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Article

Noah De Lissovoy and Alex J. Armonda

In neoliberalism, an emphasis on free markets and fiscal austerity, along with a hostility to the commons and the public, coincide with an insistence on the inevitability of capitalism. In education, neoliberalism is associated with the privatization and marketization of schools and districts at the macro level, and an alienation and fragmentation at the level of curriculum, in which knowledge and teaching are reduced to a mechanized sequence of discrete items and acts. As it erodes the relationship between teachers and their work in the name of efficiency, neoliberalism transforms schools into spaces of epistemological and ontological foreclosure. In this context, an approach to curriculum is necessary that is concerned not just with the common senses that education reinforces but also with the basic possibilities for being, knowing, and agency that it makes available. Thus, the deep imbrication of racism in neoliberalism (expressed in the discourse of color-blindness and in state violence) means that in order to imagine alternatives to the latter we need to understand and interrupt the logic of coloniality that has organized capitalism from its origin, and which is intensified in the neoliberal moment. Furthermore, as the ideological work of schooling increasingly inheres in the ubiquitous rituals themselves of neoliberal accountability’s culture of constant assessment and auditing, a liberatory commitment means staging a public curriculum of collective refusal. These broad emancipatory principles suggest that, in practical terms, teachers ought to move beyond private resistance at the classroom level—a form of subversion that leaves intact the material and institutional practices that secure neoliberal governmentality—and begin to participate in larger actions against privatization, standardized testing, and budget cuts. Likewise, at the level of knowledge production, curriculum for liberation should expose the white and Western technicist rationality that undergirds neoliberal education. Affirming epistemological diversity, liberatory curriculum should prioritize non-Western texts and standpoints; explore the links between politics, culture, and spirituality; and ask what it would look like for society as a whole to start from marginalized values and understandings.

Article

Winston C. Thompson

The concept of liberalism has a wide influence on contemporary work within the field of education. Given this breadth of effect, it is not surprising that liberalism can be invoked in the service of multiple ends—many of which appear to be at odds with one another. As such, this article will trace liberalism’s fundamental commitments of “equality” and “liberty” in education in order to provide a general shape to the arguments that animate its goals. Taken in tandem, these commitments provide access to the arguments that populate various forms of liberalism in education, such that their careful study enables educational researchers and practitioners to better position their understandings and analyses in a conceptual context.

Article

With the emergence of critical English language teaching (CELT) in the past 25 years, primarily in the English for academic purposes domain, there have been significant implications for English language learning. ELT approaches have drawn on major premises and assumptions in second language acquisition research from the past several decades, particularly in the institutional context of intensive English language programs in North America in which the dominant conventions and traditional approaches in English language teaching have been enacted. The first incarnation of CELT occurred in the early 1990s, which eventually prompted a key debate over critical pedagogy in English language teaching during the 2000s. The second wave of CELT began in the mid-2000s and addressed the continuing challenges facing students in the context of neoliberal spaces of universities worldwide. New approaches have emerged that address the importance of CELT in the current nationalist and racist backlash against increased global mobility of job- and refuge-seeking immigrants to Australia, Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Article

Educational neoliberalism has swept the world, and Singapore, with its much-lauded educational system, has not been spared. In fact, it has taken a stranglehold on the system, from its policymakers at the helm to its teachers at the chalkface. The embrace of neoliberal ideas has pervaded Singapore’s short educational history, from its colonial times to the present moment, undergirding various educational reforms intended to ensure economic survival in the global economy and prosperity for the nation. Through a slew of educational policies targeted at and enacted by the state-controlled educational organizations, chief among which are the state schools, these reforms have been promulgated as effective educational initiatives to develop each citizen to the fullest potential. Given its ideological centrality in these reforms, educational neoliberalism has exerted a palpable influence on principals, teachers, and their pedagogical practices through a torrent of various performance appraisal mechanisms meant to ensure accountability to the state and the various stakeholders, and stimulate competition in the form of ever-increasing scores, awards and recognized performances in different educational arenas. Thus, marketization and performance management have become the buzzwords for the education industry. Will Singapore’s educational system be able to survive this onslaught of neoliberal pressure? Can it counter the impact of educational neoliberalism on its teachers and their practices? Will its recent policy announcement of assessment reduction have an impact on this neoliberal discourse, or will the neoliberal juggernaut continue to thunder through the system, albeit with less rolling and clapping? Can the teachers contest and resist this neoliberal discourse, while struggling to stay afloat in the sea of performativity? It is these and other questions that have provided the impetus for the present article.

