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Article

Students at the Center of Education Reform in Singapore  

A. Lin Goodwin and Ee Ling Low

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

Diversity, Decentralization, and Social Justice in School Reforms in Japan  

Kaori Okano

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.

Article

Reforming South Korean Higher Education for Female Marriage Migrants  

Ji-Yeon O. Jo and Minseung Jung

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

Current School Reforms in Transnational Policy Landscapes  

Ninni Wahlstrom

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

Remote and Rural Education in Australia and the Pacific  

Stephen Crump, Kylie Twyford, and Theresa Koroivulaono

Remote and rural education is a resonating issue worldwide, given the new and emerging capabilities of digitization to reduce barriers of distance, time, and space, particularly for Oceania. Issues based on achieving equitable educational access and participation that ameliorates the disadvantages for many students in remote and rural locations of Australasia and the Pacific, compared to those in urban classrooms, are pertinent. Nonetheless, students in remote and rural locations also show great resilience and have built up a trove of informal knowledge from the demands of daily life requiring a high degree of independence and maturity. This is evident in the distance education School of the Air in Australia, the University of the South Pacific, and the Marshall Islands College in the North Pacific. These sites provide insights into strength-based reform strategies intended to improve rural and remote education and training and, consequently, work and life choices.

Article

21st-Century Skills and Current Nordic Educational Reforms  

Gunn Elisabeth Søreide, Hanne Riese, and Line Torbjørnsen Hilt

Twenty-first-century skills are a global network of corporate and governmental influences that promote competences suited to fit the future knowledge economy. The competences described as 21st-century skills vary across frameworks and initiatives, but the emphasis is predominantly on metacognitive, social, and emotional skills. Some of the most prevalent capabilities are learning to learn, self-regulation, in-depth learning, creativity, innovation, problem solving, critical thinking, ethical and emotional awareness, communication, and collaboration. Research tends to portray 21st-century skills initiatives either as evidence-based knowledge based on the latest research or as part of an economization of the learner to the interests of the market economy in line with neoliberal ideology. The ideas associated with the 21st-century skills movement have nevertheless become part of educational reforms worldwide and are currently also translated into a Nordic education policy context. When global ideas such as 21st-century skills are taken up and used, they are colored by national concerns and consequently change as they travel across contexts. The Norwegian LK-20 reform for compulsory and upper secondary school is an example of how policymakers include global educational ideas in the national curriculum and educational policy, by balancing core 21st-century skills elements with national cultural sentiments about assessment, childhood, educational purposes, and schools’ responsibilities. The balancing of global and national educational ideas can be done by promoting 21st-century skills as a solution to specific national challenges and thus urgent for pupils’ and the nation’s future. A more sophisticated technique is when policymakers frame 21st-century skills by familiar concepts and language associated with existing traditional national educational values, thus seemingly promoting change and continuation simultaneously. In such an intersection between global educational ideas and national educational sentiments, both core elements of the 21st-century skills as well as the more traditional educational concepts and values can be adjusted and altered.

Article

Structural Reforms and Equity in Chilean Schools  

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

Mathematics and School Reform in India  

Farida Abdulla Khan and Charu Gupta

Initial efforts toward reform in mathematics education in India evolved out of a more general concern for educational reforms as they assumed a pivotal role in the agenda of modernization and development after independence. Mathematics as a foundational aspect of science and technology assumed a privileged status with recommendations to keep up with developments in technologically advanced countries. This led to the creation of an unduly loaded curriculum with little attention to children’s cognitive and developmental capacities and other more social and humane aspects of a well-rounded education. The early decades after independence were largely focused on providing access, and other than the rhetoric of equality and quality and overarching recommendations, little investment was made into researching the more nuanced aspects of learning and teaching and the social implications of schooling. Several important national commissions and two major policies put forward important recommendations for reform in mathematics education with suggestions for both curriculum and pedagogy. The early decades after independence saw a greater commitment to higher education, especially in the sciences and technology, and this began to shape the school curriculum, with mathematics as a major concern. Although critiques of the system were never totally absent, efforts at intervention in schools and at the ground level were initially made by smaller groups and nongovernmental organizations (NGOS), and then also nationally and regionally, to transform processes of schooling and learning with a focus on the learner rather than the content alone. A particularly large and comprehensive national effort at reforming school education in all subject areas was the National Curricular Framework, coordinated and initiated by the National Council of Educational Research and Training in 2005. This was a radical attempt at framing an alternative idea of schooling and learning, focused on the child, but with an acute awareness of the larger social, economic, and political structures within which schools, classrooms, teachers, and students are implicated.

