional educational needs. For many years, up to the last quarter of the 20th century, the major focus for such students was on the provision of separate specialized services, with limited attention to the concept of full participation in society. Toward the end of the 20th century and into the 21st century, there has been increasing acceptance, through parental action, systemic policy, and government legislation, of inclusivity as a basic philosophical principle. Both the type of instruction that should be provided to students with a disability and the location of that instruction in regular or specialized settings have been topics for advocacy and research, sometimes with mixed and/or controversial conclusions.

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

Teacher education in New Zealand for the school sector began as the British colonists started a formal schooling system in the late 19th century. Teacher preparation for early childhood educators followed in 1988. Beginning with a pupil–teaching apprenticeship model, teacher education for the school sector in New Zealand has shifted from schools to tertiary institutions, and then from stand-alone colleges of education to mostly to faculties and departments in universities following deregulation and the opening of a “market” for teacher education in 1989. Teacher education today also happens in institutes of technology and through private providers. Teacher education is now provided for people who want to teach in early childhood, primary, and secondary settings. Early childhood and primary teachers can undertake a three-year degree or a one-year diploma if they already hold a degree qualification. Secondary school teachers must hold a degree in a subject taught in secondary schools and then complete a one-year diploma in teaching. In 2015 post-graduate teacher education was introduced in the form of one-year Masters degrees. Teacher education in New Zealand has been subject to continual review and reform proposals since its inception. These reviews, coupled with periodic teacher supply crises, make teacher education unstable and problematic. In particular, the shift into universities caused a significant shift in the work of teacher educators. Research imperatives have caused changes in who teacher educators are and what they do, but have also focused attention on scholarship in teacher education.

Article

Yariv Feniger, Yossi Shavit, and Shir Caller

Education in Israel is compulsory and free, from the age of three to the end of secondary school (12th grade). Compulsory education culminates in matriculation examinations that serve as the main criterion for enrollment in higher education. Although Israel is geographically small, and ethnic and religious subpopulations live in close proximity to one another, they are highly segregated both residentially and in schools. The Jewish and Arab school sectors are almost completely separate. Most Arab students study in Arab state schools, where the language of instruction is Arabic and the staff are Arab. Jewish students study in state, state religious, or independent ultra-Orthodox schools. The high degree of economic inequality in Israel is reflected in educational inequality, which is the highest among the countries participating in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Inequalities between social strata are affected in part by the economic circumstances of families in early childhood. Inequality in educational achievement is particularly evident between Jews and Arabs but it is also prominent within each of these two societies. The public educational system is centralized and curricula are standardized, but religious Jewish groups enjoy considerable organizational and curricular autonomy. Arab state schools, in contrast, do not enjoy similar autonomy. Rapid expansion of higher education has contributed to a dramatic increase in graduation rates in all social categories but large gaps remain, especially along ethnoreligious lines, in graduation rates, fields of study, and quality of institutions attended.

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

Lisa Johnston, Leah Shoemaker, Nicole Land, Aurelia Di Santo, and Susan Jagger

The field of early childhood education and care (ECEC) in Canada has been informed by a myriad of influences and these factors continue to shift and shape the curriculum, pedagogy, research, and practice in Canadian ECEC. Historically, following many of the theories and practices embraced by the United States, early child-care centers, day nurseries, and kindergartens were established to alleviate pressures on overcrowded schools and allow for mothers to work outside of the home. At the same time, Canadian child care took on a broader role in social welfare and later social justice, working to reduce inequities and inequality. These motivations have not been shared across all ECEC, and this is particularly evident in Indigenous early education. Here, Indigenous children and families have endured the horror of the residential school system and its legacy of colonialism, trauma, and cultural genocide. Along with these underpinning histories, Canadian ECEC has been informed by, is continuing to be shaped by, and is beginning to be guided by a number of models and movements in early learning. These include developmentalism, child-centered pedagogies, Reggio Emilia approaches, children’s rights, holistic education, the reconceptualist movement, and postdevelopmentalism, and many of these approaches are not mutually exclusive. Finally, the policies and practices at federal, provincial, and municipal levels and the unique tensions between these levels of government structure Canadian ECEC policy and practice. Provincial and Indigenous early learning frameworks are created to enhance educator understandings and application of program principles, values, and goals, and these embrace responsive relationships with children and families, reflective practice, the importance of the environment and play in learning, and respect of diversity, equity, and inclusion, to name but a few shared principles. Taken together, the complexity of ECEC in Canada is clear, with historical approaches and attitudes continuing to preserve structures that devalue children and those who work with them, while concurrently efforts continue to honor the rights and voices of all children, advocate for professionalization in the field of ECEC, and reveal and reconcile past and current truths and injustices in Indigenous children’s education and care, in order to support and heal all children, families, and communities.

