Alpesh Maisuria and Dennis Beach
As described in Beach and Dovemark’s 2007 book, Education and the Commodity Problem, critical researchers have identified two fundamental roles for modern-day schools within capitalist states. These are the ideological and material roles and function, where schools produce ideologically compliant workers and consumers for a corporatist economy on the one hand, this is partly through a teaching and a curriculum, which is often hidden and informal; and, on the other form part of a corporate business plan for the accumulation of private capital in the welfare sector through mass outsourcing of welfare-State education provision and the wholesale commodification of education as a public service. This article presents a research method for investigating education in these circumstances. It is a method with a philosophical foundation not only for understanding contemporary educational empirical reality under neoliberal forms of capitalism, but also for developing critical consciousness for the transcendence and transformation of this condition toward a more just form of political economy and human existence.
This research method draws from critical realism and its concept of explanatory critique as a way to forge a scientifically robust Marxist critical ethnography. In relation to this, the description of the method accompanies an overview of some of the basic principles and broadly accepted possibilities of and for ethnography and critical ethnography, followed by a presentation of what Marxist critical ethnography is and how Marxist critical ethnography functions as explanatory critique, respectively. This entails description of what explanatory critique is, and how it can be used to develop a philosophy of social science and an ontological base for ethnography. The aforementioned components together expand on a historical, theoretical, conceptual, and political development of ethnography as part of a Marxist approach to research and practice for social transformation.
Evidence-based practice (EBP) is a buzzword in contemporary professional debates, for example, in education, medicine, psychiatry, and social policy. It is known as the “what works” agenda, and its focus is on the use of the best available evidence to bring about desirable results or prevent undesirable ones. We immediately see here that EBP is practical in nature, that evidence is thought to play a central role, and also that EBP is deeply causal: we intervene into an already existing practice in order to produce an output or to improve the output. If our intervention brings the results we want, we say that it “works.”
How should we understand the causal nature of EBP be understood? Causality is a highly contentious issue in education, and many writers want to banish it altogether. But causation denotes a dynamic relation between factors and is indispensable if one wants to be able to plan the attainment of goals and results. A nuanced and reasonable understanding of causality is therefore necessary to EBP, and this we find in the INUS-condition approach.
The nature and function of evidence is much discussed. The evidence in question is supplied by research, as a response to both political and practical demands that educational research should contribute to practice. In general, evidence speaks to the truth value of claims. In the case of EBP, the evidence emanates from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and presumably speaks to the truth value of claims such as “if we do X, it will lead to result Y.” But what does research evidence really tell us? It is argued here that a positive RCT result will tell you that X worked where the RCT was conducted and that an RCT does not yield general results.
Causality and evidence come together in the practitioner perspective. Here we shift from finding causes to using them to bring about desirable results. This puts contextual matters at center stage: will X work in this particular context? It is argued that much heterogeneous contextual evidence is required to make X relevant for new contexts. If EBP is to be a success, research evidence and contextual evidence must be brought together.
James H. Williams
This article looks broadly at the intersection of education, development, and international cooperation. It discusses trends in international cooperation in education for developing countries as well as ongoing challenges. Education has expanded rapidly throughout the world. Even so, the industrialized nations are decades if not generations ahead of parts of the developing world in terms of enrollment and learning attainment. For reasons of equity and economic development alone, it is imperative that all efforts be put to the task of achieving universal school enrollment and learning. To achieve such a goal in the context of what some researchers have termed a 100-year gap requires efforts on the part of national governments and international cooperation on the part of all nations of the world. International cooperation in education includes: (1) the institutions and architecture of international organizations; (2) development assistance, which is closely related; and (3) international agreements to promote education and other development goals. In a broad sense, these initiatives can be seen as moving toward increasingly cooperative relationships between wealthier nations and developing countries. International institutions involved in education include various agencies of the United Nations (UNESCO, UNICEF, ILO, UNHCR) as well as multilateral development banks (the World Bank, IMF, IDA, etc.); regional development banks (Asian Development Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, etc.); and bilateral development agencies. Development assistance is provided in the form of technical and financial assistance to national governments by bilateral development agencies, the multilateral development agencies, UN agencies, as well as an increasing number of non-governmental agencies (NGOs). The UN Declaration on Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are foundational documents laying out the rights of all children to education and the obligation of governments to ensure children have access to quality education. Several global initiatives have led the way toward increasing educational participation in developing countries, including Education for All, the Millennium Development Goals, the UN Global Education First Initiative, and the Sustainable Development Goals. The article concludes with a listing of trends in educational development.
Sarah M. Stitzlein
Public schools are intricately connected to the stability and vitality of our democracy in the United States. The important relationship between public schooling and democracy began as a foundational idea in our fledgling republic, and it grew slowly over the course of our country’s history. Along the way, the relationship has been tested and challenged, encountering significant problems and limitations over time, including some that continue today. Despite these struggles and the many ways in which we’ve failed to fully fulfill the relationship, it has become a key one for maintaining the strength of our society and our political system.
