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Article

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 African American 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 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

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

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

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

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 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

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

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

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

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.

Article

The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) and its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) play an important role in forming transnational education policy. Based on the results of the PISA measurements and other evaluations, the OECD can claim that its policy proposals are evidence based and in accordance with international standards. There is growing interest from the national governments to adapt their national policy strategies to these international standards. However, the translation from the transnational to national policy is a complex process, whereby the national receivers of the policy are selective regarding the policy elements they borrow from those who create and influence transnational policy. Thus, discursive power regarding transnational policy can be understood as power through ideas, making national reforms similar but not identical, and promoting incremental or imperceptible reforms.

Article

South Korea has experienced a surge of foreign immigration since 1990, and one of the major migrant groups is female marriage migrants. Although the South Korean government has implemented a variety of policies to reform its education system in order to accommodate the growing multicultural population, it has been mainly focused on K–12 education for children of migrants. In addition, the issues of access to and quality of higher education for female marriage migrants in South Korea are seldom discussed in academic and public spheres. Although female marriage migrants have a great degree of motivation to pursue higher education, they face multilayered hurdles before, during, and after receiving their higher education in South Korea. Narratives of female marriage migrants in higher education not only challenge the common stereotype of “global hypergamy” and gender stereotypes related to female marriage migrants but also provide chances to reexamine the current status of higher education in South Korea and the notion of global citizenship. Their stories highlight the changes in self-perception, familial relationships, and social engagement and underscore female marriage migrants’ process of embracing global citizenship. Their narratives articulate how gender, migration, and higher education intersect in their daily lives, how their lives are connected to the globalizing world, and how these reveal two essential components of the sense of global citizenship—dignity and compassion.

Article

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

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

In 2011, “student-centric, values-driven” was introduced by the Ministry of Education as the theme for educational reform and innovation in Singapore, with the goal of ensuring all children the opportunity to develop holistically and maximize their potential. To actualize this ambitious and encompassing vision, Singapore has developed the Framework for 21st Century Competencies and Student Outcomes. By instilling in students core values and competencies deemed crucial in the 21st century, the expectation is that they can each grow into a confident person, a self-directed learner, an active contributor, and a concerned citizen. To achieve these desired outcomes of education, Singapore has been striving to ensure what has been termed “the 4 Everys”: every school a good school; every child an engaged learner; every teacher a caring educator; every parent a supportive partner. Since then, the priority of education in multicultural, multiracial, and multilingual Singapore has been diversity and multiple pathways to success, such that each individual child can reach his or her potential. Key to every good school is the quality of teachers and school leaders. Therefore, Singapore has developed a comprehensive and structured system in teacher/principal recruitment, deployment, preparation, and development. To make every school a good school, Singapore also invests heavily in education and resources schools for them to provide customized programs to satisfy the varied needs, interests, and talents of their students. To ensure that every child is an engaged learner, educational resources and extra learning support are provided to maximize educational opportunities. The curriculum is also constantly revamped to provide students with more opportunities for holistic development and support for their many capacities. For every teacher to emerge as a caring educator, teachers and school leaders are provided with a comprehensive and structured mentoring system to enable them to grow personally and professionally. To help every parent to be a supportive partner, efforts have been made to communicate with, engage, and educate parents via education materials, workshops, talks, and funds. In addition, there are close partnerships among schools, parents, and communities. Three principles guide Singapore’s education reforms: (a) maintaining a clear and progressive vision, (b) working both systemically and systematically, and (c) equitable leveling up. What binds the nation’s core principles of ensuring a progressive, long-haul vision of education is the unwavering belief that students sit at the center of all educational reform endeavors.

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

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

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

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

Japan’s two major national school reforms succeeded in helping transform the country from a premodern feudal society into a modern nation-state in the mid-19th century, and after World War II from a militarist society into a liberal democracy. Since then, there have been numerous reform initiatives. The key drivers of the reforms since the 1990s have been neoliberals, neoconservatives, progressive educationalists, and human rights advocates. Reflecting both struggle and collaboration among these groups, the reforms have been multidirectional and not necessarily consistent. The major reform directions identified are (a) decision-making becoming more decentralized, (b) educational offerings becoming more diverse and flexible, (c) the emergence of greater individual choice, (d) recognition of a widening gap among students and addressing equity and social justice, and (e) a greater role for outside-school providers. There is a significant degree of autonomy and discretion for actors in the middle (local governments, education boards, and schools) and teachers (both independently and collectively). They have utilized this in interpreting the national government’s directives, often avoiding direct challenges to the center.