23 SES 06 C, Accountability, (In)equality and Social Justice
This paper analyses an Australian case in which current, local practices within a regional group of schools allows us to re-imagine accountability as a collaborative activity rather than putting schools in competition, as is typical when an individual schools is the unit of reporting and analysis.
This paper starts from the following research questions:
- How might a group of schools in a rural area, induced by governmental pressures towards working collaboratively, build towards a different mode of responsibility for accounting for the education of that region’s school children?
- What kinds of possibilities does this case illustrate for interrupting ‘accountability as usual’ and entering into alternative ways of imagining relationships for giving account of their educational work?
The objectives of the paper are:
- To describe the conditions in which a cluster of schools, in a rural Australian region of high poverty, developed unusually collaborative relations in response to governmental pressures, acting from a distance on each school, that were difficult to cope with individually.
- To analyse the interactive responses of the schools in this regional case for how they suggest possibilities to re-imagine accountability in ways that serve richer social purposes than mere answerability to narrowing yet powerful demands of government.
- To ‘scale up’ the suggestive possibilities of this case, considering their implications for policy.
Theoretically, this paper is framed within traditions of critical educational policy analysis (see Rizvi & Lingard 2010), taking account of how globalising forces intersect with local processes, in which neoliberal governance technologies have been installed for some considerable time. Accountability has been a significant policy keyword in many countries in the past two decades, across Europe, the USA and other ‘westernised’ nations (including Australia). Accountability processes have largely been adopted by governments, put into operation, and regulated, under devolutionary neoliberal logics of ‘governance by numbers’ (Lingard et al 2012; Barry et al 1996) and ‘steering from a distance’ (Kickert 1990), with increasingly narrowing effects on the purposes and practices of schools and school systems (Rizvi & Lingard 2010;). Accountability has thus become a marker of the governance turn, developing what Lingard, Martino & Rezai-Rashti (2013) call ‘global panopticism’, in which numbers and systems for holding educational institutions accountable circulate as a form of risk management of and by the state. As part of a European and world-wide trend towards school autonomy (Eurydice 2007), the role of accountability in governmental risk management in education has taken a range of forms, though largely organised around standardised test scores. The paper uses the term ‘vertical accountability’ to name the logic of accounting that is imposed upon schools from above. However, in the case that is described and analysed, the paper sees emergence of a different logic, called ‘horizontal accountability’, more along the lines of reciprocal giving of accounts, across multiple standpoints, that constitutes a richer sharing of information about schooling contexts, from which alternative educational approaches can be imagined. This logic resonates with Biesta’s (2004) argument that more ethically connotative discourses of ‘accountability’ have existed historically and need reclaiming in educational practice and policy of current times. This paper joins this project of reclamation through its analysis of a case of unusual cooperation across schools, offering (re)imaginative suggestions for alternative, horizontal approaches to accountability. This offers new possibilities for international debates on school accountability which will have resonances in European school systems.
Barry, A., T. Osborne, and N. Rose. 1996. Foucault and political reason: Liberalism, neoliberalism and the rationalities of government. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Biesta, G. 2004. Education, accountability, and the ethical demand: Can the democratic potential of accountability be regained? Educational Theory 54:3, 233–50. Eurydice Unit (2007) School Autonomy in Europe: Policies and Measures. http://eacea.ec.europa.eu/education/eurydice./documents/thematic_reports/090EN.pdf Harvey, D. 2005. A brief history of neoliberalism. Oxford University Press, Oxford. Lingard, B., Martino, W. & Rezai-Rashti, G. (2013) Testing regimes, accountabilities and education policy: commensurate global and national developments, Journal of Education Policy, 28:5, 539-556. Lingard, Bob, Creagh, Sue and Vass, Greg (2012) Education policy as numbers: Data categories and two Australian cases of misrecognition. Journal of Education Policy, 27 3: 315-333. Mills, C. W. (1959) The Sociological Imagination. Oxford University Press, London. Rizvi, F. & Lingard, B. 2010. Globalizing Education Policy. Routledge, London Webb, P.T. (2011): The evolution of accountability, Journal of Education Policy, 26:6, 735-756.
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