Article

Schools as Reform Incubators  

William T. Pink

From a comprehensive analysis of the extant educational literature on school change, it is evident that two activities are essential for the successful reform of schools in the United States. While the focus in this article will be on the programmatic shifts implemented in U.S. schools, the danger of exporting these same failed programs to other countries also will be noted. The first requirement is a systematic critique of the major school reform strategies that have been employed since the 1960s (e.g., the Effective Schools model, standardized testing and school accountability, the standards movement, privatization of schools, charter schools, and virtual/cyber schools). The major conclusion of this critique is that each of these reform strategies has done little to alter the connection between schooling and their production of labor for the maintenance of Western capitalism: beginning in the early 1970s an increasingly strong case has been made that the design and goal of U.S. schooling has been driven by the need to produce an endless supply of differentiated workers to sustain the U.S. economy. Moreover, while both equality and equity have entered the conversations about school reform during this period, it becomes evident that the relative position of both poor students and students of color, with respect to their more affluent White peers, has remained at best unchanged. The second essential requirement is the exploration of an alternative vision for school reform that is grounded in a perspective of equity, both in schools and in the society. Beginning with the question “What would schools look like, and what would be the role of the teacher in a school that was committed to maximizing equity?” such an alternative vision is built on the concept of developing broadly informed students able to play both a thoughtful and active role in shaping the society in which they live, rather than be trained to fit into a society shaped by the interests of capital. From this exploration of the literature emerges a new role for both schools and teachers that repositions schooling as an incubator for social change, with equity as a primary goal. Also addressed is the importance of inequitable economic and public policies that work to systematically inhibit student learning. A key element in forging a successful transition to schools functioning as incubators for reform is the ability of preservice teacher preparation programs to graduate new teachers capable of doing this intellectual work, and for current classroom teachers to engage in professional development to achieve the same end What is clear from a reading of this literature is that without this re-visioning and subsequent reform of schooling, together with a reform of key public policies, we must face the high probability of the rapid implosion of the public school system and the inevitable escalation of class warfare in the United States.

Article

Teacher Education Reform in the Asia-Pacific Region  

Yin Cheong Cheng

Among the numerous education reforms initiated in the Asia-Pacific Region (the “Region”) at the turn of the 21st century, there were teacher education reforms that aimed to equip teachers with new competence to help discharge their professional duties and expand their roles and responsibilities, and to implement new education initiatives as change agents. In such context, teacher education involves not only teachers’ pre-service training, but also all kinds of in-service or lifelong professional development and learning. Since the early 2000s, the nine trends of education reform at the macro, meso, site and operational levels have raised various challenges for policy-makers, researchers, and educators who had to re-think the theories, practices, and policies of teacher education reform in their countries and within the Region. Many education systems in the Region have also experienced three waves of education reform that followed different paradigms and had strong implications for teacher education reform. But even though a lot of resources have been invested in these reforms, people in many countries are still disappointed with the quality and performance of their teaching profession and teacher education systems in view of the increasing challenges from globalization, economic transformation, and international competition. Given the complexities of education reform and the serious concerns about teaching quality, an overview of the key reform issues is needed to draw insights for future development of research, policy analysis, and practice in teacher education reform in the Region and beyond. In particular, the issues related to and implications from the nine trends of education reforms, the paradigm shifts across the three waves, the changes in policy concerns, and the decline in education demands in the Region are analyzed.