Article

Since the 1980s, the English education system has been a site of experimentation and reform, with test-driven accountability as the predominant form of quality control. The high-stakes accountability system in England is the result of a complex articulation of standardized assessments, end-of-secondary high-stakes examination, and a consequential inspection system that combines public display of performance data via rating systems and league tables. In primary, Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) in English and math are used to measure pupils’ progress between Year 2 and Year 6, and schools’ effectiveness are determined on the basis of these scores, which are publicly available. In addition, there is a range of ad hoc focused tests or “checks” scattered across primary schooling, such as the Phonics Screening Check (Year 1) and the Multiplication Tables Check (Year 4). The main assessment for KS4 is a tiered exit qualification known as General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs), which determine school and college sixth-form options (A levels) and subsequent eligibility for university courses. As data and metrics are increasingly privileged over teacher expertise and professional judgment, schools face tremendous pressure to comply with mounting data and inspection demands, resulting in homogenous and rigid practices. Arguably, recent policy reforms at both ends of compulsory schooling, such as the Reception Baseline Assessment (2020) and Progress 8 (2016), were introduced with the aim of mitigating some of the negative effects that layers of test-based accountability had on teaching and learning. However, a closer look at the internal logic of these reforms reveals further intensification of output-driven pedagogy at the expense of equity, well-being, and justice.

Article

Critical posthumanism in education proposes a response to the looming ecological disaster by developing an ethical subjectivity of relatedness. It points to the devastating and unsustainable effects of human-centered domination of “lesser” humans, the nonhuman living, and the environment resulting in the Anthropocene. The Anthropocene is a posthumanist boundary condition that exploits powers from multiple heterogenous entities and that approaches the limit of sustainable living. Critical posthumanism is a timely and positive intervention that criticizes the forms of domination originating from humanism and from other posthumanisms. These dominating powers result in the dehumanizing and environmentally devastating effects of techno- and bio-capitalism. Posthumanist critique is an affirmative ethical process that asserts the vibrancy of matter and life. It is based on an ethics of assembling, the principle of becoming sustainable of the more-than-human world. While critical posthumanism acknowledges that the analysis of the effects of power is important, it realizes that a difference can only be made when the entanglement of humans with all the living and nonliving others is fully recognized. Critical posthumanist education consists of experiments that explore how subjectivities could be opened to the affects of multiple others in the joyful processes of mutual becoming. The enhancement of affective relations “queery” humanity as such, identities, divisions such as “gender” and “race”, binaries such as human-animal, human-nature and human-technology. To promote mutual becoming, education produces subjectivities that are vigilant to the new ways the Capitalocene (“society of control”) both appropriates and suppresses the vitality of assemblages and the creativity of becomings.

Article

Challenges to Mexican educational leadership and equity fundamentally have to do with class struggle and shaping the national identity to conform to one of two competing narratives: México as a country that strives to ensure its place in the first world, subordinating itself to the demands of external bodies and forgoing its own history; or México as a country that sustains and advances its historical struggle for social justice. México’s democratic teachers represent an important voice of educational leadership, as they struggle for educational equity for their students and through active resistance to reforms that rob teachers of their labor rights and intellectual autonomy, and rob students of their rights to the vast epistemological resources that their languages, history, culture, and identity represent. Facing new forms of colonialism that neoliberal education reform ushered in, the teachers fight in contested space that the Mexican curriculum is; they do so with renewed commitments to defeat education reform efforts that have more to do with the restructuring of their labor rights than the education of children in the classroom.

Article

Gerardo del Cerro Santamaría

Neoliberalism—the prevailing model of capitalist thinking based on the Washington Consensus—has conveyed the idea that a new educational and university model must emerge in order to meet the demands of a global productive system that is radically different from that of just a few decades ago. The overall argument put forward is that the requirements, particularly the managerial and labor force needs of a new economy—already developing within the parameters of globalization and the impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs)—cannot be adequately satisfied under the approaches and methods used by a traditional university. Neoliberalism affects the telos of higher education by redefining the very meaning of higher education. It dislocates education by commodifying its intrinsic value and emphasizing directly transferable skills and competencies. Nonmonetary values are marginalized and, with them, the nonmonetary ethos that is essential in sustaining a healthy democratic society.

