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

Children's early numeracy in England, Finland and People's Republic of China

P. Aunio and others

International Journal of Early Years Education, vol. 16, 2008, p. 203-221

This research investigated the similarities between countries in young children's early numeracy skills related to age, culture and gender. The participants were five-year-old children from Beijing (People's Republic of China), England, and Finland. The rationale for the cross-cultural comparison originates from research results with older children showing that Asian children outperform children from America or Europe, and from the lack of such information concerning younger children. The results showed that in all locations older children performed better than the younger children. Cultural differences were found: young children from Beijing outperformed those from England and Finland in overall early numeracy performance, as well as in sub-tests for understanding of quantities, relational skills, and counting skills. Finnish children had better scores than English children in the whole early numeracy scale and in the relational scale. The results are discussed in relation to culture, instruction in preschools, and learning support at home, as well as the effects of language characteristics.

Cultural perspectives on higher education

J. Välimaa and O. Ylijoki (editors)

Dordrecht: Springer, 2008

The chapters in this book are based on presentations held at a conference organized by the Consortium of Higher Education Researchers in 2005 at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland which aimed to focus attention on one of the main organizing principles of higher education institutions, namely their cultural dimensions. One of the goals of this book is not only to gain a better understanding of the cultural aspects of higher education, but also to analyse the potential of cultural perspectives as intellectual devices. The chapters consist of studies in which culture has been either the object, or the structuring principle of the study, or in which cultural studies have been used as intellectual devices in the analysis. The main aim here is to provide readers with a thorough understanding of the variety of possible cultural perspectives on higher education and to show how they can be used in both qualitative and quantitative research.

The dynamics of change in higher education: expansion and contraction in an organisational field

S. Kyvik

Dordrecht: Springer, 2009 (Higher Education Dynamics; vol. 27)

This book deals with the development and transformation of that part of the educational system which has alternatively been called 'the non-university higher education sector', 'the polytechnic sector' and 'the college sector'. The aim is to analyse the dynamics of change in this sector by using Norway as a national case study for and in-depth analysis, while at the same time comparing it with parallel developments in Western Europe. Given that many of the changes that have taken place in various countries are similar, it is hoped that this detailed account and analysis of development in Norway may lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms behind such processes in other countries.

Exploring the definitions of quality early childhood programmes in a market-driven context: case studies of two Hong Kong preschools

C.W.D. Ho

International Journal of Early Years Education, vol. 16, 2008, p. 223-236

Set within the market-driven context of educare for young children in Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, this paper points to the importance of exploring the definitions of quality in early childhood programmes from the multiple perspectives of school stakeholders. This study focuses on data collected in semi-structured, individual and group interviews at two preschools that were rated highly in the quality assurance inspections. The results indicated that the views of the school stakeholders on the quality of early childhood programmes shifted from childrearing to developmental nurturing but still emphasized academic learning and preparedness, largely due to the 'backwash effect' of primary education creating academic pressure on the local preschools. The two case study schools formulated successful strategies for reconciling conflicts between professional values of learning through play and parental expectations of academic preparation for primary education. In addition, the schools put a lot of effort into sharpening their competitive edge. They did this by maintaining close communication with their parents through various channels and offering free after-school custodial care, emotional and financial support. These are outside the primary duties of a pre-school but highlight the way in which schools in the local field address and give priority to parents' needs and expectations, demonstrating that the provision of preschooling in Hong Kong is shaped by market forces. The implications of this for quality educare are discussed.

Forging multilingual spaces: integrated perspectives on majority and minority bilingual education

C. Hélot and A. de Mejía (editors)

Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2008

The editors of this book put forward the view that in many parts of the world, policymakers, teachers and researchers who are involved with bilingual programmes in international languages often have little contact with researchers and practitioners who are concerned with bilingual education programmes in minority communities. By contrast, most of the papers in this collection were co-authored because the researchers concerned collaborated with colleagues to be able to examine the diverse forms of bilingual education in their own sociolinguistic and political context. They examine points of contact between minority and majority bilingual or multilingual provision in different national scenarios and discuss the ways in which, and the reasons why, the unequal balance of power across different languages and literacies is either reinforced or challenged by policymakers and educators. The volume itself is divided into two sections. The first section includes discussions of the position in the USA, Columbia, Argentina and Mexico while the second is concerned with the situation in Europe and includes contributions from France, Ireland, Catalonia and England.

International perspectives on leading primary and elementary schools

M. Brundrett (guest editor)

School Leadership & Management, vol. 28, 2008, p. 407-538

This special issue brings together six contributions from around the world, all of which focus on leading primary or elementary schools. The guest editor refers to the 'ferment' that currently exists in schools delivering education at this level and believes there is a step-change in the way primary education is perceived by academics, government agencies and society in general. Despite this, it is argued that the academic community has so far failed to develop a theory of leadership specific to primary and elementary school education. Given this, one of the aims of this issue is to offer a contribution to that area of debate.

