23 SES 05 D, Local Education Policy
Parallel Paper Session
In the course of social modernization and transition to democracy, the school systems of most Western nations have converged towards an integrated model of comprehensive schools. Germany, in contrast, long retained its traditional tripartite school system which tracks students into hierarchically structured and spatially segregated school types. After only four years of joint schooling students are referred to distinct educational tracks – the academic track (Gymnasium), the upper vocational track (Realschule) or the lower vocational track (Hauptschule). By entitling their respective graduates to enter either university or different forms of vocational education the tracking system structures educational and occupational trajectories and thus plays an important role in the (re-) production of Germany’s social structure.
The tripartite school structure has been subject to intense political conflict for many decades. It has been repeatedly challenged for being incompatible with equality norms and the economic needs of modern democratic societies. The issue of structural reform has thus been brought to the political agenda in regular intervals, but long failed to gain the critical political and social support needed to move forward.
After decades of structural stability, an episode of structural change ensued in the course of the German Reunification in the early 90s: The Federal States of the former GDR adopted the basic logic of the tracking system, but not the West German tripartite model. Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia, for example, introduced two-tiered models consisting of an academic and a combined vocational track. More recently, an episode of structural change has ensued among West German States. A number of states (e.g. Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen, Saarland) are currently implementing reforms that amount to the adoption of a two-tiered model consisting of an academic and an integrated track. After decades of a polarized controversy and failed reform attempts the need for structural change is now widely acknowledged and either of the two-tiered models outlined above is diffusing.
Why and how could the social, political, and legal obstacles for structural reform be overcome? What are the driving forces of these reforms? Do the structural reforms in the East German States in the 90s and the more recent reforms in the West German States share the same set of causes and underlying conditions? In order to answer these questions, the paper analyzes in depth the reform processes in two federal states over an extended time period: Saxony, which introduced the hierarchical two-tiered system in 1991 and Hamburg, which introduced a horizontal two-tiered model in 2010.
The study combines a policy analysis approach with concepts of historical institutionalism (Pierson 2000; Thelen 1999) and policy learning. These theoretical perspectives are integrated in the Advocacy Coalition Framework (Sabatier 1998; Sabatier/Jenkins-Smith 1993). The resulting analytical framework enables us to examine causal factors at both the macro and micro level. We consider a variety of social and institutional variables as well as actor-centered variables such as the problem perceptions and political beliefs of the actors involved. In doing so, we identify the crucial factors involved in producing the reform outcomes of interest.
Pierson, Paul, 2000: Increasing Returns, Path Dependence, and the Study of Politics, in: American Political Science Review 92/2, 251-267. Sabatier, Paul A., 1998: The Advocacy Coalition Framework: Revisions and Relevance for Europe, in: Journal for European Public Policy 5/1, 98-130. Sabatier, Paul A./Jenkins-Smith, Hank C., (eds.), 1993: Policy Change and Learning. An Advocacy Coalition Approach. Boulder, Co. Thelen, Kathleen, 1999: Historical Institutionalism in comparative politics, in: Annual Review of Political Science 2/1, 369-404.
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