22 SES 13 D, Access to and Innovation in Higher Education
This paper analyses how access to higher education is produced within the enactment of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (DP) in secondary education state schools of Buenos Aires, Costa Rica and Peru. It sits within a research project which analysed the trajectories of the implementation of the IB DP in these countries, focusing on its impact on schools, teachers, students, and on the state bureaucracy. This paper will look specifically at how the IB DP prepares students for the pursuit of higher education studies and how it assists them in their transitions.
The IB DP is a global model that is attractive for states because it offers the possibility of changing teaching and learning practices in schools and at the same time introduces an international and global outlook to the curriculum. In that sense, the adoption of the DP in state schools can be seen as a case of educational transfer: the movement of educational ideas, institutions or practices across international borders. There is an important body of research in Comparative Education that has shown that as ideas, policies or educational models move from one context to another they are transformed as they interact with existing political, social and pedagogic cultures (Beech, 2011; Schriewer 2000; Silova 2012; Steiner-Khamsi 2000). These processes of transformation are often referred to as recontextualization (Beech, 2011), indigenization (Schriewer, 2000) or shape shifting (Cowen, 2009). Following these approaches, this research project has documented how the DP is transforming Argentine, Costa Rican and Peruvian schools, yet at the same time, schools —and the State bureaucracies— are transforming the DP. These are not two distinct processes, but should rather be seen as two sides of the same coin.
In order to approach the ways in which the DP is transforming schools and, at the same time, is being transformed by schools in Buenos Aires, Costa Rica and Peru we used Ball’s approach, in particular his theory of “enactment” (Ball et. al., 2012). Ball refers in his work to the trajectory of policies. Ball´s theory of enactment is aimed at overcoming the view that policies are simply established somewhere outside of schools, imposing certain practices to schools that only have to implement these external prescriptions. Trajectories of policies are much more complex. Thus, policies are constantly being interpreted, re-interpreted and transformed by the different actors that participate in the process. In particular, Ball stresses the importance of paying attention to the context of practices - its materiality, history and power relations - and the creativity of school actors when they interpret, translate and enact policies. This perspective suggests that the adoption of certain transnational educational models, such as the DP, would have different practical effects in different contexts. In other words, in an analysis that stresses agency and interpretation, it would be expected that different practitioners and institutions would interpret a given educational idea in different ways.
Focusing on access to higher education, this paper will analyse how the enactment of the IB DP in different contexts and with different trajectories, sets the conditions for graduates’ access to higher education. In order to do so it will look at pedagogy, curriculum, students’ aspirations, networks of cooperation with universities and the private sector, and school culture.
The study uses a mixed methods design. The qualitative component includes interviews with officials of the Ministries of Education in each educational system, and with officials of IB and other participating organizations. Relevant documents and legislation were also analysed. Field work was also conducted in nine schools (three in each system) with interviews to 18 school principals and IB coordinators (2 in each school), and 27 teachers (3 in each school). Also, focus groups with students were conducted in each school and 27 classes observed (3 in each school). The quantitative component included the analysis of a survey for students and of data provided by the IB on students’ performance in IB exams. This study adopts a mixed methods design, using multiple ways to explore the research questions. This approach allowed for an in-depth comprehension of the projects being analysed, and provided a means for triangulation of information coming from different sources. The qualitative component included interviews, focus groups, document analysis, and observations of classes and other activities in schools. The quantitative component included surveys, and the analysis of available student data on performance and demographics. The analysis of qualitative data was based on thematic analysis, using Atlas.ti software to manage the large amount of data collected. The quantitative analysis, based on the survey and the IB internal data system was based on descriptive techniques, and was managed through Stata and SPSS softwares. Each of the selected schools was initially analysed as a case. Then, the comparison between the different cases in each country added to the data of the macro level provided an account of the overall processes of enactment of the DP in Buenos Aires, Costa Rica and Peru. In a third stage a comparative analysis between findings in each country was conducted looking for similar trends and the specificities of each initiative.
This paper presents an analysis of the implementation of the IB DP in state schools of three Latin American education systems, illustrating the emergence of this global actor in the region and addressing how it is transformed in the different contexts. It looks specifically at the development of conditions for graduate access to higher education, studying how pedagogic and curricular prescriptions are enacted in schools, and are supported by the development of a network with local actors, embedded within systems of education with diverse characteristics. In the case of Costa Rica it will specifically analyse the contradictions between the IB model and standardized national exams, and how schools manage such obstacle. In the case of Peru it will look at the development of a pathway that bypasses universities’ admission exams and the preparation courses for those exams, which have fees to a large extent. In the case of Argentina, it will address the relevance of IB DP learning outcomes in building higher education readiness, in spite of a very low IB DP graduation rate.
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