23 SES 12 A, Education Governance
We are almost two decades into a massive global movement to increase teacher quality (OECD, 2005) that has seen the focus of transnational (global) governance systems turned toward teachers (Robertson, 2012). Multinational agencies have exerted pressure on nations to institute and enact standards for teachers and to increase the monitoring of the teaching workforce. Training, certification and periodic assessment of teachers has garnered considerable political attention in many nations (Akiba, 2013). Under these “new” modes of transnational governance (Martens, Knodel, & Windzio, 2014), how have nations responded? Has the logic of “competitive comparison” (LeTendre, 1999; Robertson, 2012) become a driver of national policy toward teachers?
In this paper, we use eight nations in two regional groups -- Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Norway in the Nordic group and Japan, S. Korea, Taiwan and Singapore in the East Asian – to investigate how their governments have responded to “competitive comparison” and the expansion of global governance mechanisms between 1995 and 2020 focusing on the teacher-focused reforms enacted. From the policy-borrowing literature (Popkewitz & Steiner-Khamsi, 2004), we know that nations in the “global south” are likely to face significant pressures to adopt policies advocated by “global north” nations or multi-lateral agencies (Chabbott, 2002; Steiner-Khamsi, 2014). Therefore, we selected eight nations that all are least likely to be subject to these policy pressures. Given the “soft power” inherent in global governance, we assume that “policy-makers are more inclined to adopt policy solutions that fit within the ideology of the government for which they work" (Verger, 2014, p. 21).
Operationally, we apply the concept of governmentality conceptualized by Foucault (1991) and further developed by Dean (2010), which deals with the thinking and the rationalities behind governing states. Rationality entails “any way of reasoning…calculating and responding to a problem” and “privileges systematic ways of thinking…” (Dean, 2010, p. 24). Our analysis of government attempts to reform teacher-related policies elucidates the taken-for-granted ways of thinking and acting within a political system. Such analysis does not aim to find solutions to problems, but instead creates spaces for thinking about ways of doing things differently. Studies of governmentality seek to explore the conditions for the transformation of regimes. We use Dean’s (2010) proposed framework to address four dimensions of governing: 1) visibility of government; 2) technologies and practices of government; 3) forms of knowledges and expertise employed in practices of governing; and 4) formation of identity and subject positions.
The first dimension, visibility of government, relates to how a regime is characterized – the picture of the who and the what in the act of government. The second dimension, technologies and practices of government, entails how the government is carried out: for example, what technologies, instruments, and procedures are used. The third dimension, forms of knowledge and expertise employed in practices of governing, denotes the knowledge base that arises from and inform the governing: for example, what knowledge and expertise are employed. The fourth dimension, the formation of identity and subject positions, involves what forms of identities and subject formations that the practices of government presuppose, expect, or promote. All these four aspects operate simultaneously; they may impact each other, but are distinctive elements. Framed in terms of teachers, these dimensions can be summarized as: What are the “problems” that nations are trying to solve (in regard to teachers) and what groups are identified?What measures do they use to solve these problems? What kind of knowledge and expertise about teachers are prioritized and communicated through the policy documents? How are teachers, teacher agency or teacher identity discussed in the policy documents?
Working with a multi-national team of visiting scholars and doctoral students, we reviewed the English and national language academic literature on educational reform in each nation. We looked for what rationales or explanations were used in official documents or statements pertaining to teacher-related reforms, but also considered material from teacher unions or other educational associations that might represent opposition voices or other political groups trying to influence the political process of educational reform. The dates for this review were open-ended and in some nations (e.g. Japan) concerns about teachers were identified in the earliest days of the Post-WW II era. As Stone (1989) pointed out some years ago, policy makers are concerned with problems that are perceived as falling within the realm of the actionable. We wanted to understand what aspects of teachers’ working lives were perceived to be important to policy makers as areas that could be improved via policy reform. We looked for what rationales (e.g. rationalized myths) were being given for why educational reforms around teachers were being conducted. Each member of the team wrote a basic case study of educational policy and teacher-related reforms that identified major themes and issues. We subsequently used OECD databases to identify reforms related to teachers as well as curricular reforms. We then categorized these reforms according to what area of comprehensive teacher policy flow (Akiba & LeTendre, 2009) they fell into. We noted reforms in subject-specific areas, for example, vocational and technical education teacher training, but focused on reforms that affected the teaching force most broadly. The policies were coded by area, and the coding was reviewed by co-authors to achieve consensus. In order to narrow the focus, we used the period 1995 – 2020. This twenty-five year window begins with the release of the first TIMSS data, and spans a time frame that saw the increasing frequency of cross-national testing (e.g. TIMSS, PISA, PIRLS, TALIS) and the increasing incorporation of these testing regimes into national policy debates.
