23 SES 10 A, Politics and Policy Making in Education
Dye (1975) famous definition identifies policy as “whatever governments choose to do, or not to do.” Even though this definition is considered as limited, narrow and too simple for analytical purposes, it has its merits (Howlett et al. 2009, p. 4). Its merit lays in its strength to explain the power and role of governments in public policy making, especially in education, as a public policy area, where the state has been enormously translating values, interests and resources to policies to shape and form the public education. Education policy can be identified as “authoritative allocation of values within education systems” (Lingard & Ozga, 2007, p. 3). This definition leads to complicated questions as “who is the authority”, “whose values” and “how these values are allocated.” This paper strives to answer these questions in a developing country, in relation to European and international context, as Lingard and Ozga (2007) indicates a satisfactory answer to these questions today requires an approach that is “well beyond the local and national educational systems and out to the global and to analyses of international and supranational organizations (p. 3). Thus, along with the increasing complexity of the society and education systems, both at the national and international level, education policy arena has already evolved from being predictable to unpredictable, to more complex, dynamic and value laden.
No other policy field in Turkey has been as volatile and as contested as education since the foundation of the Republic, it has been always characterized with dominant ideological and political framework of the governments. However policy making process in education and the political scene behind it has not been investigated. Thus, this study is a pioneer in providing empirical analysis in the back stage of the policy drama in Turkey. Furthermore, this strand of research has been overlooked in Europe as well. Thus looking into policy formulation process in a developing democracy and EU candidate and the consequences of this process can provide insights for educational policy research.
Within this framework, this study aimed to describe, analyze and discuss the formulation process of education policy in Turkey with an exploratory and critical framework. More significantly, this study tried to examine how certain issues became the agenda of the governments, how educational policies were formulated, under what conditions, in which context, and by which agents (persons or groups). The main research question that guided the study was “How did policy making process take place in Turkey, in what context and what is the nature of this process?”.
To answer these questions, among several other theoretical frameworks studied, this study adopts the policy cycle/stages approach (Dye, 1975; Fowler, 2009) which defines policy making as a multidimensional and multifaceted process evolved through cycles, with each cycle more or less bounded, and constrained by time, funds, political support and other events (Rist, 2000). Current study focuses on the agenda setting and formulation stages of the policy cycle. The main reason for adoption of policy cycle is that it provides a series of fluid stages to represent the whole process in a dynamic way, and its strength lies in the simplification of the complex policy process into comprehendible and analyzable stages each of which can be investigated alone or in relations to their interactions with the other stages (Hill, 2005; Sabatier, 2007). Operative factors, dynamics and forces at each distinct stage of the cycle can be investigated in detail (Howlett et al., 2009). Thus, policy cycle approach is utilized as a heuristic framework that underlies the organization of the research keeping its limitations and drawbacks as well as advantages and strengths in mind.
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