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Article

Catherine Doherty and Megan Pozzi

While meritocratic ideals assume a level playing field for educational competition, those who can may seek to tilt the field in their children’s favor to ensure better educational opportunities and the associated life rewards. A growing body of literature is researching “up” to better understand how advantage for some through the choice of elite or private schooling contributes to the relative disadvantage of others. Institutional claims to offering an “elite” education can rest on different logics such as social selectivity by dint of high fees or academic selectivity by dint of enrollments conditional on academic excellence. Private education provided by a non-government entity serves as an alternative to public sector provision for those who can afford it. The global spread of neoliberal metapolicy has fanned a general trend towards privatization. Such logics of social restriction can distinguish the whole school, niche programs of distinction within a school, or tracking practices that pool advantage in particular classes or subjects. While education policy debates wrestle with how to articulate competing ethics of excellence, inclusivity, and equity, elite branding unapologetically resolves these tensions by conflating excellence and exclusivity. To achieve and sustain elite status, however, relies on the extra work of carefully curating reputations and protecting the brand. Recent research has started to ask more difficult questions of educational privilege. Such research helps to understand: the curricular processes and nature of privilege achieved through elite and private educational choices; how such education harnesses the semblance of meritocratic competition to legitimate its forms of distinction; and the broader impact of these processes.

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

China has experienced major shifts from a centrally planned economy to a market economy, from centralization to decentralization, from state ownership to privatization, and from a decisive state to a weakened state. Despite China’s economic miracle, the country also faces unprecedented challenges, including rising social inequality, rural-urban divide, regional disparity, environmental degradation, declining health and education conditions, and polarization between the rich and poor. China’s profound socioeconomic and political transformations have led to significant fundamental changes to education in China, as manifested in its decentralization, marketization, and privatization. One significant paradigm change relates to the devolution of education power and policy from a centralized governance model to local governments. With the privatization and marketization of its education system, China has adopted a market-oriented approach with the orientation, provision, student enrollment, curriculum, and financing of education. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that there has been a withdrawal of the mighty state from its paternalistic role in the provision and subsidy of public education. Unfortunately, the market economy has further increased education inequalities. The maldistribution of resources and education opportunities raises important questions about issues of social justice and equity regarding who gets how much education as the social good.

Article

Arnd-Michael Nohl and Nazli Somel

When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, the new rulers established a national, secular education system, in contrast to the previous Ottoman system of Islamic schools. The country then saw a rapid expansion of education that helped reach the vastly illiterate population and later provided secondary and tertiary education for the future workforce. This took place parallel to the developing industry and service sectors, starting in the 1950s. By 1980, Turkey had become a largely urban society, and enrollment in grades 1 to 5 had grown to 97%. By the year 2000, enrollment in grades 1 to 8 was at 100%. Since its foundation, centrally organized education in Turkey has been an important instrument for the ideological formation and social promotion of its citizens, so it has stood in the middle of political and social debates. The ideological direction of education in Turkey stands at the crossroads of nationalism versus minority rights, and secularism versus Islam. These have been ongoing issues, most apparently in the discussions on allowing mother-tongue education (especially Kurdish) and opening and closing imam and preacher schools. The variant poor quality of education has occasionally been a point of contention and catalyzed competition between schools, teachers, and pupils. The growing competitive character of Turkish education was accompanied by great social inequalities between gender and class positions as well as between geographical regions. Regarding the educational inequalities, the changed character of education after 1980, from being a public service to an enterprise, also involving the private sector, namely, the neoliberal education policies era, became one of the main discussion topics. Since the Justice and Development Party, under R. T. Erdoğan, took power after the 2002 general elections, upper-secondary and tertiary education has grown, but the quality problem remains. Similarly, social inequalities were still a highly critical problem in education, reciprocally fueled by an ever-growing competition into which private schools and universities were forced. After the ruling party succeeded in getting the state apparatus under its control and announced a “New Turkey,” the government turned its back on the ideological foundations of the republic and promoted additional religious education in general schools, as well as in the imam and preacher schools, whose graduates were again permitted to follow nonclerical career paths.

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

Community participation in school management has great potentials for removing mistrust and distance between people and schools by nurturing transparency of information and a culture of mutual respect and by jointly pursuing improvement of school by sharing vision, process, and results. Individual and organizational behavioral changes are critical to increase the level of participation. In countries where the administrative structures are weak, the bottom-up approach to expanding educational opportunity and quality learning may be the only option. Nevertheless, when community participation is implemented with a top-down manner without wider consultation on its aims, processes, and expected results, the consequences are likely to be conflicts between actors, a strong sense of overwhelming obligation, fatigue, inertia, and disparity in the degree and results of community participation between communities. Political aspects of school management and socio-cultural difference among the population require caution, as they are likely to induce partial participation or nonparticipation of the community at large. Community participation in school management will result in a long-term impact only if it involves a wide range of actors who can discuss and practice the possibilities of revisiting the definition of community and the way it should be.

