ERG SES C 04, Social Aspects of Education
Official statistics and international surveys like PISA put focus on the local school and how efficient and “good” they are in relation to others. There is plenty of research on how to improve the efficiency of schools in reaching educational targets and reducing performance gaps. Some researchers argue that educational research is too focused on producing recipes for “what works”, serving the interests of policy makers rather than scrutinizing policy. Slee and Weiner (1998: 4) for instance, argue that “effective schooling is essentially functionalist, veering away from difficult questions about the purpose of schooling.” Bacchi promotes a type of policy analysis in which the researcher identifies and assesses problem representations (Bacchi, 1999, p. 1). It focuses on discourse, in Bacchi’s sense “the language, concepts and categories employed to frame an issue” (Bacchi, 1999, p. 2). I want to use Bacchi’s framework for critical policy analysis to bring the political, value laden dimension of the concept of “failing” schools into the limelight. What is school failure? Who is responsible for the failure of a school? Rönnberg et al. (2013: 193) discuss the “mediatization of school governance”, claiming that “news media and school inspection activities intertwine, holding implications for governing in the audit–media society”. This paper aims to analyze how “failing” schools are constructed in the media, the response to such “allegations” by school staff and school leaders and how these discourses intertwine. What are schools criticized for and what does being labeled as a “failing” school do to teachers’ and school leaders’ conception of themselves? Does it affect what is being talked about and how and does it have any policy repercussions? I argue that failure is constructed: what is considered as a “failing” school is not given, even though policy and the media sometimes give that impression. One could argue that the concept of “failing” schools has been depoliticized: in the sense that it has been reduced to “matters of technical efficiency” (Clarke, 2012: 297). In a comparative study of school inspection in New Zealand and England, Thrupp (1998: 195) argues that the respective inspectorates “attempt to construct school failure as the clear responsibility of schools in order to gain ideological power as agents of accountability”. He calls this strategy “the politics of blame”. Lefstein (2013) describes inspection as “symbolic politics”, used by the government as a means for reassuring the public and ensuring its legitimacy. As the system is based on competition and ranking, there will always be schools at the top and at the bottom and the educational gap will persist: “accountability theatre is less expensive and more feasible than the reduction of educational gaps and inequalities” (Lefstein, 2013: 657). I am interested in whether a politics of blame can be identified in relation to Swedish schools. One sign pointing in the direction of placing the blame on individual schools is the development of inspections focusing merely on deviances, which also goes well with “a favored format of the media” (Rönnberg et al., 2013: 178). In Sweden, school results (at the aggregate level) and inspection reports are public so it is easy for the media to gain access to such information about individual schools. This study is a first step to investigate if there are other sources of criticism and placement of blame against individual schools, as indicated by my preliminary results.
Anderson, Gary L. 2007. Media's Impact on Educational Policies and Practices: Political Spectacle and Social Control. Peabody Journal of Education. 82(1): 103-120. Bacchi, Carol Lee. 1999. Women, Policy and Politics: the Construction of Policy Problems. London; Thousand Oaks, CA; New Delhi; Singapore: Sage Publications. Ball, Stephen J. 1997. Good School/Bad School: Paradox and Fabrication. British Journal of Sociology of Education. 18(3): 317-336. Ball, Stephen J. 2003. The teacher's soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 18(2): 215-228. Biesta, Gert J.J. 2004. Education, accountability, and the ethical demand: can the democratic potential of accountability be regained? Educational Theory. 54(3): 233-251 Clarke, Matthew. 2012. The (absent) politics of neo-liberal education policy. Critical Studies in Education, 53(3): 297-310. Elstad, Eyvind. 2009. Schools which are named, shamed and blamed by the media: school accountability in Norway. Educational Assessment, Evaluation and Accountability. 21: 173–189 Lefstein, Adam. 2013. The regulation of teaching as symbolic politics: rituals of order, blame and redemption. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. 34(5): 643-659. Levin, Ben. 2004. Media–government relations in education. Journal of Education Policy, 19(3): 271-283. Lingard, Bob; Rawolle, Shaun. 2004. Mediatizing educational policy: the journalistic field, science policy, and cross‐field effects. Journal of Education Policy. 19(3): 361-380. Ozga, Jenny. 2013. Accountability as a policy technology: accounting for education performance in Europe. International Review of Administrative Sciences. 79(2): 292–309. Rönnberg, Linda; Lindgren, Joakim; Segerholm, Christina. 2013. In the public eye: Swedish school inspection and local newspapers: exploring the audit–media relationship. Journal of Education Policy. 28(2): 178-197. Slee, Roger; Weiner, Gaby. 1998. “Introduction: School Effectiveness for Whom?” In School Effectiveness for Whom? Challenges for the School Effectiveness and School Improvement Movements. Slee, Roger; Weiner, Gaby; Tomlinson, Sally. (ed.). Independence, KY: Taylor & Francis. Thrupp, Martin. 1998. Exploring the politics of blame: school inspection and its contestation in New Zealand and England. Comparative Education. 34(2): 195-208.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
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Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
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Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
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Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
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Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
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