ERG SES G 10, Policies in Education
The proposed paper explores the construction of aggressive contexts for change that force Higher Teacher Education in the Russian Federation to transform. These impact at regulative, normative, structural and ideational levels, on a large-scale, and nationally. This arguably connects to a policy-political agenda that relates to the logics of economic instrumentality and to pragmatic economic, imperatives which seek to turn the “lagging” systems of Teacher Education into “advanced and innovative social institution” (State Programme of the Russian Federation, 2012).
A logic emerges from this that drives (re)institutionalisation which, as Scott and Meyer (1994, p.3) argue, plays an important roles in defining what Teacher Education Institutions are for. It recasts ideas of value, and what it is to do and not to do.
The paper first considers the imaginaries and values that underpin official policy documents related to teacher education within the broader field of education policy between 2000 and 2017. The central focus here is on the construction of that certain discursive context for change, subsequently consolidated through the case of the Project of Modernisation of Teacher Education (TMTE), which was officially launched by the Ministry of Education and Science in 2014. For this, the paper offers an account of constituted discursive contexts through an analysis of the relevant documents, related mass media coverage, and interviews with project participants on their experience.
Essentially, using the TMTE as a reference point, the paper explores the process of policy-making in the field of Teacher Education, and the application of certain policy-models that are being systematically transferred from the global education policy field to the institution locally. Since 2000, in Russia policy models recommended by World Bank have implied new approaches to financing, governance and regulation, which run on the principle “money for commitments”, competition and project-based financial support of “innovative initiatives” and “centres of excellence”, all oriented towards outcomes which can be measured in their relevance to economy and knowledge society. These approaches are intensified by a constituted commensuration space of comparison and measurement (Sellar, 2015, Smolentseva, 2017). Here, the role of supranational organisation OECD in global governance has been acknowledged in earlier works (Rose, 1991, Sellar, 2015). Therefore, the paper looks at how “a globally structured agenda for education” (Dale, 2000) transforms the Teacher Education institution, and explores the particular ways in which global discourses are vernacularized locally and find their way into actions at the level of individual teacher educators.
The paper takes an understanding of policy as discourse (e.g. Ball, 2015) and Teacher Education as institution (Meyer et al., 2005) as its starting point. Policy as discourse is seen as constituting reality, forming and inviting social actors to think, act and value in particular ways. Further, policy discursively constructs the problem to which it is the putative solution (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010). Understanding Teacher Education as institution, and indeed as embodiment of ideas (Durkheim, 1982) and policy (Ball & Junermann, 2012), leads to the question of which discourses are brought into the field – and how, and why such claims legitimate change. Importantly, various contextual dimensions (wider social context, institutional cultures, resources, external contexts), which can be analysed through discourse (Reisigl & Wodak, 2017) are recognised as influencing policy enactment and social practice (Ball, 2012).
In sum, the present paper reports part of a doctoral study project, which aims to map and illuminate in a critical diachronic way the emergence, development and enactment of a Russian variant on globalised, neoliberal change in Teacher Education institution. For this, it develops and adopts a unique framework based on a contextual theory of institutional change.
The theoretical framework attends to institutional change at four levels: the ideational level that includes conceptual and ideological change in teacher education; the legitimation level that includes change in value-orientation and purposes of teacher education; the operational level that includes change in a formal structure of teacher education, governance/regulating systems (e.g. formation of new partnerships), and re/organising and re/ordering of social relations through structures; the level of social practice that includes change in what people do and how they perceive change, as well as how their practice is ‘regulated’ institutionally. Methodologically, the study underpinning this paper draws on Critical Discourse Studies in the following way: a Discourse Historical Analysis (Weiss, 2002, Krzyzanowski, 2010, Reisigl & Wodak, 2017) provides this study with such key discourse-interpretive categories as ‘discursive strategies’ (Reisigl & Wodak, 2001) and ‘discursive dimensions’ (Weiss, 2002). Essentially, discourses can be, and are, used as resources for representing social practices, as seen as context-specific frameworks of making sense of things (van Leeuwan, 2017). The particular focus of the analysis for the present paper is on the legitimation level of change (which includes change in value-orientation and purposes of teacher education), and on the discursive legitimation strategies applied in the official discourse in regards to change in Higher Teacher Education. It addresses how these applications find their way into actions at the level of individual teacher educators. For this, an analysis of the documents related to PMTE, its mass media coverage and interviews with the participants (who take various roles) on their experience in the Project provides valuable understandings of the constitutive and transformative role of this official discourse for practice.
The research outcomes will be discussed around the following areas: (1) unpacking what constitutes the current discourse of the “modernisation” process, and indeed how it recontextualises social practice in a specific context; (2) presenting accounts of actors and institutions involved in processes, including their interests, agency and capacity for transformative change; (3) exploring the potential of global trends to act as models for the Russian context; (4) and importantly the model of policy-making applied in the PMTE. Finally, the paper argues that agency and capacity for transformative institutional change can be constrained by certain policy-making models and entrapped in values and imaginaries imposed by the pre-legitimated context of economic instrumental imperative, as well as dominant historical cultures.
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