Article

School Choice and Inclusive Education  

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

Disability Studies in Education and Inclusive Education  

Susan Baglieri and Jessica Bacon

Disability studies (DS) is a transdisciplinary field of scholarly inquiry whose members seek to understand disability and disablement as cultural phenomena. Scholars who adopt disability studies in education (DSE) perspectives aim to understand how disability is conceptually configured in the research and practice that shape learning, education, and schooling. The DSE field strives to discern and theorize medical and social models of disability in order to promote critical examination of the cultural conditions in which educational practices are performed. The commitments and understandings that arise within DSE lead proponents to conceptualize inclusive education reform as a radical project, and call for the development of policy, teaching, and teacher education practices that acknowledge and resist ableism.

Article

Gender and Sexuality in Taiwan Schools  

Lien Fan Shen

Issues of sexuality and gender equity in schools are often entangled with education reforms in Taiwan. Since 1949, when martial law was enacted by the Chinese Nationalist Party, schools had exercised disciplinary power over and exhibited forms of gendered oppression on students’ gender and sexuality. Since martial law was lifted in 1987, Taiwan has undergone several educational reforms. Taiwan’s education system was criticized for its focus on standardization, memorization, and lack of creativity, thus reformers pushed a more holistic approach, and gender equity education was included through the implementation of the Gender Equity Education Act in 2004. In general, gender equity education reforms were catalyzed by a series of social events, including two honor students’ suicide; students’ protesting a hair ban (how it is referred to in Taiwan) and gender-specific uniforms; a gender-nonconforming boy’s accidental death on campus; and anti-LGBTQ cases in a 2018 referendum to eliminate gender equity education in schools. These events exemplified the complexity of discursive practices that encompass struggles of gender and sexual minority individuals in schools, negotiations between the legislative process and public opinion, and media attention on and representation of adolescent gender and sexuality in Taiwan. Taiwan’s movements and progression of gender equity education may be seen as a magnifier through which issues of gender and sexuality are revealed not only in schools but also in society at large.

Article

Educational Reforms Conducted by Brazilian Courts  

Adriana Dragone Silveira

Since the turn of the 21st century, there has been significant debate about the right to education in Brazil, and educational policies adopted by different courts to promote educational reforms have been questioned. The 1988 Federal Constitution has expanded the content of the right to education, as well as established principles, state and federal duties, and different educational funding forms. The Federal Constitution also extended the attributions of institutions aimed at defending social rights, such as the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Thus, new legal arrangements enabled expanding the involvement of justice system institutions in educational reforms. Educational litigation in Brazil can be analyzed by the structure of the judicial system, the right to education, and the main decisions made by the Federal Supreme Court on such issues as the state’s obligation to provide enough seats in early childhood education (2005); the national professional minimum wage (2011); religious education (2017); elementary school–entrance age (2018); and homeschooling (2018). Despite the advancements in guaranteeing the right to education, educational litigation has not always been beneficial for strengthening and expanding educational rights. On the one hand, it has had a positive bias when lawsuits aim at including citizens in public policies, as in the case about the consolidation of early childhood education as a state duty. On the other hand, it has had a negative bias when there is excessive bureaucratization and disrespect toward the autonomy of the educational field, as in the case about the independence of the National Education Council (CNE) to define educational guidelines for enrollment age and religious education.

Article

Reimagining University Partnerships with Local Schools in the United States  

Karen L. B. Burgard and Melissa M. Jozwiak

Developing a successful university–school partnership has been a topic for research since the early 1900s. In this case study, faculty members at one university in the southern United States believes they may have found one possible answer. This university has been working toward forming a partnership with three local schools to bring about transformative change to the schools and the community. Through this collaboration, faculty members sought to intentionally trouble the pervasive top-down approach many universities take when communicating with schools and to disrupt the savior complexes that often center on these efforts. Instead, by starting to identify the community needs, listening intently to the community desire for future changes in local schools, and working in solidarity with the community, sustainable partnerships were formed, and meaningful change has already happened in the short term. Creating multi-layered relationships rooted in a commitment to culturally relevant/responsive and sustaining pedagogy, the partnerships began with a shared vision between the university and the schools to work collaboratively, responding to the individual needs of each school and the surrounding community. The university faculty members committed to working in and with the community understand that centering the culture of the community in all partnership discussions was tantamount to their success, demonstrating that cultural relevance should not be confined to the walls of the university classroom, but rather, should be a guiding principle in all interactions between universities, local schools, and communities. The success of these partnerships, and the strong relationships built as a result, has created a possible model for future university–school partnerships.

