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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

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

An Overview of Historical Transitions in Politics of Education in Spain  

Gonzalo Jover and Mariano González-Delgado

Politics of education constitutes a major line of research in Spain in recent years. This interest is the result of a long process. Enlightened thought and the emergence of new ideas led to thinking about the need to develop a national education system. The 19th century witnessed the birth of just such a system, along with the unfinished debate between liberals and conservatives on who should control education (church or state) and how it should be funded. By the 20th century, the education system had become one of the main resources for achieving social modernization in Spain and grew accordingly. Despite the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939), this push for modernization carried on into the Franco dictatorship, with the typical peculiarities of a totalitarian regime. By the end of World War II, the Spanish education system was characterized by following the development of educational policies inscribed in the model of Western societies, or what has been called “global governance in education.” This conception of education was continued during the restoration of democracy in 1978. Despite its intention of configuring an education system based on the agreement between the major political parties of the day, the Constitution of 1978 did not manage to end the “school war,” which has caused considerable instability in the system. Since the end of the 20th century, the Spanish education system has been inserted in the context of international trends such as the resizing of political spaces, the push of the neoliberal global economy, and the move toward multicultural societies. The battle of statistics, figures, and scores has led to a supposed depoliticization of the debate. In face of this alleged depoliticization, an argument can be made in favor of resituating the politics of education as a field of knowledge that concerns social aspirations forged in the course of history and ethics.

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

Tradition and Transformation in Danish Early Childhood Education and Care  

Karen Ida Dannesboe and Bjørg Kjær

Denmark has a long tradition of public provision of early childhood education and care (ECEC) as part of what is known internationally as the Nordic welfare model. Both traditions and transformations within Danish ECEC are parallel to the establishment and development of this model. The emergence of child-centered pedagogy, so characteristic for Danish ECEC, is part of specific historical processes. Since the 1960s, the ECEC sector has undergone significant expansion and in 2020, most children in Denmark between the ages of 1 and 6 attend an ECEC institution. This expansion has positioned ECEC as a core universal welfare service, including a special focus on preventing injustice and inequality and on taking care of the vulnerable and disadvantaged. Early 21st-century international discourses on learning and early intervention have influenced political reforms and initiatives addressing ECEC institutions and the work of “pedagogues” (the Danish term for ECEC practitioners with a bachelor’s degree in social pedagogy). Since the 1990s, there has been growing political interest in regulating the content of ECEC, resulting in various policies and reforms that have changed the nature of Danish ECEC by introducing new learning agendas. This has been accompanied by an increased focus on the importance of the early years of childhood for outcomes later in life and on the role of parents in this regard. These tendencies are embedded in political initiatives and discourses and shape the conditions for ECEC, perceptions of children and childhood, the legitimacy of the pedagogical profession, the meaning of and emphasis on young children’s learning, the importance of inclusion, and the changing role of parents. These changes in social reforms and pedagogical initiatives interact with national historical processes and international tendencies and agendas at different levels.

Article

The State of Higher Education in the Arab World  

Islam Qasem

The mid-20th century marked the birth of higher education systems in the majority of the 22 Arabic-speaking countries. Driven by post-independence nationalism, ruling elites deemed education, including higher education, as a crucial part of nation-state building, next to the development of the army, bureaucracy, and economy. With government funding, new public universities were established throughout the region. Enrollment steadily increased as governments expanded access to higher education through lax admission and free or highly subsidized admission, and often guaranteeing employment for university graduates in the public sector. By the end of the 20th century, higher education became widely accessible in most Arab countries, but decades of neglect have led to a crisis in quality and research. Academic quality has deteriorated under the weight of decades of neglect from overcrowded classrooms, outdated curriculum, poor pedagogy, underpaid faculty, lack of quality mechanisms, strapped budget to limited autonomy. No more encouraging is the universities’ role as a center of knowledge discovery and innovation, given their lack of adequate qualified human and necessary physical resources. The low performance of public universities on the global ranking systems and the high unemployment rate among university graduates sums up the Arab higher education system’s inauspicious condition. During the last two decades, governments enacted various reform measures. To relieve overcrowded public universities and reduce public finance burden, countries in the region authorized private higher education. Consequently, the number of private universities has mushroomed, many of which are for-profit and exclusively focused on teaching. However, a shortage of cash and limited freedom to manage academic and administrative affairs continue to beset most public institutions. Some countries have made incremental changes, such as introduced measures to increase equity, endorsed new admission policies, and established accreditation and quality assurance bodies. The Gulf countries undertook far-reaching measures to transform the system. Cushioned by oil and gas revenues and a relatively small population, the six Gulf countries have invested considerably in upgrading public universities’ infrastructure, hiring faculty and administrative staff from abroad, and developing a research infrastructure including establishing new research-oriented universities. Consequently, the Arab higher education landscape has become increasingly diversified and with growing differences among countries. To compare the Arab countries on their current state of their higher education system, the countries are ranked on an index composed of three key aspects: access to higher education (gross enrollment ratio), equity (gross enrollment ratio for female), and publication intensity (citable documents per million inhabitants). The ranking shows the Gulf countries vying for the top spots. At the low end of the rank are countries which have been conflict-ridden or poverty-stricken.

