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Welfare Reform on the Web (January 2009): Education - overseas

Can schooling contribute to a more just society?

M.W. Apple

Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, vol. 3, no. 3, 2008, p. 239-261

This article combines a discussion of the politics of education with the author's personal story of his visit to an educational conference in Cuba as a reminder as to why the continuing struggle over schooling is crucial to the pursuit of social justice, with particular attention to what is and is not taught, how it is taught and evaluated, how students with different characteristics are treated, how teachers and other school employees are respectfully dealt with, how the relationship between schools and their communities can be democratized etc. The article suggests tactics for making democratic practices more visible and the author describes seven tasks that he believes it to be critical for scholar/activists in education to perform if they are committed to challenging dominant relations in education and wider society.

Democracy and robust hope: Queensland's education and training reforms for the future

M. Singh and W. Sawyer

Education, Citizenship and Social Justice, vol. 3, 2008, p. 223-237

This article examines the relationship between democracy and hope in an educational context. The authors approach this by using the Australian state of Queensland's Education and Training Reforms for the Future (ETRF) and exploring the role of one state agency in trying to find ways of underwriting the longer term socio-economic security of young people. It is argued that these reforms have provided the opportunity for active democratic participation by young people and their communities in planning their futures and that they therefore provide an example of what the authors have called 'robust hope'.

Devising inequality: a Bernsteinian analysis of high-stakes testing and social reproduction in education

W.W. Au

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 29, 2008, p. 639-651

High-stakes, standardised testing has become the central tool for educational reform and regulation in many industialised nations, and has been implemented with particular intensity in the United States and the UK. Researchers have found that these assessments reproduce race-based and class-based inequalities that generally correlate with those present in society at large. However, while this research base has demonstrated the relationship between high-stakes testing and educational inequality, no detailed analysis of how these tests function to reproduce inequality has been done. Drawing on research on high-stakes testing and its effect on curriculum and pedagogic discourse in the United States, this paper applies Bernstein's concept of the pedagogic device to explain how high-stakes tests operate as a relay in the reproduction of dominant social relations.

The early intervention solution: enabling or constraining literacy learning

A. Woods and R. Henderson

Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, vol. 8, 2008, p. 251-268

In Western nations, the rise of neo-liberalism has been accompanied by policy, media and curriculum initiatives offering a simplistic understanding of literacy and literacy pedagogy. Literacy has been represented as a commodity. In the UK, the US and Australia policies have focused on early intervention programmes for children who are struggling to read and have implied that 'quick fixes' to difficulties in attaining literacy are both desirable and attainable. This article presents an analysis of the experience of one child enrolled in a Reading Recovery programme in Australia to demonstrate the shortcomings of these simplistic approaches.

'Educate girls to stop population soaring'

S. Connor

The Independent, Dec. 4th 2008, p. 4

The explosive growth in the global population could be curbed significantly if teenage girls in the developing world were given the opportunity of completing a secondary school education, according to Joel Cohen, professor in populations at the Rockefeller University in New York. That could cut the expected growth in the human population by as much as three billion by 2050. According to Professor Cohen, secondary education increases people's capacity and motivation to reduce their own fertility as well as improve the survival of their children and care for their own and their families' health.

Education and dimensions of social capital: do educational effects differ due to educational expansion and social security expenditure?

M. Gesthuizen, T. van der Meer and P. Scheepers

European Sociological Review, vol. 24, 2008, p. 617-632

This article proposes and tests hypotheses on the impact of education on formal and informal social capital under varying levels of educational expansion and different welfare state regimes. By estimating multilevel models for 28 countries from the Eurobarometer 62.2 survey (2004), the authors contribute to our understanding of why social capital levels vary between countries and how national level factors condition individual level behaviour. There are no consistent patterns suggesting that in countries with a high level of educational expansion and social security expenditure, levels of formal or informal social activity are either higher or lower. Cross-level interaction estimates, however, strongly suggest, that educational expansion decreases educational differences in both formal and informal social capital. These findings suggest that, as more people in the society become highly educated, those with lower levels of educational attainment are more likely to come into contact with them through networks and are then motivated to become socially active.

Educational targeting in the fight against poverty: limits, omissions and opportunities

A. Tarabini

Globalisation, Societies and Education, vol. 6, 2008, p. 415-429

This article aims to point out some of the limits, omissions and opportunities of educational targeting as a priority strategy in the fight against poverty. The World Bank is the dominant agent in the creation and promotion of the global agenda for development, and it has a large influence in the definition of educational strategy to fight against poverty. This article therefore analyses the Bank's proposals related to education, poverty and targeting. It then explores the objectives, features and impacts of the Bolsa Escola programme in Brazil, which has been used by the World Bank as an example of good practice in investment in education for disadvantaged families.