Unlike a monarchy and other forms of government, it is difficult to maintain a democracy. Democracies take work; they rely upon the ongoing effort of elected officials and citizens, because they cannot run themselves or rely on just one person to lead. While democracy may be a highly desirable political system, its benefits are not always self-evident to children, and the pursuant skills and work it requires do not come naturally to most people. This is the rather precarious position of democracy; in order to maintain it, we have to educate children about its benefits and rationale while also equipping them with the skills and dispositions they need in order to for them to perpetuate it well. This is why we must link education and democracy.
Democracy requires informed and active voters who seek information to make wise decisions on behalf of themselves and the common good. Such voters must understand their own rights and freedoms, as well as those of others, as they deliberate together to reach mutually agreeable policies and practices. They must be equipped to engage in free and critical inquiry about the world and the problems surrounding them. And, they need the imagination and creativity to construct, revise, add to, and share the story of democracy with others, including the next generation.
The relationship between public schooling and democracy is best understood and fulfilled when it is not just a unidirectional one, where public schools support democracy, but rather when it moves in both directions, with the formal and cultural elements of democracy shaping the governance, content, and practices of schools. In this way, democracy is not just the end of public schooling, but also the means by which we achieve it.
The challenge of providing education that is inclusive and seen as equitable for all children is one that has exercised policy makers and education professionals in most countries throughout the late 20th and early 21st centuries. International agreements such as UNESCO’s 1990 Jomtien Declaration and 1994 Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education were instrumental in promoting debate about the rights of children who were denied access to an appropriate schooling and who, in some instances, had no opportunity to obtain any formal education. The Education for All Goals, which were used to prioritize the development of universal primary education, and more recently the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Education Goals, which reiterated a commitment to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” (Goal 4), have increased the focus upon developing inclusive education. This has encouraged governments around the world to re-examine the ways in which they provide schooling for their children and young people. With such a plethora of initiatives, agreements, and advice, it is only to be expected that most national administrations have felt it necessary to respond and to demonstrate that they are taking action towards improving educational opportunities for all. However, the relationship between policy and practice is complex; and in some instances, the development of legislation has failed to provide increased equity in the manner that was intended. This article considers two distinctly different routes towards achieving inclusive education and discusses those factors that have either supported or inhibited success. In drawing upon examples from current developments in India, it additionally proposes that researchers who conduct investigations in international contexts should invest time in understanding underlying policy and cultural and historical factors that may impact upon the ways in which we interpret meaning from data.
Juan Pablo Valenzuela and Carmen Montecinos
After over 30 years of a market model for the provision of educational services in Chile, the expansion of private providers financed through state vouchers, a decrease in public school enrollments, and a highly segregated educational system with unequal learning opportunities sparked in 2006 a social movement demanding changes to the model. In this article we discuss three structural reforms implemented between the years of 2008 and 2016 aiming to increase educational quality, reverse declining enrollments in public schools, the inequitable distribution of learning opportunities, and school segregation. The Preferential School Subsidy Law, passed in 2008, acknowledges that students who are growing up under conditions of social exclusion require extra support, thus in addition to the regular voucher a subsidy is provided to vulnerable students. The Law for School Inclusion, approved in May 2015, involves four main components: expansion of state subsidies, elimination of parental co-payment, elimination of for-profit voucher schools, and elimination of school practices to select students. The National System for Teachers’ Professional Development Law, approved in 2016, addresses improvements in teachers’ working conditions as well as more rigorous requirements for university-based initial teacher preparation programs. After presenting the antecedents and key provisions of each law, we analyze their potential impacts and the risk factors that may attenuate them. Three main areas of risks are addressed: externalities, institutional capacities at various levels of the system, and changes in the economic and political support needed for long-term sustainability.
Teacher unions (or alternatively “education unions”) are organizations formed to protect and advance the collective interests of teachers and other education workers. What the collective interests of educators entail and how they should be pursued have been and remain active matters for debate within these organizations. Different unions at different times have responded differently to these questions, for example, in relation to the degree to which an industrial versus a professional orientation should be adopted, and the degree to which a wider political and social justice agenda should be embraced.
Several ideal-type models of teacher unionism have been identified, as well as various strategic options that these unions might employ. A spirited debate is ongoing about the legitimacy and power of teacher unions. One perspective portrays them as self-interested special interest groups, and another as social movements advocating for public education. The status of teacher unions as stakeholders in educational policymaking is contested, and union–government relations occur across a spectrum of arrangements ranging from those that encourage negotiation to those characterized by confrontation and hostility.
Internationally, education unions face significant challenges in the early decades of the 21st century. Neoliberal economic and industrial policies and legislation have eroded the capacity of unions to collectively organize and bargain, and the global education reform movement (GERM) has created a hostile environment for education unions and their members. Despite these challenges, education unions remain among the most important critics of GERM and of global neoliberal social policy generally. The challenges posed and the strategies adopted play out differently across the globe. There is evidence that at least some unions are now prepared to be far more flexible in adopting a “tapestry” of strategies, to examine their internal organization, build alliances, and develop alternative conceptions of the future of education. Researchers, however, have identified certain internal factors in many teacher unions that pose significant obstacles to these tasks. Unions face difficult choices that could lead to marginalization on the one hand or incorporation on the other.