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.
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.
Rachel Finneran, Eve Mayes, and Rosalyn Black
It is well-understood that systems of education tend to disproportionately benefit already advantaged social groups. Students have been positioned in recent reform efforts as agents with the right to be involved in decision-making on an increasing range of issues related to their education, in practices commonly termed “student voice” in policy, practice, and research. Student voice has been argued to be a mechanism to intervene in educational inequalities and a means to enhance students’ choices at school. Student voice is frequently represented as a neutral proposition: that is, that students’ involvement in decision-making will directly benefit both the school and the students themselves. This apparently neutral proposition elides how, in practice, some students may benefit from experiences of “student voice” more than others. Critiques of student voice, as well as contemporary calls for a return to class analysis in education, compel attention to the potential ways that student voice practices can aggravate existing inequalities. Classed dynamics contour even well-intentioned attempts to intervene in educational inequalities. The dynamic experience of class has shifted in relation to student voice across contexts and over time, particularly in individualistic, market-driven educational systems structured by the rhetoric of “choice.” Further research into the shifting nature of class in relation to student voice may include longitudinal processes of “studying up” to understand how student voice can be mobilized to cultivate educational advantage and distinction in class-privileged schooling contexts. What is also needed is a renewed uptake of the concept of class consciousness in student-voice practice—that is, beyond voice as a strategy to personalize individual students’ learning and toward enactments of student voice as collective work—if student voice is to disrupt the reproduction of structural inequalities through schooling.
Educational biopolitics is a growing field of study that explores the intersections of education, life, and power. A central question this literature has formed is a powerful, albeit familiar one: what types of life do schools validate, and what types of life do schools attempt to negate? Given this focus, the concept of educational life has emerged as one of the key units of analysis that informs inquiries in this field. There are two predominant modes of engagement that characterize studies in educational biopolitics: (a) analytical endeavors that seek to understand the operation of contemporary logics of biopower (a power over life) in schools and (b) affirmative educational endeavors that seek to highlight the potential of life to create power. Each approach begins with an understanding that schools do more than transmit knowledge; they are sites of struggle over the production, reproduction, and management of subjectivity. These approaches have led to unique inquiries that explore a number of tangentially related themes and make use of various concepts, including disposability, extractive schooling, and the common.
Elisa Di Gregorio and Glenn C. Savage
In recent decades, important changes have taken place in terms of how governments debate, manage, and allocate funding for schools. These changes have been strongly influenced by a diversification of actors contributing to the school funding. For example, although governments continue to provide the majority of funding resources for schools across member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), many nations have witnessed an increased presence of nongovernment actors, such as philanthropies and corporations, in contributing to the funding of both government and nongovernment schools. Many nations have also seen increases in private parental contributions, which has contributed to the expansion of private schooling relative to traditional public schooling. Despite significant diversity in funding models across OECD nations, debates about funding are increasingly informed by a transnational field of policy ideas, practices, and evidence. The OECD has been a central force in facilitating this “global conversation” about the complexity of school funding trends and impacts, particularly in relation to the impacts of funding on student achievement and equity. A key question in these evolving debates is whether “more money” alone will improve outcomes or whether the focus needs to shift more toward “what schools do” with money (i.e., a “what works” approach). In response to this question, the OECD has played a leading role in steering global debates away from a historically dominant focus on whether more funding makes a difference or not to student achievement, toward a different narrative that suggests the amount of money only matters up to a certain point, and that what matters most beyond that is what systems and schools do with money. At the same time, the OECD has been central to producing a rearticulated “numbers-driven” understanding of equity, which understands equity primarily in terms of the relationship between a young person’s background and his or her performance on PISA, and which frames equity as primarily important from an economic perspective. Importantly, however, while schooling funding reforms are increasingly informed by global conversations, policy reforms remain locally negotiated. Recent Australian school funding reforms illustrate this well. Over the past decade, two prominent federal school funding reviews have sought to address funding issues in Australia’s federal system. These reports have been deeply shaped by the distinctive conditions of possibility of Australian federalism, but at the same time have been heavily informed by broader transnational reform narratives and the work of the OECD specifically. Yet while both reviews position the OECD at the center of their respective rationales, each does so in different ways that speak to different policy problems. An exploration of the Australian case and how it relates to broader global conversations about school funding offers important insights into how policies are simultaneously globally and locally negotiated.
Marilene Proença Rebello de Souza and Silvia Helena Vieira Cruz
Access to education has generally been recognized as a human right. There is a consensus among the various sectors of civil society and government regarding the importance of schooling from the earliest years of life. But only recently have the fields of humanities and education begun to consider the importance of children’s perceptions, representations, and meanings attributed to the school and the educational institutions offered to them. Listening to children at school has drawn the attention of researchers when the right to a democratic school has been extended to more children, aiming at assuring them access to the knowledge socially constructed by mankind as well as access to social and cultural activities. Knowing what children think and feel during the process of schooling and in educational practices is today an important aspect of educational research. The qualitative approach has been shown to be fundamental in listening to very young children on various aspects of their school experience, thus promoting the expansion of knowledge about differing school contexts. However, this listening process presents several challenges for research, including the development of strategies that favor a child’s multiple ways of communicating and the search for solutions related to potential ethical issues. Researching children’s perspectives can provide a basic foundation for better pedagogical practices and public policies with regard to children.
The number of homeschooling families in the United States has been growing at a steady rate since the early 1990s. Attempts to make sense of homeschooling—including research—are inherently political. These attempts are, therefore, highly contested. It is impossible to provide an agreed-upon definition of homeschooling, much less a precise number of families that homeschool, why they homeschool, or what the learning outcomes of that homeschooling might entail. Instead, homeschooling is best understood as a set of educative practices that exists in and between institutional schooling and family life. As families and schools evolve and change, so will the meaning and significance of homeschooling.
Bildung-centered general didactics is a tradition of schooling and teacher education in Germany and the Nordic countries. It originated from the late 18th century during the development of nation-states, when the professions had designated areas of responsibility. The teacher’s duty was to interpret the curriculum, transforming it into meaningful teaching for the students in the classroom. Teaching comprises the totality of the three aspects of any teaching situation; the teacher, the student, and content, and their relations in specific practices. Bildung-centered general didactics puts content to the fore. It is a hermeneutical discipline centered on the topics of the culture as a whole. Bildung, in German and Nordic general didactics, is a concept grasping the normative ideals behind any educational phenomenon. Hence, the meaning of Bildung will vary from culture to culture and across time. However, the idea of Bildung is mostly associated with the ideals of modernity in Western history; the core question being how to educate autonomous and responsible democratic citizens. Since then, pedagogy has implied a paradox: how to cultivate the freedom of individuals through the exercise of power. Bildung-centered general didactics centers on this paradox in theory and practice, and at the macro and micro levels of the educational system. The most influential Bildung-centered general didactic approach is that of Wolfgang Klafki (1927–2016). Klafki’s primary term is categorical Bildung, a dialectic of the content and the student, and a didactic analysis as the means for teachers to contribute to the empowerment of students.
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.