23 SES 05 D, Local Education Policy
Parallel Paper Session
Along with other public policy fields, the elections of 2010 signal a major policy rupture in Hungarian public education policy-making. Concerning our qualitative inquiry focusing on the strategies of policy translation and enactment in two urban school systems, this condition poses a major challenge for the ongoing research. In the first phase that ended in early 2010, we identified models of urban regulation and policy enactment (Ball et al. 2011). In the current phase initiated in late 2011, we continue to follow institutional policy enactment strategies in selected schools applying ethnographic methods. More specifically, the classroom observations and the joint interviews explore how autonomy and control (Cribb&Gewirtz 2007) is being negotiated in a radically changing policy environment where the competency boundaries of policy actors have been blurred and became extremely indeterminate. The paper discusses how the meanings of autonomy and control gain new meanings at the town level, in the deals between the school staff and other child care professionals, and with the parents in reference to the enactment of tracking and elementary school enrolment policies.
Primarily exploiting the resources of the European Structural Funds, a comprehensive set of policies addressing the integrated education of disadvantaged and Roma pupils was realized between 2002 and 2010 (Neumann et al. 2010). The current government broke away from the ‘equity regime’ and codified a legislation that is told to respond the teachers’ vows and neglects the considerations about the schools’ role in social reproduction. While the decentralization of public services had been conceived as symbolic achievement of the regime change, the current government announced the centralization of the public education sector. The novel moralizing policy regime maintains professional and diplomatic relations with the European Commission on a superficial level, and also rejects negotiations with previously active national policy experts and develop a centralized regulatory culture that only involves a close circle of pedagogic practitioners. Consequently, in the past two years, schools have been working in a highly inconsistent, ambivalent and hardly calculable policy environment.
While keeping the main thematic foci of the research, we investigate how policy appropriation processes respond to the radical institutional restructuring and the public policy rupture. We discuss these issues through researching urban policy practices concerning the local (institutional, urban) cultures and specific classificatory procedures of sorting “problematic” pupils into classes. We assume that the unstable economic and policy context produce shifts in the perceived tasks of the school in relation to the social background of pupils, as well as in the applied strategies to tackle “problematic pupils”. In more general terms, the educational technologies associated with the European funds and the corresponding policy regime (i.e. competence based education and integrated education) that generated institutionally distinctive policy enactments are now being challenged by the national policy. In this respect, we interpret the paradigmatic change of national policy as an external constraint that opens a space for negotiating what is reconcilable with the institutional culture.
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