The High school space race: implications of a school-choice market environment for a Michigan metropolitan region

M. Militello, S Metzger & A. Bowers

Education and Urban Society, vol. 41, 2008, p. 26-54

This article examines the implications of competition between school districts in a mid-Michigan metropolitan area. Over the 10-year period after Michigan's major school-funding reform in 1994, many urban and suburban districts found themselves competing for per-pupil state funding. Suburban districts need extra students to make up budgetary shortfalls and protect instructional programs that are essential in today's political climate of school accountability. Several districts in this study built new or substantially renovated state-of-the-art high schools, possibly illustrating a space race between the districts to build bigger, better, newer capital assets that attract pupils and residential development. The central city district, surrounded by growing suburbs with higher-value taxable property, is at a disadvantage in this competition.

Investment in higher education, research and development: Poland in comparison with the European Union and OECD

W. Jarecki

International Journal of Economic Policy in Emerging Economies, vol. 1, 2008, p. 288-298

This paper analyses investment made in highereEducation (HE) as well as research and development (R&D) in Poland and other OECD and EU countries. The author assesses the amount of investment made in HE in Poland compared with other countries as well as attempting to verify the thesis that Poland is among countries with the lowest budgets for HE and R&D. Her analysis is mainly based on statistical data provided by the OECD and Eurostat.

The management and legitimisation of educational inequalities in Australia: some implications for school experience

J. Windle

International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 18, 2008, p. 157-171

This examination of the experiences of post-compulsory learners in Australia shows how schools in disadvantaged areas have employed strategies to produce high levels of (misplaced) faith and confidence in education in their students. The school system continues to enjoy legitimacy among marginalised students because many students' own self-worth is tied to an inflated or idealised view of their attainment promoted by the school. They also lack clear reference points against which to make a realistic assessment of their place in the educational hierarchy. Those students who are least engaged place weakened demands on the system, thus avoiding visible forms of resentment.

Neo-liberal 'governmentality' in the English and Japanese higher education systems

K. Yokoyama

International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 18, 2008, p. 231-247

Neo-liberal governments in Japan and England have used similar policy instruments to regulate universities, including financial incentives and output quality management. However institutions have responded differently in the two countries. In England, traditional university autonomy, which isolated the sector from external pressure, has declined and outside influence on its value system has increased. In Japan, the shift has been from departmental to institutional autonomy, which is compatible with the concept of accountability.

Neo-liberal reforms in Israel's education system: the dialectics of the state

Y. Yonah, Y. Dahan and D. Markovich

International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 18, 2008, p. 199-217

The Dovrat Report issued in 2005 contains a set of recommendations aimed at bringing about the comprehensive reform of Israel's education system. Analysis shows that the implementation of the report would result in the state developing two contradictory approaches to the education system. The state would on the one hand seem to withdraw from direct involvement in education through decentralisation and privatisation policies, while at the same time it would increase its influence on educational goals by setting uniform standards of academic attainment, imposing a national value system intended to produce loyal citizens, and promoting the production of workers with the skills required to compete in the global economy. In pursuing these contradictory goals, the state often operates indirectly; it develops a tight but elusive regulatory system operated from a distance.

Persistent inequality in educational attainment and its institutional context

F.T. Pfeffer

European Sociological Review, vol. 24, 2008, p. 543-565

This article approaches the study of educational inequality in a new way. By using log-linear and log-multiplicative models of educational mobility tables, it examines the global degree of intergenerational status transmission across all educational levels. It does so for as many as 20 nations, some of which have not been included in prior comparative research. A strong association between parental education and the educational outcomes of their children is detected for all nations. It is shown that this association has been stable in virtually all countries throughout the 20th century. The degree of educational inequality is also associated with the institutional structure of national education systems. Rigid systems with dead-end educational pathways appear to be a hindrance to the equalisation of educational opportunities, especially if the sorting of students occurs early in the educational career.

Principal preparation: international perspectives

C.F. Webber (guest editor)

Journal of Educational Administration, vol. 46, 2008, 671-779

The articles contained in this special issue aim to add to the accumulating knowledge of school principalship from a theoretical perspective and do so by looking at the role through the eyes of practitioners. The majority of the articles report work completed as part of the International Study of Principal Preparation (ISPP), a coordinated study underway in ten countries - Australia, Canada, England, Jamaica, Mexico, Scotland, South Africa, Tanzania, Turkey and the USA - and about to be implemented in China. This study seeks to gather information to guide those who prepare principals for their first appointments and examines how useful principal preparation programmes actually are to novice principals. There is also one non-ISPP report included in this collection where the authors focus on educational leadership in Eastern Europe.

A quarter of a century of neoliberal thinking in education: misleading analyses and failed policies

S.J. Klees

Globalisation, Societies and Education, vol. 6, 2008, p. 311-348

The author discusses how imposing user fees over the past two decades has exacerbated inequality and inefficiency in the provision of schooling in developing countries. The article focuses on three topics: user fees in primary education; user fees in higher education and their connection to primary education; and the 'budget constraint' caused by the supposed inability of countries to raise taxes that has been used to legitimate user fees.