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

Postwar School Reforms in Norway  

Harald Thuen and Nina Volckmar

Comprehensive schooling has been a cornerstone in the development of the Norwegian welfare state since World War II. Over the years it has been extended, initially from 7 to 9 years and later to 10-year compulsory schooling, since the late 1990s including virtually all Norwegian children between the ages of 6 and 16. In education policy, the interests of the community versus the individual have played a key role, reflected in a line of conflict between the political left and right. During the first three to four decades after the war, through the Labor Party, the left wing was in power and developed education policy according to a social-democratic model. The ideal of equality and community in schools had precedence. The vision was to create a school for all that had a socially and culturally unifying effect on the nation and its people. Social background, gender, and geographical location should no longer create barriers between pupils. Ideally, school was to be understood as a “miniature democracy,” where pupils would be trained in solidarity and cooperation. Compulsory schooling was thus regarded as an instrument for social integration and for evening out social inequalities. But one challenge remained: How could a common school for all best take care of the individual needs of each pupil? The principle of individualized teaching within the framework of a common school was incorporated in the education policy of social democracy and was subjected to experimentation and research from an early stage. But with the political shift to the right toward the 2000s, a sharper polarization can be observed between the interests of the community versus the interests of the individual. The political right profiles education policy in opposition to the left-wing emphasis on the social purpose of the school system. In the early 21st century, the interests of knowledge, the classroom as a learning arena, and the performance of each pupil take precedence. Based on the model of New Public Management, a new organizational culture is taking shape in the school system. Where the political left formed its policy from the perspective of “equality” during the first postwar decades, the right is now forming it from the perspective of “freedom.” And this is taking place without significant opposition from the left. The terms “equality” and “equity” provide the framework for the analysis of the changing polarity between collective and individual considerations and between pupils’ freedom and social solidarity in postwar education.

Article

The “Crisis” in Teacher Education  

Michael Schapira

In 1954, Hannah Arendt wrote that talk of a crisis in education “has become a political problem of the first magnitude.” If one trusts the steady stream of books, articles, jeremiads, and statements from public officials lamenting the fallen status of our schools and calling for bold reforms, the 21st century has shown no abatement in crisis as an abiding theme in education discourse. But why does education occupy such a privileged space of attention and why is it so susceptible to the axiomatic evocation of “crisis?” Arendt provides a clue when she argues that “Education is the point at which we decide whether we love the world enough to assume responsibility for it and by the same token, save it from the ruin which, except for renewal, except for the coming of the new and young, would be inevitable.” The crisis in education has come to signal a variety of issues for which the teacher is either a direct or indirect participant: declining student performance, inadequacy of teacher preparation, inequities of opportunity as well as outcome, or a curriculum ill-fitted to the shape of the modern world. However, at base is the issue of social reproduction that Arendt sees at the heart of education. Thus, the crisis in education serves as a forum for expressing, critiquing, and instantiating the values that are at play when considering “the coming of the new and the young.”

Article

School Culture  

Diana Gonçalves Vidal and André Paulilo

Over the past several decades, scholars have focused special attention on the relationship between schooling and culture. The first forays focused on curriculum matters, trying to understand how educational policies affected the selection of content and its dissemination in schools. More recently, the concept of school culture has emerged as a frame for researchers, thanks to its ability to problematize how teachers and pupils experience school in terms of time and space. Placing these individuals in the center of the schooling process, the concept of school culture enables scholars to create a more comprehensive analysis of what happens inside classrooms and schoolyards. This tool offers an opportunity for researchers and teachers to debate the merits of tradition and innovation in education, pay attention to material culture as a part of school practices, and consider school community as a social actor. The concept has become commonplace in the academic production in many areas, such as educational sociology, history of education, educational anthropology, philosophy of education, and educational psychology.

Article

History of Curriculum Development in Schools  

Daniel Tanner

The evolution of curriculum development in schools reflects the evolution of knowledge and civilization itself. What knowledge is of most worth? How shall it be codified, structured, and transformed into curriculum for the acculturation and growth of successive generations so that the future is better than the past? How can the school be designed and equipped as a productive and democratic learning environment? These are some of the questions that intersect with the fundamental factors of the education process, namely the learner, the curriculum, and the society. When these fundamental factors are set in opposition or isolation, the possibility for educational progress is impeded or set back. Embracing the idea of progress and the science of education, the experimentalist movement over the first half of the 20th century sought to dissolve the dualisms carried from ancient Greece (e.g., mind/body, intellect/emotion, abstract/concrete knowledge) in endeavoring to create new designs and structures for curriculum synthesis to meet the democratic prospect and the universal educational needs of the rising generation. In sum, the experimentalists reconstructed curriculum development into a process of problem solving for educational progress, holding to the paradigmatic principle that the structure and function of the school curriculum must be in congruence with the nature and needs of the learner for effective living in the democratic society. The paradigm holds the fundamental factors in the education process as necessarily interdependent and in harmony. The curriculum paradigm explains why so many reforms imposed on the schools predictively are destined for failure simply because they set the fundamental factors in conflict with each other. The march of democracy in global affairs will require a resurgence of the progressive vision for the curriculum of the democratic classroom and school in which students are engaged openly with each other and with the teacher in investigative cooperation, collaboration, and consultation.