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Article

Urban School Reform in the United States  

Tiffanie Lewis-Durham and Craig Peck

In the United States, policymakers have exhibited a resilient confidence in the idea that reforming urban schools is the essential key to improving the life chances of children, especially Black and Latino youth. Since the mid-1960s in particular, this resonant belief, as articulated in different forms by politicians, interest groups, local communities, and the broader public, has served as motivational impetus for small- and large-scale school change efforts. Despite such apparent unanimity regarding the importance of city schools, disputes have emerged over the proper structural and systemic alterations necessary to improve education. Often at issue has been the notion of just who should and will control change efforts. Moreover, vexing tensions have also characterized the enacted reform initiatives. For instance, urban school policies created by distant, delocalized outsiders have routinely engendered unanticipated local effects and fierce community resistance. In addition, particular urban school reforms have manifested simultaneously as a means for encouraging social justice for marginalized youth and as mechanisms for generating financial returns for educational vendors. Regardless of such tensions, faith in urban school reform has persisted, thanks to exemplary city schools and programs that have helped students thrive academically. For many reformers, such success stories demonstrate that viable routes toward enabling academic achievement for more children living in urban areas do indeed exist.

Article

Trust in Schooling System Governance and Reform  

John O'Neill

Since the 1980s there has been significant reform in the development, delivery, and evaluation of all areas of public policy and services provision, including schooling. The reforms are prompted by a general “turn” from direct government determination and provision of public services to indirect governance undertaken by a mixture of public, private, and philanthropic actors. Orthodoxies about public sector governance and schooling system reform have shifted over this time from a preference for bureaucracy to preferences for markets, contracts, and most recently social networks. Schooling system governance in many Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries has seen devolution of substantial statutory powers, responsibilities, and accountabilities to local parent communities or shared-interest coalitions, both for-profit and not-for-profit. Schooling policy, governance, and services provision work is now distributed across multiple state, parastatal, and nongovernmental actors. Trust in the actions of others within devolved and distributed systems is identified as an essential social lubricant of contemporary schooling governance and reform. Studies of the role played by trust in schooling systems remain relatively rare.

Article

The Swedish Assessment Reform of 2011: A Reform in Constant Need of Ad Hoc Adjustment and Clarification  

Christian Lundahl

Curriculum and assessment systems are tightly connected, both in theory and practice. However, this is not always the case when it comes to curriculum and assessment reforms. This has created major problems for teachers and in the implementation of the reforms from a governing point of view. Sweden was one of the first countries to adopt a management-by-objectives curriculum and assessment system. The case of Sweden illustrates some of the problems that arose as a consequence of not seeing the close connection between curriculum and assessments when reforming the educational system. The ongoing reform of management by objectives that started in the early 1990s has been adjusted several times since and has most recently been considered as a parallel curriculum and assessment reform. Teachers have not been involved throughout the shaping and implementation of this reform, but they have instead been seen as troublesome learners of how to work in a management-by-objectives system. This has led to constant revisions, production of supporting materials, and ad hoc policies. However, in 2018 there was a shift in reform strategies in relation to curriculum, syllabi, and grading revisions, where teachers became much more involved in the reform than they had in the preceding decades. So far it is inconclusive how these changes will affect the work of the teachers and the pupils’ learning; there has evidently been a case of “system’s learning.”

Article

Gender and School Reform in India  

Nandini Manjrekar and Indumathi Sundararaman

Policy discourses on education in all countries are historically shaped by a range of regional, national, and global factors and dynamics. In the Indian context, ideological and structural contexts have influenced the policy visions and practices of gender and schooling, particularly in relation to the education of girls. Mapping historical shifts over the colonial and post-colonial periods up to the present, the early 21st century, reveals the intersections of ideologies and structures associated with both gender as a social category and education as a state project. Such a discursive cartography reveals certain key moments that point to how these intersections have impacted practices and processes within school education. From the early 2000s, the intensification of neoliberal economic reforms has been marked by an ideological shift that sees education as a private good and the operation of discourses of school choice. The ascendance of majoritarian nationalism and its presence in state power has also seen an undermining of the gains in women’s education. At the same time, India passed a historic legislation, the Right to Education Act (2009), making education a fundamental right of all children. These somewhat contradictory and competing discourses and practices have had critical implications for the education of children of marginalized communities like the lower and former untouchable castes (Dalits), marginalized ethnicities like the Indigenous communities (Adivasis), and a marginalized religious minority community (Muslims). Within an intersectional perspective, it emerges that girls belonging to these communities face the greatest challenges in accessing and participating fully in schooling, even as recent policy initiatives are silent on many of the critical issues relating to promoting gender equality within the education system as a whole.