(For comment see Globalisation, Societies and Education, vol. 6, 2008, p. 349-414)

Social class and access to higher education in Greece: supportive preparation lessons and success in national exams

E. Sianou-Kyrgiou

International Studies in Sociology of Education, vol. 18, 2008, p. 173-183

Widening participation in higher education has been an important policy objective in Western European countries over the past twenty years. However advantaged families still try to monopolise places at elite institutions for their children, while candidates from working class households are either excluded from higher education or steered towards low status universities. This article looks at the mechanisms through which this is achieved in Greece. Access to higher education in Greece is highly dependent on candidates' success in national examinations. Middle and upper class parents are able to increase their children's chances of success in these examinations by paying for out-of-school support, leading to the reproduction of social privilege.

Strategic leadership and school reform in Taiwan

P. Chen

School Effectiveness and School Improvement, vol. 19, 2008, p. 293-318

This article examines school leadership in the context of Taiwanese educational reform since the mid-1990s. The goal of the three year inquiry is twofold: to explore the conflicts that school administrators have confronted in facilitating school reform and to analyse the strategic and innovative leadership practices that have facilitated improvements in school effectiveness. A case study of a secondary school in Taiwan is used to illustrate how leadership efforts can move schools forward to achieve a balanced transformation. This case study revealed four themes of strategic leadership in coping with the conflicts accompanying school reform in Taiwan: educational values; timeframe for change; capacity building; and community involvement. Three of the school's initiatives are described and analysed in detail in order to illustrate the dynamic relation between strategic leadership practices and the goal of school transformation.

Towards decentralized management in United Arab Emirate (UAE) schools

S. Al-Taneiji and L. McLeod

School Effectiveness and School Improvement, vol. 19, 2008, p. 275-291

The Ministry of Education in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has announced that changes will be made in the ways in which its schools are managed. At present, most decisions are made centrally by the Ministry of Education, but moves have begun to decentralize some responsibilities and decisions to schools. The success of such reform is likely to be dependent on many complex issues, a major one of which is the willingness of staff members of schools to implement change. This study explores perceptions about decentralization that are held by teachers and principals of six schools in one city in the UAE. The authors are confident the findings will provide valuable assistance for policy-makers in the the Ministry of Education, as well as schools and their communities as the decentralization of school management continues to be implemented.

The Transformative potential of teacher care as described by higher education access initiative

K. Foster

Education and Urban Society, vol. 41, 2008, p. 104-126

The 'attitude-achievement gap' characterizing economically disadvantaged students of colour is reexamined in this study of student perceptions of a higher education access programme. Their descriptions of past and present experiences of teachers are contextualized in research citing the impact of stress, social stigma, and teacher misperceptions on economically disadvantaged students' capacity to engage with school. The contrast of their descriptions underscores the pivotal role that teachers play in shaping developing identities. Student descriptions reflect the aspects of their relationships with teachers that signify authentic care and commitment to their academic success. The findings indicate changes in students' understanding of the learning process and the connection between high school academic performance and college admission grounded in realistic self-assessment of their academic challenges. The findings suggest plasticity in educational identity development in older students and demonstrate the importance of including students' perspectives in research and evaluation of programmes intended to support them.

Underperforming or 'getting it right'? Constructions of gender and achievement in the Australian enquiry into boys' education

K. Hodgetts

British Journal of Sociology of Education, vol. 29, 2008, p. 465-477

The underachievement of boys has been a focus of concern in Australia for over 15 years. Male students' poor performance at school has traditionally been attributed to factors external to boys themselves whereas this paper turns the focus back to addressing the ways in which gender itself was constructed within hearings held for the Australian Parliamentary Inquiry into Boys' Education. Applying discursive analysis reveals that witnesses to the Inquiry drew upon a series of gender binaries in representing male and female students, and accounting for their relative attainment. These binaries worked to associate masculinity with 'authentic' learning so that the success of male students was naturalized even in the absence of achievement. Conversely, the association of femininity and 'inauthentic learning' worked to undermine the demonstrated success of female students. The paper goes on to discuss the role of these binaries in the reproduction of a paradoxical relationship between gender and achievement.

You're not going far enough, Swedish expert tells Cameron

R. Garner

The Independent, Dec. 1st 2008, p. 14 & 15

One of the big differences between the education system in Sweden and the UK is that, in Sweden, parents are given an educational voucher for each child which they can use to apply for any school they want to. This has led to a variety of providers, and schools run by private companies that are allowed to make a profit predominate including Kunskapsskolan which is one of the largest providers of independent 'free' schools in Sweden. The Conservatives are keen to adopt Swedish-style education in the UK but have been warned by the Swedish Prime Minister's senior adviser, Mikael Sandstrom that they would be wrong to refuse to allow Swedish-style independent free schools to make a profit. According to Mr Sandstrom, if companies running the schools make a profit, it is then easier for them to expand and provide more places, including places for disadvantaged students. But research by Sweden's National Agency for Education warns that social segregation could increase if the system was copied in the UK, as better educated parents were more likely to opt to send their children to independent free schools.

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