03 SES 11 B, Curriculum Development in Teacher Education
The purpose of the paper is to clarify and define what policy is and to map the boundaries of the grey areas surrounding policy at different levels within the education system. This mapping is undertaken from a critical theory perspective using scepticism as a theoretical framework. The authors critically examine the term policy, in its broadest sense, in order to clarify what constitutes a policy and the key components of policy making. The term policy and how it relates to educational policy within various European countries is also briefly examined however this research was conducted in one country and draws on data from that country.
The authors are cognizant of the fact that policy evolution is not black and white and that shades of grey exist within the education system. This paper raises questions regarding the use of the term policy and how policy is interpreted within the educational community, which should be seen as starting points to aid future debate and discussion within this area within European countries and beyond. Many European countries have been examining the curriculum used by teachers within their countries and some such as England and Turkey have adopted a National Curriculum approach whereby they have implemented a curriculum that all schools and teachers should follow whereas other countries such as Scotland have decided instead on curriculum guidelines for schools and teachers.
Defining key terms is important in any field and this is no different in the examination of policy within the field of education. The term ‘policy’ means different things to different people. Dye (1992) argued that trying to find a one size fits all definition of policy is often semantic and adds very little to the debate or discussion. Adding further confusion to the situation is the added fact that the term policy is one that is in everyday language. Harman (1984) exemplified by saying that in any single day various uses of the word policy can be heard such: as customers being told about company policy, governments announcing foreign or national policy changes, local authority planning policy to name only a few. Ball (1994, pg 15) goes further and is very clear when he states that ‘the meaning of policy is often taken for granted and a theoretical and epistemological dry rot is built into the analytical structures constructed’, exemplifying that because there is confusion over the term policy it is difficult to gain a true understanding and meaning of the term.
Critical theories claim to provide a guide to human action, at least in general (as opposed to strictly personal) areas—such as the definition and achievement of social justice and the correct regulation of human interactions (Payne 2010 p. 153–154). Raymond Geuss notes that such thinking differs epistemologically from the theories in the natural sciences where such theories are objectifying whereas critical theories, of any sort, are reflective (Geuss 1981, p. 1–2). People involved in the latter take a questioning stance towards their own practices and can evolve a framework through which they may critique the social/political consensus of the day.
We would contend that in recent times, other areas of human endeavour such as party politics and specifically educational policymaking have began to take on the trappings of an “empire of belief” positioning those for whom they exercise control (i.e. teachers) into a position of compliance. In policy making, consensus building is a key democratic ingredient. In an attempt to make the evidence from research relevant and useful, the politics of democracy tends to promote, and in some cases demand, ‘consensus’ (Wintanley 2000).
Ball, J.S. (1994) Education reform: A critical and post-structural approach. Buckingham and Philadelphia: Open University Press. Dye, T. (1992). Understanding Public Policy. Prentice-Hall. Geuss, R. (1981). The idea of a critical theory: Habermas and the Frankfurt School. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Harman, G. (1984) Conceptual and theoretical issues. In: J.R. Hough (ed.). Educational policy: An international survey. Sydney: Croom Helm Australia Pty Limited. Payne, M. (2010). Critical theory. In M. Payne & J. R. Barbera (Eds.), A dictionary of cultural and critical theory (2nd ed.). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing. Sim, S. (2006). Empires of belief: why we need scepticism and doubt in the twenty-first century. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. Winstanley, D. (2000). In support of skepticism. Environmental Science & Policy, 3, 19–20.
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