Learning or earning in the 'smart state': changing tactics for governing early childhood

J. Ailwood

Childhood: A Journal of Global Child Research, vol. 15, 2008, p. 535-551

This article presents an analysis of how the discursive regimes of advanced liberalism, knowledge economies and lifelong learning have produced the conditions of possibility for the new preparatory year in Queensland's government schools. This analysis investigates what new tactics, strategies and practices this year of preparatory schooling enables. The emphasis on advanced liberal knowledge economies, and the changing political rationalities these economies produce, reveals new ways of thinking about workers and selves. Within these shifts, the author suggests that for early childhood education, the shape of the adult-to-be impacts upon ways of producing the present child. Furthermore, it is proposed that as the work of Queensland's early childhood educators in the year prior to compulsory schooling is increasingly becoming public, their professional practices are produced and managed in order to create the 'school-ready' child.

Longitudinal reform and renewal efforts to improve public schools: Kentucky's Standards and Indicators for School Improvement

T. Browne-Ferrigno. L.W. Allen & P. Hurt

Leadership & Policy in Schools, vol. 7, 2008, p. 401-427

Educational reform initiated by policymakers to improve public schools often fails to achieve desired results for diverse reasons. This article describes how Kentucky aligned externally mandated school reform with internally determined school renewal through implementation of its Standards and Indicators for School Improvement. Results of biennial studies by the state department of education using the model indicate eleven common variance points between successful and underperforming schools.

Lost in transition? A comparison of early 'drop out' from education and training in England and France

C. Hayden and C. Blaya

The International Journal of School Disaffection, vol. 6, no. 1, 2008, p.19-24

Concern about early drop out from education and training is evident in many nations globally. In wealthier, industrialised countries, such as France and England, debate is often associated with issues to do with citizenship, the reduction in the availability of unskilled work and the perceived risk of social exclusion for those who do drop out of education and training. A range of initiatives in France and England have for some time focused on the young people who are the subject of this paper and both countries share much in common in terms of the social patterning of which young people are likely to become 'lost in transition' with social class and ethnicity remaining powerful predictors. Responses to the problem are also similar, as in the growth of individualized support and plans to increase apprenticeships. However, France still places more emphasis on 'insertion' into the mainstream of ideas, rather than choice and different pathways and routes, as in England.

Pupils as partners in education decision-making: responding to the legislation in England and Ireland

M. Shelvin & R. Rose

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 23, 2008, p. 423-430

Educational policy in both England and the Republic of Ireland has recognized the desirability of increased pupil involvement, and this is reflected in policy documents and in legislation which highlights the requirements for schools to take greater account of the views of pupils. This paper documents the approaches to increased pupil involvement in decision-making in England and Ireland and provides an overview of the key challenges that face policymakers and educators in ensuring meaningful participation for children and young people with special educational needs, thereby enabling them to participate more fully in the assessment, planning and evaluation of their own learning.

Responding to school disaffection: insights from the Republic of Ireland

T. Murphy

The International Journal of School Disaffection, vol. 6, 2008, p. 35-39

This paper provides an overview of educational inequality in the Irish context with a particular focus on what are referred to as critical transition points, at which particular cohorts of students are perceived to be in danger of dropping out of the system. It also examines the explanations of the persistence of educational inequality in the Republic of Ireland that are typically put forward and highlights specific strategies for tackling the vitally important question of educational disadvantage within the Irish context.

SEN students' inclusion in Greece: factors influencing Greek teachers' stance

K. Koutrouba, M. Vamvakari & H. Theodoropoulos

European Journal of Special Needs Education, vol. 23, 2008, p. 413-421

This article reports initial findings of recent research in secondary education schools in Greece, aimed at recording Greek teachers' attitudes towards inclusion and determining the factors that enhance positive attitudes or negative ones. The study confirms that Greek teachers, despite obvious infrastructural and institutional hindrances, favour SEN students' inclusion, and the authors note that this attitude is strengthened when specialized knowledge, further training and incentives for acquiring professional qualifications are provided to teachers.

Social democrats and the new partisan politics of public investment in education

M.R. Busemeyer

Journal of European Public Policy, vol. 16, 2009, p. 107-126

This article studies the impact on education spending of social democratic parties being in power. A pooled time series analysis of spending in OECD democracies shows that social democrats have primarily increased public spending on higher education. By expanding public investment in higher education and so widening access, social democratic parties both please their core working class support and forge a new alliance with the middle classes.

Turnaround insights from the organizational sciences: a review of the empirical evidence and the development of a staged model of recovery with potential implications for the PK-12 education sector

J. Murphy

Leadership & Policy in Schools, vol. 7, 2008, p. 331-357

This article reviews research from the organizational sciences to develop lessons for educators and policy makers. The authors review the literature relating to organizational turnaround, blending research findings into seven dimensions within the two-stage model of retrenchment and recovery. In the first systematic attempt to mine research in the corporate, nonprofit, and public sectors to develop a staged framework for shaping efforts to turn around failing schools, the authors outline more explicitly four macro-level conclusions for educators and policymakers.

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