Article

Giuseppe Bertagna and Francesco Magni

The early 21st century is an age in which freedoms seem to expand continuously and without limits; in addition to the traditional market freedoms, there is freedom of choice related to gender, to sex, to family, to health, to life and to end of life—to name just a few domains that have embraced the ethos of individual freedom. Nonetheless, in this context of growing freedom for everybody, there is a particular freedom whose “domain” has been limited, especially in Italy: the freedom of choice related to school and education. The constraints placed upon freedom of educational choice defaults, perhaps unintentionally, to a standard orthodoxy enforced by the state and its supposedly omniscient bureaucracy. What is meant by “school choice”? It means the freedom to choose the school, the teachers, the educators, the experiences, and the educational pathways that one supposes best for one’s children, without incurring legal and economic penalties. It also means accepting that the government may regulate the system of state and non-state schools (i.e., it sets out the rules and main goals in terms of the learning and educational values with which teaching institutions should comply). Yet, to balance this, the government, except in cases of exceptional and regulated substitution according to the subsidiarity principle, may not ordinarily manage the organization and functioning of state schools and—more evidently—of non-state schools through a centralized governmental administration. These activities should be left to the individual responsibility of schools, families, companies, private investors, and the institutions of civil society. Last but not least, “school choice” means that the government bears the key responsibility of checking that schools comply with the established rules and values, and that students receive a satisfactory education, and of then making the results of those checks transparent and available for the public. This way, the government can give families very useful information that equips them to make their school choice responsibly.

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

Efforts to support education for all students have increasingly become priorities for governments around the world. Key international agreements, including the Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, have provided foundational direction to jurisdictions in implementing policies to engage all students including those with special education needs. As initiatives to support equitable and inclusive education for all become more widespread globally, it is important to consider how these efforts affect economically wealthy countries. Using the example of Canada, and specifically the province of Ontario, implications of supporting education for all through the framework of inclusive education are examined. These implications include funding, teaching commitment and training, resources, and privatization. Inclusive education refers to the ability of all students, regardless of gender, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, or ability, to attend their neighborhood community school and be in classes with similar aged peers. Students with special education needs, whether these be learning disabilities, visual or hearing disorders, or mental health disorders, among many other conditions, are key stakeholders in inclusive education. The conclusion raises important questions for future research to examine inclusive education and the parallel implications not only in economically wealthy countries but for all jurisdictions that are trying to initiate and support educational programs for all students.

Article

Juan Pablo Valenzuela and Carmen Montecinos

After over 30 years of a market model for the provision of educational services in Chile, the expansion of private providers financed through state vouchers, a decrease in public school enrollments, and a highly segregated educational system with unequal learning opportunities sparked in 2006 a social movement demanding changes to the model. In this article we discuss three structural reforms implemented between the years of 2008 and 2016 aiming to increase educational quality, reverse declining enrollments in public schools, the inequitable distribution of learning opportunities, and school segregation. The Preferential School Subsidy Law, passed in 2008, acknowledges that students who are growing up under conditions of social exclusion require extra support, thus in addition to the regular voucher a subsidy is provided to vulnerable students. The Law for School Inclusion, approved in May 2015, involves four main components: expansion of state subsidies, elimination of parental co-payment, elimination of for-profit voucher schools, and elimination of school practices to select students. The National System for Teachers’ Professional Development Law, approved in 2016, addresses improvements in teachers’ working conditions as well as more rigorous requirements for university-based initial teacher preparation programs. After presenting the antecedents and key provisions of each law, we analyze their potential impacts and the risk factors that may attenuate them. Three main areas of risks are addressed: externalities, institutional capacities at various levels of the system, and changes in the economic and political support needed for long-term sustainability.

Article

China’s higher education system witnessed quite a few dramatic institutional changes in recent years. The state has been making a series of attempts to increase the quantity of higher education opportunities through massive expanding of higher education’s capacity (also referred to as the massification of higher education). Meanwhile, the system experienced marketization and privatization, in which the funding for higher education institutions (HEIs) increasingly depends on the non-state sector and student payments for tuition fees. The private (minban) HEIs and Sino-foreign HEIs began to develop in China. With a strong conviction to enhance the global competitiveness of top universities, master plans for developing world-class universities and disciplines were initiated, and talent programs were adopted to attract global high-skilled talent to HEIs in China to enhance the teaching and research capability of HEIs. In recent years, HEIs have been granted larger institutional autonomy with greater accountability. Higher education in China has experienced dramatic institutional changes in recent years and has made great achievements and gained international acclaim. Given such capacity, HEIs became one of the largest systems in the world. More and more higher education opportunities have been provided for students, and an increasing number of leading scholars in the world have been attracted to HEIs in China. However, the development of higher education has encountered several challenges—in particular, unequal opportunities for higher education attainment, difficulties for college graduates in finding employment, and the unequal development of higher education among disciplines, between universities, and across regions. Critical reflections on the development of higher education in China and the notion of broadly defined educational equality are required.

Article

Leslie S. Kaplan and William A. Owings

The education privatizers (school choice advocates) see public education as a resource-rich marketplace, with charter schools and voucher programs as ways to redirect public dollars to support private ends. By contrast, privatization opponents believe this approach does not improve student outcomes while it undermines public schools and democratic citizenship. Understanding the education privatization agenda and recognizing the political forces shaping it, the players at national and state levels advancing it (often without public awareness), and the research findings on charter school and voucher effectiveness can help educators identify education privatization proposals and comprehend their implications for public schools and communities. In 1999, The Economist touted education as the next big investment zone, “ripe for privatization,” similar to private takeovers in the defense and healthcare industries. Likewise, in his 2012 annual report, Pearson CEO John Fallan asserted, “education will … be the great growth industry of the 21st Century.” It is easy to see why. American public schools spent over $600 billion for the 2013–2014 school year, representing 9% of the U.S. economy. From 2005 to 2011, private venture capital in the education market grew from $13 million to $389 million. With so much public money on the table, investors find tapping into education dollars—with little oversight or liability—an attractive prospect.