Nations differed in their formal interactions with multilateral agencies and each other, as well as their degree of emphasis on competitive comparison and the degree to which they referenced global or external stakeholders versus internal stakeholders. Some nations partnered heavily (e.g. Denmark) with the OECD and regional partners, while others remained disconnected (e.g., Taiwan). In Finland, there was little reference to global competition, while Singapore policy makers promoted rationales that aimed to secure Singapore’s place as a global “thought leader” in education reform (e.g. “Innovation and Enterprise” or “Teacher Less, Learn More”). Swedish policy makers focused on issues of national professionalization and sensitivity to local-level stakeholders and implementation. Consistent with Dean’s formulation of governmentality, all nations attempted to create systematicity and accepted the legitimacy of international knowledge bases created by IEA, OECD and others as important tools for evaluating national policy. In the case of Sweden, the visibility of government was exemplified in national campaigns to raise attainment and the status of the teaching profession. The technologies and practices of government included the introduction of additional national testing, teacher certification, as well as increased documentation and evaluation of student results, including accompanying measures in the case of underperformance. The government emphasized measurable data and a rational approach, privileging forms of knowledge and expertise that aligned strongly with those promoted by multi-lateral agencies. In terms of the formation of identity and subject positions, a deficit view of students and teachers was communicated through the policies. For example, teachers (and students) are depicted as in need of help in many different ways. But at the same time, policy language expressed an expectation that teachers should be the persons who will fix declining student results, thereby providing them with a mandate and a subject position of professionality.
Akiba, M. (2013). Teacher Reforms around the World: Implementations and Outcomes: Emerald. Akiba, M., & LeTendre, G. (2009). Improving Teacher Quality: The U.S. Teaching Force in Global Context. New York: Teachers College Press. Chabbott, C. (2002). Constructing Education for Development: International Organizations and Education for All. London: RoutledgeFarmer. Dean, Mitchell (2010). Governmentality. Power and rule in modern society. 2nd ed. Los Angeles, London, New Dehli, Singapore, Washington DC: Sage Publications Ltd. Foucault, Michel (1991). "Governmentality." In The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality: With two Lectures by and an Interview with Michel Foucault, edited by Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon and Peter Miller, 87-104. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. LeTendre, G. (Ed.) (1999). Competitor or Ally: Japan's Role in American Educational Debates. New York: Falmer. Martens, K., Knodel, P., & Windzio, M. (Eds.). (2014). Internationalization of Education Policy: A New Constellation of Statehood in Education? UK: Palgrave Macmillan. Meyer, H.-D., & Benavot, A. (2013). PISA, Power, and Policy. Oxford: Symposium Books. OECD. (2005). Teachers Matter. Retrieved from Paris: Popkewitz, T., & Steiner-Khamsi, G. (Eds.). (2004). The Global Politics Of Educational Borrowing And Lending. New York: Teachers College Press. Robertson, S. L. (2012). Placing Teachers in Global Governance Agendas. Comparative Education Review, 56(4), 584-607. doi:10.1086/667414 Steiner-Khamsi, G. (2014). Cross-national policy borrowing: understanding reception and translation. Asia Pacific Journal of Education, 34(2), 153-167. Stone, D. (1989). Causal Stories and the Formation of Policy Agendas. Political Science Quarterly, 104(2), 281-300. Verger, A. (2014). Why do Policy-makers Adopt Global Education Policies? Toward a Research Framework on the Varying Role of Ideas in Education Reform. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 16(2), 14-29.
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