ERG SES D 06, Educational Reform
As ECER’s 2017 Call for Proposals posits, current European national education system reforms can either improve or decline an area’s quality of education based on how national standardizing is translated at the local level. This paper suggests looking to educational reform and implementation history in order to help decipher what might not be transmutable in some European countries’ current conflicts between national expectations and local realizations of reforms and standardization in their educational systems. With many nations in Europe contending with standardizing a multilingual population, I will, in particular, use two case studies to look at how education policy reform idealized and then ultimately was practiced through language, taking two cases studies..
Governments create curricula and education policies which forward their particular notion of the “ideal citizen.” Therefore, each time a region came under jurisdiction of a new national government (from war, treaties…), this government would have implemented a new standard curricula there to create a new national ideal. However, just as we are asking today whether education policies are being beneficially actualized at the local level as the national policy-makers anticipated, the same can be questioned of the past. How did national policy reforms actually translate at the local level? Not only this, but how was policy language and language of instruction interpreted and performed? What were their effects on the conceived quality of education (on the national level)? The aim is to understand what is potentially happening today in the transition from national policy creation to the realization of it at the local level.In terms of language at least, why are some regions benefitting from reforms while others are not?And what can be learned for these experiences?
For an analysis of how national education policy can be realized at the local level, I take two different examples from history: one example comes from the Alsace, as a region transferred several times between German and French jurisdiction ; the other from post-colonial Kenya.
In the first example, I look at the education policy and curricula reforms undergone during the Mid Modern to Contemporary Periods in the Alsace (France) region of Europe. The varying French and German governing bodies chose to word and implement new curriculum system reforms to create what would be their desired student (and future citizen) for their nation-state, and one factor of creating these desired “national citizens” would have been through a uniform language. Stephen L. Harp (1998), for example, expounds on how primary education was essential and essentially used to promote and instill loyalty in the Alsace region. We can ask if Alsatians were “standardized” into being “ideal” French/German students. There were different styles and ideals for both of these nations as well as the preferred languages of instruction for both; France having a civic-oriented ideal taught through a French-only curriculum, and Germany’s more accommodating ethnic model incorporated both French and German as acceptable languages of instruction. In looking at their language policies and actual language of instruction, I will show what languages were actually used in the classroom and how the students were considered to have fared because of these policies.
The second example comes from East Africa where I look at how a history of British colonialism followed by international organization involvement and recommendations for education policy has affected education levels in Kenya. In this, I will look at how a standardized national education policy concerning the language of instruction for the different levels of schooling (primary, secondary, higher) and the language of standardized testing in the Kenyan educational system is realized at the more local level in their multilingually diverse nation.
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