Article

Language Policy and Reform in the Indian School System  

Rupanjali Karthik and George W. Noblit

India is a linguistically diverse country and supports this with its Language Policy based on the “Three Language Formula” (every child is taught three languages in school). However, its implementation has exhibited monolingual bias as multiple languages are offered as subjects of study and not as media of instruction. The medium of instruction in the majority of government schools is the concerned state’s regional language. Due to a rise in the demand for English medium instruction, governments in various states have started introducing all English medium instruction in schools. It is unfortunate that in a multilingual nation, a monolingual mind-set has dominated the language-in-education policies and effective pedagogical reforms have largely remained side-lined in such policy debates. There is no denial of the importance of learning English for the children in government schools in India. However, the success of any language-in-education policy in India will depend on a flexible multilingual approach that recognizes the languages existing in the ecology of children (which will vary from state to state as media of instruction), acknowledges the importance of learning the English language, and ushers in effective pedagogical reforms.

Article

Aligning School Autonomy and Social Justice Approaches to Reform in School Breakfast Clubs in Australia  

Fiona MacDonald

The purpose of education and school reform is a topic of constant debate, which take on a different perspective depending on the motivation of those calling for change. In the Australian context, two of the loudest school reform agendas in the early 21st century center on school autonomy and social justice. The school autonomy agenda focuses on freeing up schools from the centralized and bureaucratic authorities, enabling them to respond to the local needs of their students and school community. Social justice reform focuses on equity, including lack of opportunity, long-term health conditions, low educational attainment, and other intersecting inequalities, and practices of care and nurture that focus on emotional, behavioral, and social difficulties in order to address the disadvantages and inequalities experienced by many students and families. In the early 21st century, school autonomy and social justice reform have been engulfed by neoliberal ideology and practices. Schools are encouraged to engage in a culture of competitive performativity dictated by market-driven agendas, whereas equity has been transformed by measurements and comparisons. Neoliberalism has been heavily critiqued by scholars who argue that it has mobilized the school autonomy agenda in ways that generate injustice and that it fails to address the social issues facing students, families, schools, and the system. Schools are committed to care and social justice, and, when given autonomy without systems-level constraints, they are adept at implementing socially just practices. While the neoliberal agenda focuses on the market and competitive performativity, the premise of school autonomy is to empower school leadership to innovate and pursue opportunities to respond more effectively to the needs and demands of their school at the local level. Schools are implementing social justice practices and programs that introduce responsive caregiving and learning environments into their school culture in order to address the holistic wellbeing and learning needs of their students and school community. With an increasing commitment to addressing disadvantage through the provision of breakfast food, schools are creating wraparound environments of nurture and care that have become enablers of students’ learning and of their connectedness to school and their local community. Adopting a whole-school approach, principals have demonstrated how social justice and school autonomy reform has aligned to address the overall educational commitment to excellence and equity in Australian education.

Article

Reforms of Education in Nordic Countries  

Jens Rasmussen

Educational reforms have become the normal condition of education, and educational reforms will come ever more frequently due to rapid and accelerated changes to the world in which we live. Reforms are always concerned with anticipating the future due to the belief that education can be done better in and for the future. When pedagogy orients itself towards the future, demand for a solid basis for its decisions becomes pressing. Therefore, trend analysis has become an industry that seeks to establish an (you might say) uncertain certainty about an uncertain future as a basis for reforms in and of the educational system. In its orientation towards the future, education seems to be in a process of transformation into new combinations of tradition in the sense of normative, philosophical considerations and evidence for what works in education and for ensuring that students can achieve their best, which is the purpose of teaching and education.