Article

Education and Corruption  

Amra Sabic-El-Rayess and Stephen P. Heyneman

Corruption is a societal problem which adversely affects nations’ efforts to improve lives of their citizens. It is normally thought to be centered on government procurement, taxation, and legal decisions and not in education. But it is a problem in education. How serious is it? The difficulty of responding to this question is that corruption in education, as with all illegal and unprofessional activities, is difficult to accurately measure. This limits researchers to predicting institutional and systemic levels of corruption by relying primarily on individual perceptions. Measuring direct experience with corruption is more difficult and hence more rare. Since 1993, Transparency International has taken a global pulse of corruption by conducting the world’s largest corruption survey to derive the Corruption Perception Index and rank nations from the most to the least corrupt. When it comes to corruption research, participants generally hesitate to share their experiences for fear of repercussions, which is why less corruption is likely to be reported than may be actually occurring within education systems. Corruption is manifest in a wide variety of forms. A broad range of literature on corruption in education has been published in the early 21st century, with the goal of defining corruption typologies and examining the effects which corruption has on education systems and those who depend on those education systems. But anticorruption efforts in education have had limited success and more research is needed on non-pecuniary forms of corruption and their relation to elite formation and institutionalized racism.

Article

The Impact on French Upper Secondary Schools of Reforms Aiming to Improve Students’ Transition to Higher Education  

Clement Pin and Agnès van Zanten

For a long time, the French education system has been characterized by strong institutional disconnection between secondary education (enseignement secondaire) and higher education (enseignement supérieur). This situation has nevertheless started to change over the last 20 years as the “need-to-adapt” argument has been widely used to push for three sets of interrelated reforms with the official aim of improving student flows to, and readiness for, higher education (HE). The first reforms relate to the end-of-upper-secondary-school baccalauréat qualification and were carried out in two waves. The second set of reforms concerns educational guidance for transition from upper secondary school to HE, including widening participation policies targeting socially disadvantaged youths. Finally, the third set has established a national digital platform, launched in 2009, to manage and regulate HE applications and admissions. These reforms with strong neoliberal leanings have nevertheless been implemented within a system that remains profoundly conservative. Changes to the baccalauréat, to educational guidance, and to the HE admissions system have made only minor alterations to the conservative system of hierarchical tracks, both at the level of the lycée (upper secondary school) and in HE, thus strongly weakening their potential effects. Moreover, the reforms themselves combine neoliberal discourse and decisions with other perspectives and approaches aiming to preserve and even reinforce this conservative structure. This discrepancy is evident in the conflicting aims ascribed both to guidance and to the new online application and admissions platform, expected, on the one hand, to raise students’ ambitions and give them greater latitude to satisfy their wishes but also, on the other hand, to help them make “rational” choices in light of both their educational abilities and trajectories and their existing HE provision and job prospects. This mixed ideological and structural landscape is also the result of a significant gap in France between policy intentions and implementation at a local level, especially in schools. Several factors are responsible for this discrepancy: the fact that in order to ward off criticism and protest, reforms are often couched in very abstract terms open to multiple interpretations; the length and complexity of the reform circuit in a centralized educational system; the lack of administrative means through which to oversee implementation; teachers’ capacity to resist reform, both individually and collectively. This half-conservative, half-liberal educational regime is likely to increase inequalities across social and ethnoracial lines for two main reasons. The first is that the potential benefits of “universal” neoliberal policies promising greater choice and opportunity for all—and even of policies directly targeting working-class and ethnic minority students, such as widening participation schemes—are frequently only reaped by students in academic tracks, with a good school record, who are mostly upper- or middle-class and White. The second is that, under the traditional conservative regime, in addition to being the victims of these students’ advantages and strategies, working-class students also continue to be channeled and chartered toward educational tracks and then jobs located at the bottom of the educational and social hierarchy.