Article

Marina Schwimmer and Kevin McDonough

Mindfulness meditation is a growing social phenomenon in Western countries and is now also becoming a common part of life in public schools. The concept of mindfulness originated in Buddhist thinking and meditation practices over 2,500 years ago. Its original purpose was mainly to alleviate people’s suffering by providing a path to inner wisdom and vitality, which implied the development of compassion, patience, and forgiveness, as well as other values conducive to inner peace. In the 1970s, this practice was popularized in the West as it was adapted to and integrated with secular intervention programs aimed at reducing stress and dealing with chronic pain. Packages promoting mindfulness practices are disseminated commercially, backed by research in neuroscience and developmental psychology, for use in schools through programs like MindUp and Mindful Schools. In recent years, there has been a marked uptick of interest from educational researchers in mindfulness education. Several distinct research orientations or approaches can be discerned—mindfulness-based intervention (MBI), an instrumental approach that views mindfulness practices in clinical or therapeutic terms; a spiritualist approach, which emphasizes the rootedness of MBIs in ancient religious traditions and focuses on the benefits of mindfulness practices for individual spiritual growth; and a political approach, which highlights the potential benefits of MBIs to develop students’ capacities for democratic deliberation and participation. Contemporary mindfulness education in schools also sometimes reflects the cultural influence of New Age values, an orientation distinct from the instrumental, spiritualist, and political approaches, and whose impact may raise troubling questions about the purported educational benefits of MBIs. Accordingly, the alliance between New Age values, neoliberal economic and cultural values, and mindfulness practices in contemporary democratic societies and schools should be given due consideration in assessing the relative educational costs and benefits of MBIs. In particular, cultural and educational values at the intersection of neoliberal values entrepreneurialism and New Age values of personal and spiritual growth may have corrosive rather than benevolent effects on the pursuit of democratic values in schools.

Article

There are two alternative perspectives on higher education, one of which sees it as a means of augmenting the recipient’s employment prospects and earning capacity through the imparting of skills, while the other sees it as fulfilling a social role beyond merely supplying skilled personnel. While the conversion of higher education into a commodity that is sold for profit in commercially run private institutions is in sync with the first perspective, the second demands that education should be primarily the responsibility of the government and should be mainly publicly funded. The second perspective informed the anti-colonial struggle in the developing world and the policies of the dirigiste regimes that came up post-decolonization. But under the subsequent neoliberal regime, the first perspective has come to the fore, and there has been a significant commoditization of higher education. This has the effect of excluding large numbers of students from deprived backgrounds from the ambit of higher education, of constricting free and creative thinking, and consequently of destroying rational discourse and giving free rein to fascist, semi-fascist, and fundamentalist forces that can do great damage to the fragile structures of developing societies. An awareness of these dangers is necessary if appropriate interventions to prevent such a denouement are to be undertaken in the sphere of higher education.

Article

Matt Hastings

Neoliberalism is a political project carried out by the capitalist class to consolidate their ability to generate profits by exercising influence in political processes, such as elections, in order to privatize or direct state institutions and regulatory powers in ways favorable to their interests. These efforts coincide the propagation of a neoliberal common sense that is grounded in an understanding of all aspects of society in economic terms of competition in markets and return on investment. However, in practice, neoliberalism does not promote competitive markets as much as it results in the privatization of public institutions and creation of new sites for private investment through state policies. The field of education, traditionally a site of local democratic control, is increasingly subject to neoliberal governance, as elected school boards are consolidated under appointed leadership, district schools are replaced by charter schools, and school resources, such as curriculum, testing, and even the training of teachers, are provided by private companies. Neoliberalism frames the purpose of education in terms of investments made in the development of students’ human capital. What students should learn and the value of education is relative to their individual prospects for future earnings. This narrowed conception of education raises important questions about the purpose of education and the relationship between schools, democratic life, and state governance. Developing a critical relationship with neoliberal common sense is necessary in order to recognize both how actually existing neoliberal policies primarily serve the interests of capitalists and that there are other, democratic, sources of value and purpose that can ground debates and efforts in the field of education.

