Looking to the Past to think about the Future of Policy Research

Looking to the Past to think about the Future of Policy Research

With the online European Conference on Educational Research 2021 fast approaching, to whet your appetite for what will doubtless be an exciting and stimulating event, you might like to revisit one of the academic highlights of spring 2021 for the Policy Studies and the Politics of Education Network (EERA Network 23). Our Online Seminar Series brought together leading academics in the field of education policy studies, all of whom have a close relationship with Network 23. Over 200 friends and associates of the network registered to attend the four seminars, reflecting the huge contribution made by each of our speakers to education policy research.

In one way or another, our speakers looked to the past to think about the future of critical education policy research.

Navigating Crisis: A reflection on 2020, entangled space-times of education, revisionist work and learning, and making histories

In the first seminar, Terri Seddon, Professor Emeritus of La Trobe University in Melbourne, reflected on the events of 2020 before looking to the future. In a powerful presentation, Terri brought together a variety of images and ideas with findings from a funded research project that investigated policy reform and policy effects in an ‘integrated partnership’ model of teacher education. Terri suggested that historical reading and writing can offer insights into educational knowledge building, and discussed processes of rereading the past and rewriting the future. Finally, in looking towards sustainable futures, Terri considered the place of doubt in partnership work and concluded with thoughts on the remaking of teacher education.

Multiple Temporalities in Critical Policy Sociology in Education

In the second seminar, Bob Lingard, Professorial Fellow in the Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education at the Australian Catholic University and Emeritus Professor at The University of Queensland, discussed multiple temporalities in critical education policy sociology. Extending the concept of ‘historically informed’ in Jenny Ozga’s definition of education policy sociology in 1987, Bob considered different conceptions of the temporal which, he suggested, refers to the complex relationships between past, present, and future. Bob then argued that the temporal is neglected in critical education policy sociology, and demands new research and theoretical work. Looking back in time will help us understand the present and possible future in policy terms, and relationships between them.

Elites and Experts in Education Policy

In the third seminar, Jenny Ozga, Professor Emeritus of the University of Oxford and one of the founders of our network, discussed elites and experts in education policy. Jenny drew on work investigating the changing relationship between knowledge, expertise, and policy, looking at the forms of knowledge available to policy actors and the effects of these on the capacity of policy actors, including experts and elites, to govern education. Jenny compared the knowledge technologies and material processes available to policy elites and experts in the 1980s with those in contemporary contexts, to better understand knowledge-policy relationships. She concluded with some thoughts on how the pandemic has affected relationships between experts and policymakers.

Sedimentation and/or re-politicization of a highly marketized education system

In the final seminar, Lisbeth Lundahl and Linda Rönnberg, both Professors at the University of Umea, were joined by Professor Piia Seppänen of the University of Turku to discuss highly marketized education systems, focusing on Sweden. Their work builds on research carried out over several decades on the economisation of public education and its consequences, which include increased social segregation, reduced democratic influence over education, and the impoverishment of curricula. They set each of these in historical perspective within the Swedish context. Based on interviews with leading Swedish system actors, including education business leaders and various interest organisations, Lisbeth, Linda and Piia then reported on the extent to which commodification, privatization and marketization in education have become institutionalized, normalized, and therefore taken for granted. They identified this process as one that Bob Jessop describes as sedimentation, although they remained hopeful that re-politicisation of policy debates was now emerging.

This series provided an opportunity for those within the wider education policy research community to connect with each other. For many, these seminars provided some relief from the enforced isolation of the global pandemic, and were well received by all who attended. The speakers were generous in the time they gave, and provocative and insightful in their presentations. I am sure you will enjoy watching and listening to them, whether for the first time or as a reminder of what was a wonderful series.

Dr Peter Kelly

Dr Peter Kelly

Associate Professor (Reader) in Comparative Education · Plymouth Institute of Education

Peter Kelly is Link Convenor for Network 23: Policy Studies and Politics of Education. If you would like to know more about Network 23, he is happy to be contacted: peter.kelly@plymouth.ac.uk.