Article

The Origin and Development of Comprehensive School Reforms in Sweden and Other Nordic Countries  

Ulf Blossing

The Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden) have all based their school systems on a vision of inclusive and comprehensive schools with no streaming and easy transition between the levels. In Sweden, “A school for all” was the concept and vision for school reforms during the postwar period from the 1950s to the 1980s. This vision originated in egalitarian philosophy and the development of the welfare state. The implementation and reforms have gone through three phases: (a) implementing and supporting enactment of the comprehensive school reforms from 1950 to 1980 approximately; (b) decentralizing and implementing new public management and local accountability from 1980 to 2010 approximately; and (c) evaluating, correcting, and considering new measures from 2010 onward approximately. Political and economic premises have changed the prospects of implementing “school for all.” There are diverse developments in Nordic societies and schools, which, however, are not as dramatic as those in some other countries currently in 2021. Nevertheless, the question of equity in the school system and its importance for a democratic society needs to be raised.

Article

The Norwegian Case of School Reform, External Quality Control, and the Call for Democratic Practice  

Ann Elisabeth Gunnulfsen and Eivind Larsen

Traditionally, the Norwegian education system has been built on equality and democracy as core values, but the disappointing results in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) introduced the perception of a “crisis in education” and increased the occurrence of national reform initiatives. New assessment policies with an emphasis on performance measurement and emerging accountability practices have characterized the transition processes over the last decade. With increasing focus on monitoring based on performance indicators, there is a risk that the purpose of promoting democracy in schools will be downplayed by instrumental and managerial regulations. However, the Norwegian school reform of curriculum renewal in 2020 also highlights democracy and participation as separate interdisciplinary themes and includes a concrete elaboration of this topic, which strongly emphasizes that schools should promote democratic values and attitudes as a counterweight to prejudice and discrimination. To obtain more knowledge about how school professionals deal with possible tensions and dilemmas in their work with the contemporary reform, it is important to unpack the interplay between managerial accountability based on performance indicators and identify how educators legitimize their work on promoting democracy in schools. To capture the dynamic nature of educational leadership and the daily subtle negotiation, a micropolitical perspective and theory on democratic agency were used to analyze theoretical and empirical material from two larger studies focusing on certain aspects of school reforms in Norwegian lower secondary schools. The findings suggest that educational professionals respond to the policy of inclusion through negotiating and translating tensions between equalizing students’ life chances and being subjected to collective monitoring and control. The findings also illuminate stories characterized by a predominantly individualistic interpretation of the democratic purpose of education and the challenges and opportunities involved in balancing academic achievement with students’ well-being.

Article

Taking a Well-Being-Centric Approach to School Reform  

Helen Cahill, Babak Dadvand, and Annie Gowing

The well-being challenges of the 21st century are deeply ethical in nature and require activation of collective as well as individual responsibility for the ways in which others are treated. For this reason, school reform initiatives need to equip young people with a wide range of capacities to engage with the challenges of advancing both the wellness of humanity and that of the planet. There is a robust body of theory and research available to inform school reform efforts that aim to accomplish improved individual and collective well-being. This knowledge base emanates from different paradigms and disciplinary traditions. Brought together, these knowledge sources highlight the importance of ensuring that schools invest efforts toward developing ethical, critical, personal, social, and creative capabilities that enable young people to enact care for self, others, society, and the planet. A transdisciplinary approach that expounds on research and theory from diverse disciplines, including well-being education, critical, feminist, and postmodern traditions, and scholarship on youth voice and participation can help efforts toward well-being-centric school reform. Evidence suggests that research-informed well-being education programs can have positive impacts in terms of improved mental, social, and relational health, contributions to learning, and fostering critical thinking skills. These are the skills that are needed by young people to navigate and respond to ethnical challenges with care, compassion, and a sense of responsibility as a relational ethos. Taken together, these advances in thinking and knowledge, derived from different traditions of scholarship, can be harnessed to inform a “well-being-centric” approach to schooling reform that is responsive to the past, present, and future lives of persons, peoples, and the planet. A well-being-centric approach to school reform should harness developments in education knowledge and thinking generated across diverse disciplines within the past 50 years, since the 1970s. This, in turn, requires disrupting the ways in which the disciplinary structures and assessment regimes of secondary schools work as impediments to the transformative change needed to advance student well-being and learning in these changed and challenging times.