Article

Molly N.N. Lee and Chang Da Wan

In the past two decades, nearly all the countries in Southeast Asia have undertaken higher education reforms such as the massification, marketization, diversification, bureaucratization, and internationalization of higher education. All these reforms are aimed at widening access to higher education and diversifying its funding sources, as well as improving the quality, efficiency, and productivity of the higher education sector. Under such circumstances, much research has been done on how the governance and management of universities have changed over the years in these countries. The governance of universities focuses on the role of the state in providing, regulating, supervising, and steering the development of higher education in the country. The relationship between universities and the state revolves around the issues of autonomy and accountability. An emerging regional trend in the reforms of university governance is an increase in institutional autonomy in return for more public accountability. Several countries have shifted from a state-control model to a state-supervising model and from public provision of higher education to the privatization of higher education, the corporatization of public universities, and the establishment of autonomous universities. To ensure public accountability, most universities are subjected to both internal and external quality assurance. With the massification of higher education, universities usually enroll large numbers of students and become more complex organizations. In the context of governmental budget cuts, many universities are under great pressure to do more with less, to find ways to be less wasteful, and to develop better management in order to replace the missing resources. Various universities have adopted new public management techniques and a result-based management approach to improve efficiency and effectiveness. A central feature of new managerialism is “performativity” in the management of academic labor and the pressure for “academic capitalism.”

Article

Parental involvement is frequently touted as a key part of any solution to the achievement gap in US schools. Yet the mainstream model of parental involvement has been challenged on the grounds that it neglects parents’ political agency, the cultural diversity of families, and the empirical evidence of limited efficacy. This article argues that to understand parental involvement’s promise and limitations, it is necessary to consider it in historical context. Accordingly, it traces the history of “parental involvement” as a policy goal through the past half century. It provides an account of the mainstream parental involvement research, as well as critiques. Ultimately, the article argues that parental involvement is neither boon nor bane. As an important aspect of the politics of public schooling, parental involvement has diverse effects, which can support or hinder equity and student success.

Article

Historically, foreign language education in Japan has been influenced by local and global conditions. Of the two major purposes of learning a language—to gain new knowledge from overseas and to develop practical communication skills—the latter pragmatic orientation became dominant toward the end the 19th century, when access to foreign language learning increased and English became a dominant language to learn. The trend of learning English as an international language for pragmatic purposes has been further strengthened since the 1980s under the discourses of internationalization and neoliberal globalization. An overview of the current status of foreign language education reveals that there are both formal and non-formal learning opportunities for people of all ages; English predominates as a target language although fewer opportunities to learn other languages exist; English is taught at primary and secondary schools and universities with an emphasis on acquiring communicative skills, although the exam-oriented instructional practices contradict the official goal; and adults learn foreign languages, mainly English, for various reasons, including career advancement and hobbyist enjoyment. Such observations include contestations and contradictions. For instance, there have been debates on whether the major aim of learning English should be pragmatic or intellectual. These debates have taken place against the backdrop of the fact that the learning of a foreign language—de facto English—is much more prevalent in society in the early 21st century compared with previous periods in history, when access to learning opportunities was limited to elites. Another contradiction is between the multilingual reality in local and global communities and the exclusive emphasis on teaching English. This gap can be critically analyzed through a critical realist lens, through which multilayers of ideology in discourses and realities in the material world are examined. The predominance of English is driven by a neoliberal ideology that conceptualizes English as a global language with economic benefit, while testing and shadow education enterprises perpetuate the emphasis on English language teaching. The political economy of foreign language education also explains the longstanding socioeconomic disparity in English ability.