Article

The Italian education system has gained prominence worldwide thanks to its pioneering history in initiating the process of mainstreaming students with disabilities, in providing educational plans tailored to students’ needs, and in the gradual broadening of the vision of inclusion as a means to guarantee quality education for all. At the same time, teacher education programs have reinvigorated their key role in preparing and supporting teachers who are inclusive of all students. Several factors over the past 50 years have been fundamental in shaping the way inclusion is perceived in the 21st century. First, the theoretical frameworks underpinning pedagogy and teaching practices have undergone a complete paradigm shift from an individualized-medical model to a biopsychosocial model, bringing about a new challenge for all stakeholders involved. Second, in line with this evolution, latest reforms and ministerial provisions in initial teacher education and continuous professional development are evidence of the change in perspective regarding the teachers’ pivotal role in promoting and facilitating inclusive practices. However, this shift has not only called for a rethinking of the teachers’ pedagogical and didactic stances. It has also entailed a reconsideration of the necessary professional competencies, understood as a complex interplay of pedagogical knowledge, values, attitudes, and skills to be able to implement effective teaching methods and strategies that favor inclusion. Thus, it has placed a heavy responsibility on teacher education institutions to ensure that current and future teachers are ready, willing, and able to face the complexity characterizing 21st-century classrooms. Italian schools have also been doing their utmost to ensure better school experiences for all their students. An array of projects, both ministerially funded and school-based schemes, have been designed and implemented to create universally functional curricula to meet all the students’ learning styles and promote inclusion. One of the most important lessons to be learned from these intricate developments and initiatives is that collaboration among all stakeholders on micro, meso, and macro levels lies at the heart of effective and sustainable inclusive education.

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.

Article

Harald Thuen and Nina Volckmar

Comprehensive schooling has been a cornerstone in the development of the Norwegian welfare state since World War II. Over the years it has been extended, initially from 7 to 9 years and later to 10-year compulsory schooling, since the late 1990s including virtually all Norwegian children between the ages of 6 and 16. In education policy, the interests of the community versus the individual have played a key role, reflected in a line of conflict between the political left and right. During the first three to four decades after the war, through the Labor Party, the left wing was in power and developed education policy according to a social-democratic model. The ideal of equality and community in schools had precedence. The vision was to create a school for all that had a socially and culturally unifying effect on the nation and its people. Social background, gender, and geographical location should no longer create barriers between pupils. Ideally, school was to be understood as a “miniature democracy,” where pupils would be trained in solidarity and cooperation. Compulsory schooling was thus regarded as an instrument for social integration and for evening out social inequalities. But one challenge remained: How could a common school for all best take care of the individual needs of each pupil? The principle of individualized teaching within the framework of a common school was incorporated in the education policy of social democracy and was subjected to experimentation and research from an early stage. But with the political shift to the right toward the 2000s, a sharper polarization can be observed between the interests of the community versus the interests of the individual. The political right profiles education policy in opposition to the left-wing emphasis on the social purpose of the school system. In the early 21st century, the interests of knowledge, the classroom as a learning arena, and the performance of each pupil take precedence. Based on the model of New Public Management, a new organizational culture is taking shape in the school system. Where the political left formed its policy from the perspective of “equality” during the first postwar decades, the right is now forming it from the perspective of “freedom.” And this is taking place without significant opposition from the left. The terms “equality” and “equity” provide the framework for the analysis of the changing polarity between collective and individual considerations and between pupils’ freedom and social solidarity in postwar education.

Article

In 1954, Hannah Arendt wrote that talk of a crisis in education “has become a political problem of the first magnitude.” If one trusts the steady stream of books, articles, jeremiads, and statements from public officials lamenting the fallen status of our schools and calling for bold reforms, the 21st century has shown no abatement in crisis as an abiding theme in education discourse. But why does education occupy such a privileged space of attention and why is it so susceptible to the axiomatic evocation of “crisis?” Arendt provides a clue when she argues that “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token, save it from the ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable.” The crisis in education has come to signal a variety of issues for which the teacher is either a direct or indirect participant: declining student performance, inadequacy of teacher preparation, inequities of opportunity as well as outcome, or a curriculum ill-fitted to the shape of the modern world. However, at base is the issue of social reproduction that Arendt sees at the heart of education. Thus, the crisis in education serves as a forum for expressing, critiquing, and instantiating the values that are at play when considering “the coming of the new and the young.”