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Research on curriculum and shadow education (also known as private or supplementary tutoring) is increasing and diversifying. Shadow education can be understood as out-of-school formal education. Although separate from the school program, it is directed toward that program. Shadow education often targets aspects of the curriculum of mass schooling that are most tightly controlled by the state through curricular prescription and high-stakes assessment. In terms of the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu, that control can be understood as the “institutionalization” of curriculum in an educational “field.” Internationally, shadow education suppliers variously prepare students for assessments that are conducted in school, are authorized by the state to award the institutionalized cultural capital of grades, or are otherwise involved in partnerships with schools. Since the 1990s, policy-oriented researchers (many influenced by the research synthesis work of Mark Bray in forums of global educational governance) have addressed impacts of shadow education on curricula. They have identified risks to the curricular work of state, bureaucracy, and school, highlighting impacts on the efficacy of systemic equity measures designed to extend the benefits of schooling to all. More recently, Young Chun Kim, Jung-Hoon Jung, and colleagues have been bringing postcolonial, feminist, and critical traditions of curriculum scholarship to the study of shadow education. Offering a critique of the Eurocentric normativities of global agenda in educational practice and research, they celebrate the use of shadow education in East Asia, and studies of the benefits of such. Neither of the two extant strands of research on shadow education and curriculum have attended to curriculum as institutionalized formal education. To rectify this, it is useful to articulate concepts about the making and remaking of the content of formal education developed by Michael Connelly, Jean Clandinin, and Water Doyle to Bourdieusian theory. This enables understanding of the curriculum-making work of instructors and students, as well as program writers and policymakers, in fields and subfields of education that involve school and shadow education organizations. Among other things, this perspective offers ways of understanding the work of shadow education in the construction of subject matter content in instructional, programmatic, and institutional domains of curriculum.


Catherine Doherty and Megan Pozzi

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