Article

A Critical Appraisal of Education in the Caribbean and Its Evolution From Colonial Origins to Twenty-First Century Responses  

Nigel Brissett

The countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) share a history of colonialism that has left an indelible mark on all their institutions and systems of socialization, including education. A dominating theme across these countries is the question of equitable access to quality education at all levels, an issue that increasingly finds resonance in the 21st century’s technological era. The region has generally made important strides in the areas of universal access to basic education and increasingly to secondary education. Tertiary education has also been prioritized under the new “knowledge economy,” with many countries exceeding the 15% of qualified cohort (those who are academically qualified to be enrolled) that was set as a regional target in 1997 by Caribbean governments. Yet, even with these strides, the education project is still incomplete, with new and continued challenges of affordability and quality. These concerns are now incorporated into the Caribbean’s deliberate attempts at regionalism through the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), which serves as CARICOM’s organizing mechanism to face the new opportunities and challenges of the 21st century’s knowledge economy. These regional and development plans are expressed in CARICOM’s Human Resource Development 2030 Strategy (HRD Strategy), a multiyear development plan that is predicated on educational advancement across the region. The Caribbean’s educational achievements, equity challenges, and development plans are best understood in a historical context that captures the social, political-economic, and cultural idiosyncrasies of the region.

Article

Institutional Dis/Continuities in Higher Education Changes During the Soviet and Post-Soviet Periods in Kazakhstan  

Gulzhan Azimbayeva

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) higher education system has undergone radical change since the perestroika period—the Gorbachev period (1985–1991). Perestroika means restructuring in Russian. In this period, the institutional context of higher education was fundamentally transformed by the major upheavals of the political and socioeconomic institutions of the USSR. The changes in the USSR higher education had a major impact on the higher education of Kazakhstan—a former Republic of the USSR. Thus, to understand the changes in higher education in Kazakhstan, it is important to locate them in the stages of the collapse of the USSR. It could be argued that the “institutional dis/continuities” theory would allow a careful examination of the educational changes in the postsocialist context. The “institutional dis/continuities” of the perestroika period draw on path-dependency and critical juncture concepts within historical institutionalism theory. Perestroika period can be seen as a critical juncture in the historical development of higher education. Also, the policy choices which were made during the perestroika period could establish further path-dependencies in policy-making.

Article

School Reform and Parental Engagement Learning in the United Kingdom  

Janet Goodall

Parental engagement in children and young people’s learning has been shown to be an important lever for school improvement and young people’s outcomes. However, parents are rarely involved in school reform movements. These reform movements are generally centered on the school rather than on improvement of learning per se. Shifting the focus away from the school and to learning as an overarching aim requires the inclusion of and partnership with parents. This is a new way of understanding school reform but has the best chance of supporting all students, including those not best served by the schooling systems in the early 21st century. The reforms here are chiefly concerned with U.K. schooling systems, but could be more widely applicable, and call on a wide range of evidence, from the United Kingdom and beyond.

Article

Imaginaries of Inclusion in Swedish Education  

Gunnlaugur Magnússon and Daniel Pettersson

Traditionally, Swedish education has been built on, and enhanced by, notions and priorities of democracy, equity, and inclusion. In fact, Sweden’s education system has often, during the 20th century, been raised as a beacon of inclusion. However, from the 1990s onwards Swedish education is gradually transmogrified into a heavily marketized system with several providers of education, an emphasis on competition, and an escalating segregation, both as regards pupil backgrounds, need for special support, educational attainment, and provision of educational materials and educated teachers. This shows that traditional educational ideals have shifted and been given new meanings. These shifts are based on desires to improve performance and new ideas of control and predictability of educational ends. The historical development of education reforms illustrates how priorities have shifted over time, dependent on how the public and private are conceptualized. In particular, education reforms from the 1990s and onwards have gradually been more attached to connotations on market ideals of competition, efficiency, and individualization, making inclusion a secondary and de-prioritized goal of education, creating new educational dilemmas within daily life in schools. An empirical example of principals’ experience—seen as mediators of educational desires—illustrates these dilemmas and how the marketization of education affects both the political understanding of how education is best organized and the prioritization of previously valued ambitions of coherence and inclusion.

