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Article

System Reform in the Early Childhood Education and Care Sector in Australia  

Becky Shelley

Three normative accounts of formal early childhood education and care are evident within international, national, and local policy frames. Human capital theories, human rights discourses, and social pedagogic understandings shape policy frames in specific ways. The flow of global policy frames has influenced the formal early childhood education and care sector in Australia. Early childhood education and care have evolved as specific repositories of hope for nation states seeking to boost their productivity and secure enhanced life outcomes for citizens. There are structural challenges in translating an evidence base and apparent policy consensus into systemic change. It is therefore necessary to highlight the persistence of equity challenges that exist in the early childhood education and care sector in Australia.

Article

Marketization and Educational Institutions  

Pedro Nuno Teixeira

The way education is perceived socially and politically has changed significantly over the last half century. The growing pervasiveness of economic analysis in education has contributed significantly, among other societal and political factors, to a reformulation in the way educational organizations are conceived, particularly due to the economic and social effects of their activity. One of the major dimensions of that change has been the strengthening of a discourse that emphasized the advantages of market and competitive forces over public regulation and of privatization and quasi-private rationales over public ones. Despite significant social and political resistances, the education sector has been experiencing a growing influence of market and competitive forces, and this is particularly visible in the higher education sector. Hence, several policy developments have led to the strengthening of market forces and competition in higher education. This encompasses changes in the contextual conditions through which market forces have been strengthened and the subsequent impact of marketization, competition, and privatization policies at the institutional level. However, this faces resistance, not least due to the peculiarities of educational sectors and institutions, that begs reflection about the potential and limitations of approaching education institutions as economic organizations.

Article

Education and Income Inequality in Hong Kong  

Hon-Kwong Lui

Irrespective of the stages of economic development, most governments around the world are facing income inequality problems and are searching for a fix. There is a general perception that the provision of education opportunities to the younger generation can reduce income inequality. However, this general perception does not receive strong support by scholars. In the literature, empirical evidence collected by numerous researchers is mixed. Hong Kong, a culturally diverse and economically well-developed city economy, has undergone rapid economic development in the last few decades. It underwent structural change from an entrepôt to a labor-intensive manufacturing economy and finally became a service-oriented city economy. The Hong Kong story does not support the view that that making higher education more accessible to youngsters can help narrow income disparity. In fact, the evidence from the Hong Kong population census and by-census samples shows that well-educated workers experienced higher income dispersion than those workers with a lower educational level. Policymakers are advised not to rely on expanding higher education opportunities to alleviate income inequality problems.

Article

Neoliberalism and Education  

Matt Hastings

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