23 SES 05 E, (Micro-)Politics and Policy-Making in Education
In recent years, the school systems in most of the OECD countries have experienced profound changes. Two strands in school policy have become central issues in school governance: output control and marketisation. However, significant differences currently exist in intensity and peculiarity of governance reforms.
For a long time political science largely ignored the comparative analysis of politics in education (Jakobi et al. 2010). In the last years, educational research is a fast-growing field within the political science (Busemeyer, et al. 2013). Notably the areas of vocational education and higher education moved into the focus of political research (Busemeyer/Trampusch 2011, 2012, Knill/Dobbins Forthcoming), but also school policy is gaining more and more attention (Klitgaard 2008, Edelstein/Nikolai 2008, Dobbins/Martens 2013, Martens/Niemann 2013). In the course of research, it could be established that in a lot of countries and in all areas of education profound changes in control philosophy have taken place – especially in the policy of schools and higher education. While the international level therefore becomes more important in the research field, a lot of comparative analyses still focus on the national level with the very special features and don´t compare the mechanisms in the different states systematically. However comparative analysis of politics in school education is very important, because they offer the opportunities for a better understanding of the socio-economic, political and institutional determinants in terms of school government and school reforms.
In view of mentioned differences this paper focuses on the following questions: How can we explain differences in intensity and peculiarity of governance reforms in school policy? What role political parties, institutional and socioeconomic determinants have in these reforms?
Our analyses examine the reform processes in four prototype examples of the welfare states regimes: England (liberal regime), Sweden (social democrat regime) and Germany (conservative regime). Furthermore we also consider the developments in the United States, as a second liberal welfare state. The United States are one of the first countries which early implemented testing tools and which pushed together with France the introduction of PISA (Weymann/Martens 2005).
Our theoretical perspective refers to the role of partisan, institutional and socio-economic determinants derived from theories of comparative public policy (see Castles 1998 and Schmidt 2002 for an overview). Specific actor constellations, actor interests, and institutional arrangements influence the course and outcome of decision-making processes in school policy. The partisan theory attributes differences in policy output to government parties’ catering to different electoral constituencies. We assume that liberal and conservative parties want to increase market-mechanism and accountability in school policy, whereas left parties prefer a large public sector in education and an output-control without market instruments. With regard to the impact of institutional factors, we argue that a state structure with many institutionalized veto points (e.g. federalism, consensus democracy, direct democracy) slowed down the expansion of market mechanisms and accountability measures in school policy. In our analyses we also consider the impact of socio-economic developments, as we assume that economic and demographic developments require changes. Moreover, we agree with the suggestion put forth by Klitgaard (2008) that national welfare state structures should be given greater consideration in the analysis of the processes and dynamics of change in educational systems. We expect a strong connection between the politics of education reform and welfare regimes: Whereas in liberal welfare regimes a strong output-control is accompanied by strong market mechanism, social democratic and conservative welfare regimes not favor accountability measures in education.
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