Article

The Need for a Critical School-Family Policy Analysis Perspective in the Spanish School Reform Framework  

Jordi Collet-Sabé and Antonio Olmedo

Since 1970, education reform in Spain and many other countries has proposed changes to existing school-family relationships. Such school reforms and subsequent legislation are key to the production of norms; that is, they define what a “good” school is and what “good” parents are and, consequently, determine the sort of “good” connections and associations between them. Critical analyses of school-family relationships in school reforms have been carried out in different countries, especially England, questioning their neutrality. Such analyses highlight how power relations are deeply embedded in family-school relationships and throughout different processes and bodies (e.g., interviews, meetings, parents’ associations, and school governing body). Thus, all school reforms have strong implications in terms of inclusion/exclusion, heterogeneity/homogeneity, and equality/inequality. Following a critical policy sociological approach, family-school relations are analyzed in the context of Spanish school reforms since the democratic transition in the 1970s up to the present. In the 1970s and all the way through the 1980s, schools were conceived, at least discursively, as a democratic community where parents, as a collective and as diverse actors, played an important role. Since the 1990s, and especially in the first decade of the 21st century, through small shifts in school reforms and laws, families have become managers and consumers in the form of rational choosers. As in many other countries, notably England, in the first decades of the 21st century, neoliberal rationality sees good parenting and good family-school relations as a neutral issue, hiding behind them a push toward managerialism, individualization, and depoliticization. This involves a new model that has strong and broader implications, particularly in terms of social exclusion, homogenization, and inequalities. The implications of this new model and future research directions are considered in order to rethink current school-family relationships with the aim of promoting more democratic, equitable, and inclusive practices.

Article

Reforming Approaches to Persistent Bullying in Schools  

Deborah M. Green, Barbara A. Spears, and Deborah A. Price

Bullying remains a global issue, and persistent bullying among students in schools has become of increasing interest and concern. Extensive research has provided insights into the developmental trajectories of those who bully; however, less is understood about why they either continue to engage in bullying behavior or desist over time. Persistent bullies, those who seem to continue or increase their bullying behaviors over time, not only negatively impact individuals and communities both during their schooling and long after graduation but also experience negative life outcomes as a result of their behavior. It is therefore important to understand what contributes to, supports, or motivates their ongoing bullying behavior: especially when interventions and preventative approaches employed by schools to reduce bullying, have to date, been found not to be universally successful. This is particularly important, as interventions and approaches to reduce bullying behavior, have until the early 21st century been largely measured against and are relevant to Olweus’s traditional bullying definition, which references power imbalances, repetition, and intent to harm and rests largely within the developmental psychology domain. In the early 21st century, debates to contemporize the definition, however, involve contributions from other paradigms designed to bring a more holistic, nuanced understanding of the whole socio-educational context of bullying. This may eventually bring different insights to the issue of persistent bullying, as it would include, for example, an understanding of the broader notions of societal power, individual agency, privilege, and bias-based bullying, potentially resulting in better preventative and intervention outcomes to address bullying more generally, and persistent bullying specifically. Whereas school reform often refers to the process of making changes in educational policy or practice, usually in response to concerns about student academic achievement, behavioral issues such as bullying, which impact wellbeing, engagement, and, ultimately, achievement, also require similar “reforms” to policy and practice. Significantly, such reforms demand evidence to ensure there are no unintended or iatrogenic consequences, such as, for example, the escalation or continuation of bullying behaviors. Reforming approaches to understanding, preventing, and effectively intervening with those who persist in bullying others, a unique subset who seem resistant or immune to bullying prevention and intervention approaches used in the early 21st century, are therefore necessary and timely given the extant knowledge about bullying and victimization derived from the past 30-plus years of research. Knowing more about those who appear immune to intervention and prevention approaches used in the early 21st century, their lived experiences, the contexts that may serve to support and maintain their behaviors, and the community’s view of them, is imperative if approaches are to be reformed in response which subsequently bring about change in schools to reduce bullying. Reforming approaches at the whole-school level are considered, which simultaneously employ a multi-tiered system of behavioral support within the school setting for all students: where specific supports are targeted and enacted for those who persist in bullying, alongside strategies for those victimized, in a climate where all bullying is universally rejected. This approach sits alongside the notion of a whole education approach recommended by the UNESCO scientific committee on school violence. This recognizes that a wider community approach is needed, which acknowledges the interconnectedness of the school, the community, and the technological, educational, and societal systems.

