23 SES 11 D, Still an Issue? Approaching and Challenging Post-Socialist and Post-Authoritarian Education: Difficulties, Routines and Innovations of Empirical Research
The paper critically examines contemporary scholarly thought on post-Soviet educational transformation in Russia, seeking to recharge the debate on the challenges post-socialism. Measured against the benchmark of neoliberal modernisation doctrine, Russia’s educational reforms have been commonly appraised by Western analysts in terms of 'crisis' and 'failure' (World Bank, 1999, Collier 2011). This study exposes a number of theoretical issues underpinning the narrative of crisis, including a rigid teleological focus on internalising neoliberal mentality, pervasive policy formulation/implementation dichotomy, excessive structuralist orientation and lack of sensitivity to locally produced social meanings. In critiquing transition-oriented literature, I argue that the complexity of multivariate educational change in Russia is yet to be sufficiently addressed. Having over-emphasised the substantive aspects of reform ‘implementation’, mainstream scholarship has left under-conceptualised such important cultural dimensions as 'policy as discourse', or policy as a socially interpreted phenomenon, failing to capture the ambiguity of post-socialist educational order. The proposed study provides an alternative account of postsocialist educational change from outside the transition framework. Utilising post-socialism as a ‘bottom-up’ conceptual framework, the analysis picks at the underbelly of neoliberal educational reform and argues that post-1991 Russian society has been engaged in a meaningful process of negotiating its national educational identity.
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