Article

Peter Roberts

The work of the Brazilian pedagogue Paulo Freire (1921–1997) has been extraordinarily influential. Freire’s ideas have been taken up not just by educationists, but also by scholars and practitioners in a wide range of other fields, including theology, philosophy, sociology, politics, women’s studies, nursing, counseling, social work, disability studies, and peace studies. In educational circles, Freire is regarded as one of the founding figures of critical pedagogy. He is best known for his adult literacy programs in impoverished communities and for his classic early text: Pedagogy of the Oppressed. As a writer, he was most prolific in the last ten years of his life. His work advances an ideal of humanization through transformative reflection and action, and stresses the importance of developing key epistemological, ethical, and educational virtues, such as openness, humility, tolerance, attentiveness, rigor, and political commitment. The themes of love and hope figure prominently throughout his work. Freire was opposed to authoritarian, technicist, and neoliberal pedagogical practices. He argued that education is a necessarily nonneutral process and favored a critical, problem-posing, dialogical approach to teaching and learning. While acclaimed by many, Freire also attracted his share of criticism. He responded to some of the key questions raised by others, while also leaving open a number of areas of inquiry for further investigation.

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

The neoliberal revolution negatively impacted the American society and educational system. Several major contributors to neoliberal thinking helped develop the theory. Two examples of utilizing neoliberal principles are the Sears corporation and the nation of Honduras, both teetering on the brink of collapse. The GINI Index can be used to provide insight into American economic inequality. Neoliberalism as a social movement and its impact on the American educational system are analyzed. Major conceptual components of neoliberalism, including competition, choice, privatization, standardization, accountability, marketing, and deregulation, are presented. Legislation using these principles include No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top and the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA). The testing, voucher, and charter movements are discussed. Three kinds of charter schools together with their academic and segregating results are analyzed. Charter and voucher supporters have become active in the political process to increase the charter component of public education. Corruption in charters and vouchers and neoliberalism’s undermining of public support for public education is treated. Online education’s positive support for small and rural schools, particularly for high schools, is noted, as is online education’s assistance for credit recovery. Another impact of neoliberalism on public education is noted, that is treating charters and vouchers as commodities which provide opportunities for private investment.

Article

Curt Dudley-Marling

The reform of public education through the application of principles of free-market capitalism, particularly notions of competition and choice, has long enjoyed bipartisan support in the United States, reflecting trends in other industrialized countries. The basic assumption is that the competitive pressures of the market, instantiated through various forms of school choice and high-stakes accountability, will necessarily lead to more efficient and effective schools while honoring parents’ right to determine what is best for their children. Concurrently, another group of educational reformers, advocating for the rights of students with disabilities, have pushed for the transformation of schools, with the goal of creating spaces congenial to the range of human differences, including disability. The problem is that the basic assumptions that underpin free-market reforms and the principles of inclusion are incompatible. One of the requirements of school choice, for example, is the production and marketing of data based on standardized assessment practices and standardized curricula. This tendency toward standardization in market-oriented schools, saturated with the ideology of normality, is antithetical to the conception of diversity that informs the desire for inclusive schools.

Article

Katherine Crawford-Garrett and Matthew A.M. Thomas

Over the past two decades, teacher education has been increasingly conceptualized as a policy problem in response to what school reformers, policy-makers, and philanthropists have depicted as a global education crisis necessitating national and international solutions. Teach For All (TFAll), an organization that has sought to respond to global achievement disparities by recruiting elite university graduates to teach in underperforming schools has a presence in more than 45 countries and is a key player in education reform worldwide. In enacting its vision of educational change, TFAll has reshaped notions of teaching at the classroom level by positioning teachers as saviors, leaders, and social engineers; reconfigured city school systems through promoting privatization and deregulation; and contributed to the rapid neoliberalization of education internationally by fundamentally altering educational policies and discourses on a global scale.

Article

Patrick Shannon

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are part of a third wave of school reform in the United States. With accompanying tests, these standards combine calls for increased academic rigor, beginning in the 1980s, with more recent efforts to hold schools, teachers, and students accountable for learning outcomes in publicly funded schools. Origins of CCSS can be traced to the 1996 National Education Summit where the National Governors Association (NGA), philanthropic foundations, and business leaders founded Achieve to broker rigorous high school graduation requirements. In 2009, Achieve became the project manager for the construction of CCSS. In 2010, implementation began with incentives from the Obama administration and funding from the Gates Foundation. Advocates choose among a variety of rationales: faltering American economic competitiveness, wide variability among state standards and educational outcomes, highly mobile student populations, and/or a growing income achievement gap. Critics cite federal intrusion in states’ rights, a lack of an evidentiary base, an autocratic process of CCSS production, and/or a mis-framing of problems facing public schools. With the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015, federal advocacy of CCSS ended officially.