Article

The Contents and Discontents of Madrasa Reform in India  

Arshad Alam

Madrasa reform in India is a deeply contested issue. While the state has from time to time attempted to introduce various policies for madrasa reforms, its attempts have been, at best, half-hearted. Moreover, the state and the pro-reform voices have been uninformed about the deeper complexities within the madrasa system. For example, in treating madrasas as a homogenous entity, the reform policy has singularly failed to target the most deserving. There does exist a case for madrasa reforms, however, given that there are clear correlations between Muslim educational lags and contemporary madrasa education. A passionate defense of madrasas as being cultural institutions might therefore be counterproductive to the educational futures of children studying in these institutions. A certain a-historicity associated with the madrasa reform project has meant that the political economy that sustains this kind of education has largely escaped the attention of policymakers in India. It is equally true that the Muslim community has not been supportive of any such state policy. Owing to a number of factors, Muslims, led by the ulema, have been deeply suspicious of the state intruding into their religious space. Following a modernist logic, they argue that matters of religion, including the question of madrasa reform, should be left to them. This, however, is not to say that they blindly oppose any madrasa reform whatsoever, but they have their own notions about what constitutes “proper” madrasa reforms.

Article

Educational Reforms in Kenya  

Martin Mwongela Kavua

Educational reforms have been made from time to time since independence in Kenya. These reforms have been effected through commissions of education in the context of the country. Among education commissions that have steered reforms in Kenya are the Kenya Education Commission, the National Commission on Education Objectives and Policy, the Presidential Working Party on the Second University, the Commission of Inquiry into the Educational System of Kenya, and the Taskforce on the Realignment of the Sector to the New System. The main challenges facing the education sector have been issues of access, equity, quality, relevance, availability of educational resources, and efficiency in managing them. Moreover, the education system has been blamed for some of the challenges in the education sector, necessitating system change from the 8+4+4 to the 2+6+3+3+3 system. Challenges facing education reforms include inconsistency in carrying out reforms fueled by lack of a guiding philosophical framework, a top-down decision-making process, limited backing for inclusive education in policy, and curriculum-based challenges. Going forward, a bottom-up approach to education reforms, an evidence-based decision-making for reforms in education, and an implementation of inclusive education may play a significant role in reforming the education system.

Article

Inclusive School Reform in Eswatini  

Cebsile P. Nxumalo

Inclusive school reform has been a subject of concern in many countries, including the Kingdom of Eswatini. One of the forces that has shaped this reform agenda are the demands on transforming schools to embrace inclusive education, thus catering for diverse learners. Effective and sustainable inclusive reform is dependent on comprehensive school reform (CSR) approaches to change, with a focus on embracing and catering for diversity of learners from a broader perspective other than disability and special needs. CSR is one approach to change that is being used with some success in general education and has proven to have the potential of developing more inclusive schools. This is because such reform develops effective, sustainable programs that improve educational outcomes for all learners, with or without special needs and disabilities. CSR provides administrators and teachers with a framework to develop successful, effective, and sustainable inclusive programs. Each country has designed its own ways to ensure inclusive school reform. Inclusive school reform in Eswatini is situated within the context of a comprehensive larger school change effort that promises to improve educational outcomes for all learners while providing the necessary support to allow general classrooms to be changed to accommodate a diverse range of learners. The Southern Africa Development Community school reform model known as Care and Support for Teaching and Learning (CSTL) or “Inqaba,” which means fortress—a safe haven for all learners—has played an important role in the implementation of inclusive school reform in Eswatini. The Inqaba model is a comprehensive response and represents a pragmatic pathway toward inclusive quality education. Creating a caring, supportive, and inclusive teaching and learning environment in every school requires implementing a diverse, comprehensive, and multisectoral response, such as Inqaba, despite some challenges.