References and Further Reading

Alexiadou, Nafsika, Lundahl, Lisbeth & Rönnberg, Linda (2019). Shifting logics: education and privatization the Swedish way, in: J. Wilkinson, R. Niesche & S. Eacott (Eds) Challenges for public education: reconceptualising educational leadership, policy and social justice as resources for hope, London, Routledge. http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A1267623&dswid=9840

Lingard, Bob (2021) Multiple temporalities in critical policy sociology in education, Critical Studies in Education 62(3) 338-353, DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2021.1895856. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17508487.2021.1895856

Manton, Claire, Heffernan, Troy, Kostogriz, Alex & Seddon, Terri (2021) Australian school–university partnerships: the (dis)integrated work of teacher educators, Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 49:3, 334-346, DOI: 10.1080/1359866X.2020.1780563. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1359866X.2020.1780563

Ozga, Jenny (2020) Elites and Expertise: the changing material production of knowledge for policy, in: G. Fan and T. Popkewitz (Eds) Values, Governance, Globalization, and Methodology, Volume 1, Singapore, Springer Open. https://www.springer.com/gp/book/9789811383465

 

The ‘Logic’ Behind the Resumption of National Testing in the Danish State School System

The ‘Logic’ Behind the Resumption of National Testing in the Danish State School System

On the 1st of February, the Danish Minister of Education, Pernille Rosenkrantz-Theil, announced that national testing would be resumed as of March 1st to evaluate the “learning loss” that has arisen in connection with the lockdown of state schools in Denmark. What is the logic behind this decision, and what does it say about the political priorities in relation to primary schools?

The Danish Minister’s announcement that national testing must be resumed immediately after the reopening of public schools has not been well received by the Danish Union of Teachers and many individual teachers. For example, in an interview with the Danish radio station P1, teacher Anne Hammer pointed out that there is a need to focus on well-being and re-establishment of the communities when the students return after the lockdown, rather than national testing. She also pointed out that national tests put students under pressure and create uncertainty, which directly counteracts the work around well-being.

Against these arguments, the Minister argues that there is a need for knowledge about learning gaps at the municipal and national level. This concept does not focus on the individual pupil and school class but rather on identifying overall patterns at the societal level. The argument for this societal need is presented by the Minister’s party colleague and spokesperson on education, Jens Joel, who in the same broadcast pointed out that the OECD has found a connection between learning losses and a decline in gross domestic product.

This argument reflects the so-called human capital approach to education, which roughly means that education must provide a skilled labour force and increasing productivity in the labour market. The OECD has advocated this approach for decades. It is a key component of the entire PISA program, which, citing education economist Eric Hanushek of the Neo-Conservative Hoover Institute, postulates a link between a country’s PISA performance and its GDP. However, this link has been emphatically disproved in numerous research publications by, among others, Hikaru Komatsu and Jeremy Rappleye. Similarly, the whole idea behind the human capital approach has been thoroughly dismantled by, among others, the British Professor of Education and Political Economy, Hugh Lauder, who demonstrates a lack of coherence between learning and earning in the global economy.

In terms of research, there is thus a picture of very dubious reasoning behind the requirement for national tests in the reopening public school. Therefore, it appears that the reason for national testing is more likely to be the desire to have some form of certainty and control of the public school by central authorities. This desire must be understood in terms of how education works globally, where international comparisons and an understanding of education is viewed as a determining factor for countries’ future competitiveness and, essentially, their long-term survival. As Professor John Krejsler has argued convincingly, global education policy is today driven by a fear of falling behind, and a well-functioning education system is understood as a system that delivers competitive academic results… and this requires certainty and control by the central authorities.

Blog Contributor

Christian Ydesen

Christian Ydesen

Professor (WSR) at Department of Culture and Learning, Aalborg University, Denmark

Christian Ydesen is a professor (WSR) at the Department of Culture and Learning, Aalborg University, Denmark. He is the PI of the project ‘The Global History of the OECD in education’ funded by the Aalborg University talent programme and the project ‘Education Access under the Reign of Testing and Inclusion’ funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark. He has been a visiting scholar at Edinburg University (2008-2009, 2016), Birmingham University (2013), Oxford University (2019), and Milan University (2021) and published several chapters and articles on topics such as educational testing, international organisations, accountability, educational psychology and diversity in education from historical and international perspectives. He currently serves as an executive editor of the European Educational Research Journal.

Webpages:

https://vbn.aau.dk/en/persons/124965

https://www.researchgate.net/procle/Christian_Ydesen

Project webpages:

EduAccess.aau.dk

https://www.en.culture.aau.dk/research/projects/global-history-oecd-in-education

References and Further Reading

Brown, P., Lauder, H., & Cheung, S. Y. (2020). Theœ death of human capital? – Its Failed Promise and How to Renew It in an Age of Disruption. Oxford University Press.

Hanushek, E. A., & Woessmann, L. (2015)The knowledge capital of nations: Education and the economics of growth. The MIT Press.

Komatsu, H., & Rappleye, J. (2021). Rearticulating PISA. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 19(2), 245-258. https://10.1080/14767724.2021.1878014

Krejsler, J. B. (2019). How a European ‘Fear of falling behind’ discourse co-produces global standards: Exploring the inbound and outbound performativity of the transnational turn in European education policy. In C. Ydesen (Ed.), The OECD’s historical rise in education: The formation of a global governing complex (pp. 245-267). Springer International Publishing.