23 SES 07 B, Policy Borrowing and Policy Learning in Education
According to evidence making reference to Germany, two mechanisms seem to trigger innovation in the area of education policy. One of them is trust between the Federal and the Länder governments. After an important crisis concerning the European Single Act, the final arrangement seems to be working (Förster & Klenk, 2012). The other mechanism has to do with potential cross-sectoral synergies associated with innovation policy. In order to underpin their creativity and competitiveness, some Länder are overcoming the traditional policy sectors such as education, employment, local development, research and innovation and others (Renzsch, 2014).
Certainly, in the light of the literature on policy transfer within the European Union, these two mechanisms can enact mutual learning, which consists of authorities adopting an external policy because they have changed their approach to the problem that this policy is expected to tackle However, this literature also reminds that European coordination normally takes place through other types of learning. For instance, if a member state pushes for the generalisation of its own institutional arrangements, imperialist learning prevails. When a member state struggles to catch up with European benchmarks, the pattern is competitive learning. Finally, surface learning is also possible to the extent that a government pays lip service to European goals (Lange & Alexiadou, 2010).
Despite a growing interest in the innovative potential of federalism (not least due to the work of the Forum of Federations), current analyses of the rescaling of the European state show that multi-level, quasi- Federal government does not necessarily enact trust and policy synergies. Firstly, neither conflict nor trust only take place within but also between layers of governance. Thus, conflict between central and (at least some) regional governments can lead to creative outcomes as well as to chronic contention. And secondly, although regions are increasingly interested in putting cross-sectoral synergies in place so as to underpin their political stance with some successful policies which are simultaneously very visible, these synergies depend of the nonetheless variable strength of region-making processes. While 'strong' regions and stateless nations are particularly interested in this project, 'regions without regionalism' can also be identified throughout the European map (Keating, 2013).
Within Spain, inter-government coordination underwent two main changes in the last three decades. While decentralisation was a long process between 1980 and 2000─in which concern with the proportion of responsibilities and budgets became widespread, collaboration between the central and the regional governments in the field of school-based intervention on early school leaving was institutionalised between 2004 and 2011. In this latter period the central government provided supplementary funding for regional governments to implement early-warning systems and remedial after-school activities in the more vulnerable schools (PROA plan). Afterwards, the incumbent Conservative Party has passed a wide reform which strengthens the central command in the areas of primary-to-secondary pathways, school autonomy, language policy and the curriculum.
What has been the impact of these changes on policy learning? Crucial to this analysis is the assumption that social change is the outcome of the agents' political capabilities. Specific coercive, political and ideological instruments help particular agents to be more assertive in pursuing their interests as well as to underpin their influence on other agents. Change is the aggregate outcome of the strategies and conflicts of all the involved parties, who have to operate in a given social context that strongly contributes to shape their capabilities (Hall & Theulen, 2009).
Förster, Ch. & Klenk, J. (2012) Does Federalism Hinder Policy Innovation? Insights from German Research Funding and Education Policy. Paper prepared for the XXII IPSA World Congress of Political Science. Madrid, July 8 to 12 (2012). Hall, P. and Thelen, K. (2009) Institutional change in varieties of capitalism. Socio-economic Review. 7 (1): 7-34. Keating, M. (2013) Rescaling the European State. The Making of Territory and the Rise of the Meso. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Lange, B., and Alexiadou, N. (2010). “Policy learning and governance of education policy in the EU.” Journal of Education Policy 25(4): 443-463. Manzanares, A. & Ulla, S. (2012) La evaluación estatal del Plan de Refuerzo, Orientación y Apoyo (PROA). Análisis tras seis años de evaluación continuada. Revista de Educación (Madrid). Nº extraordinario: 89-116. Puukka, J. Charles, D. Ginés Mora, J. and Nazaré, H. (2013). Higher Education in Regional and City Development: Basque Country, Spain. Paris: OECD. Renzsch, W. (2014) The innovative capacity of the Lander. Paper prepared for the Seminar on the Innovative Capacity of the Federal Systems (organised by Fundación Giménez Abad). Zaragoza, December 3 (2014).
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