Article

Teacher Education in Russia  

Roza Valeeva and Aydar Kalimullin

Teacher training in Russia began at the end of the 18th century and has been transformed many times over the past two centuries. The reforms were connected with the development of a comprehensive school system, which became a mass phenomenon in the 19th century. The transformation was most active when the country went through social and economic growth. Up to 2011 Soviet teacher training traditions and principles strongly influenced the Russian teacher education system. It was the period of significant change of shifting from a 5-year program, called “specialist’s degree,” to bachelor’s and master’s degree programs as a response to the Bologna process. At the beginning of 2010 a range of organizational problems and content-related problems of teacher education arose: the reproductive character of teaching in higher education institutions implementing training programs for future teachers; the predominant single-channel model of the system of teacher training not providing students with opportunities to implement transitions between teaching and non-teaching areas of training; and the lack of the system of independent assessment of the quality of future teachers training. These problems prompted the government to start a reform of teacher education in the country from 2014 to 2017. Teacher education in Russia in the early 21st century is a complex system of continuing teacher training which gives students a chance to enter the teaching profession through a number of different ways. The main structural levels of the system of continuing teacher education in Russia are vocational training educational institutions funded by local governments (teacher training colleges), higher education institutions (specialized teacher training higher education institutions, classical universities, non-governmental [private] universities, non-pedagogical universities), and educational institutions of continuing professional development and professional retraining. The types of educational institutions correlate with the degree levels. The content of teacher education is based on the Federal State Educational Standards. All teacher training universities that provide teacher education programs follow these Federal State Educational Standards when they develop their educational programs. Teacher education in Russia determines the quality of professional training in all social spheres. In the early 21st century, graduates from teacher training universities have started working in different professional areas, including social, educational, cultural, and administrative fields.

Article

Teachers as Conscientious Objectors  

Doris A. Santoro

Teachers often characterize their interest in and commitment to the profession as moral: a desire to support students, serve their communities, or uphold civic ideals embedded in the promise of public education. These initial and sustaining moral impulses are well documented in research on teaching and teacher education. However, moral commitments can also be a source of teachers’ dissatisfaction and resistance, especially in the age of the market-based Global Education Reform Movement. This article explores the phenomenon of conscientious objection in teaching as an enactment of professional ethics. Conscientious objection describes teachers’ actions when they take a stand against job expectations that contradict or compromise their professional ethics. Teachers who refuse to enact policies and practices may be represented by popular media, school leaders, policymakers, and educational researchers as merely recalcitrant or insubordinate. This perspective misses the moral dimensions of resistance. Teachers may refuse to engage in practices or follow mandates from the standpoint of professional conscience. This article also highlights varieties of conscientious objection that are drawn from global examples of teacher resistance. Finally, the article explores the role of teachers unions as potential catalysts for collective forms of conscientious objection.

Article

Challenges to Educational Leadership and Equity in México  

Marta Sánchez

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

Using Proven Programs to Improve Educational Outcomes  

Robert E. Slavin

One of the most important problems in improving educational practice and outcomes is the very limited role that evidence plays in decisions about adopting books, software, professional development, and other materials and services. Instead, these are sold using relationship marketing in which sales reps work to build friendships with key decision makers. Word of mouth among educators with similar jobs also has a powerful influence. Why should evidence of effectiveness be a major criterion in the selection of educational products and services? The most important answer is that programs with a strong evidence base that are implemented as they were in the validating research are likely to produce better outcomes for children. Further, making evidence a basis for program adoption would put education into a virtuous cycle of innovation, evaluation, and progressive improvement like that which has transformed fields such as medicine, agriculture, and technology.