23 SES 02 A, Markets and Consequences
Parallel Paper Session
The paper provides a critique of ‘school choice’ research and its relationship with markets and other aspects of the neoliberal policy complex. This relationship is particularly relevant for Australia where, as in Europe, ‘choice’ of school is increasingly advocated by government. The promotion of choice per se, along with policies of market competition in education, illustrates the extent to which neoliberal education policies have been adopted in Australia. The paper argues that research on school choice needs be centred on processes of choice-making within the powerful political context of neoliberalism and in relation to the aspirations and imagined futures of students, parents, teachers, schools and communities. Such research must also acknowledge and understand that, as key elements of the neoliberal world view (such as competition, choice and high stakes accountability) are normalised in the day-to-day practices of schooling as a social institution, the norms and values that characterise not only our education systems, but also our society and democracy, are also affected.
School choice, within the education policy apparatus of virtually every western country (Angus 2011), is seen to be a good thing per se because it forces schools to improve their standards and meet prescribed targets if they are to attract parent-consumers of the educational product they are offering to the local market. But the effects of school choice are much broader than this. State institutions and public administration over the past three decades has also been put on a quasi-market footing in keeping with governance themes of economic efficiency, competition and accountability. It is within this global neoliberal consensus that, at the local level, enterprising and aspirational schools engage in impression management to signal their ‘distinctiveness’ in comparison with other schools (Maguire et al. 2011). They are competing to be chosen.
Within the performative and regulatory regime that seems now to have become taken for granted, the power of education policy lies in ‘the increasingly global acceptance of a specific perception of what education should be about: to maintain or increase “economic competitiveness” or “growth” or “development” or, ultimately, “progress”’ (Moutsios 2010). So successful has this move been that conceptions of fundamental notions like education, and even democracy, have been refashioned. All of this does symbolic violence to alternative educational ideas and imagined educational futures that might be built along inherently ‘educational’ rather than economic and competitive lines. The immediate realities of any individual choice-making are therefore influenced by the entire educational context throughout which the pervasiveness of choice, market and accountability factors bear down upon, and shape, the ways in which students, parents, teachers and communities engage with local schools. The dynamics of any particular school are framed by the policy/regulative environment and are affected by every other school and by the market situation which is prevalent across all schools. The resonance of school choice is having a profound impact on the kind of education provided by all schools.
Angus, L. (2011): “Teaching within and against the circle of privilege: reforming teachers, reforming schools”, Journal of Education Policy, DOI:10.1080/02680939.2011.598240. Angus, L. (2004) “Globalization and educational change: Bringing about the reshaping and re-norming of practice”, Journal of Education Policy, 19(1), pp.23-42. Ball, S. (2006) Education policy and social class, Routledge, London. Kelly, A. (2010) “Globalization and education: a review of conflicting perspectives and their effect on policy and professional practice in the UK”, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 7(1), pp.15-68. Lingard, B. (2010) “Policy borrowing, policy learning: Testing times in Australian schooling”, Critical Studies in Education, 51(2), pp. 129-147. Maguire, M., Perryman, J., Ball S. & Braun, A. (2011) “The ordinary school – what is it?”, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 32(1), pp. 1-16. Moutsios, S. (2010) “Power, politics and transnational policy-making in education”, Globalization, Societies and Education, 8(1), pp. 121-141. Rizvi, F. & Lingard, B. (2010) Globalizing education policy, Routledge, New York. Taylor, C. (2007) “Cultures of democracy and citizen efficacy”, Public Culture, 19(1), pp. 117-150. Tsolidis, G. (2006) Youthful Imagination, Schooling, subcultures and social justice, Peter Lang, New York.
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