ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 15

ΤΕΥΧΟΣ 15

ISSUE 15

Autumn 2010

EDITORIAL

D. Mattheou

CONTENTS

The IMF, the World Bank and the WTO policies are commonly described by what is called the ‘Washington Consensus’, not only because of the home town of the first two institutions. The expression refers to the promotion by them of the neoliberal economic agenda which includes three basic sets of policies: privatisation of public companies, liberalisation of international trade and investments, and deregulation of domestic economic and financial activity. As an ideology, neoliberalism celebrates individual entrepreneurial liberties and skills as well as ‘free market’ and ‘free competition’; state interventions must be kept to a minimum as they are considered to be distorting the workings of the market. The US government and the Federal Reserve, Chile, the UK and the communist China, were the first epicentres of this ideological and economic policy shifts in the late 1970s and early 1980s which were to spread and ultimately remake the world. Since then neoliberalism penetrated all major international organisations, either under the direct political pressure of the USA and UK governments in the 1980s or through advocates of the ‘free market’ discourse who occupied key positions in these institutions. Except the three above institutions a major promoter of economic neoliberalism has been the OECD through its comparative studies and policy recommendations. Neoliberal economic policies have also been applied by the European Union, which is not of course an international organisation but a form of unique transnational state-like entity, gradually since the 1980s and from the Maastricht Treaty it became orthodoxy across its members.

Neoliberal policies have been taking place during the last three decades not only in the economy but also in the education systems of many countries and they continue to spread. International organisations are the main promoters of the neoliberal agenda in the discourse, policies and organisational practices of educational institutions. The agenda includes a heavy emphasis on human capital production; education systems must produce human resources destined to upgrade developing economies and to ensure the growth of the advanced economies. All domestic education policies should be orientated towards increasing productivity and competitiveness in the global economy.

This paper focuses on the World Bank/IMF, the WTO, the OECD and the European Union as institutions of transnational policy making. They are all today making education policies which are decisively shaping current directions and developments in national education systems. The paper reviews the enhanced role of these institutions in producing education policies and it investigates the ideological basis as well as the processes through which these policies are made. It is argued that decisions in education policy are taken largely through asymmetric, opaque and bureaucratic procedures, an expression of the de-democratising trend characterising globalisation. In its second part the paper describes and analyses the main set of education policies of these institutions across countries. It is shown that these policies promote reforms which standardise education provision and they are intended to produce relevant to global business human and cognitive resources as well as to increase competition between states and therefore the range of options available for investments.

The English educational system has been through immense changes since the 1980s with a scope to reform teaching and achieve better school results. The new arrangements were imposed in a top-down approach without consultation procedures with the teachers’ unions depicting the right-winged government’s will to assume greater control of education in accordance with global trends of Neo-liberal and New Management policies. The measures taken have been criticized for having attacked and severely damaged teachers’ professional status and morale as well as for having restricted their deep rooted classroom autonomy. 

The present paper attempts to reveal the roots of the traditional autonomy enjoyed in English classrooms throughout most of the century and of the decentralized school administration structures. These characteristics are deeply rooted in the historical development of English education itself and have resulted in a highly diverse and constantly evolving system, quite different from most of the other European, centralized educational systems.

Moreover, it seems that despite the measures imposed by the Thacherite government as well as the New Labour ones that succeeded it in order to restrict teacher autonomy through greater central control of education, the English educational system has managed to preserve many of its traditional characteristics. Ethnocentric ideologies, a strong sense of both individual freedom and collective responsibility, as well as historical traditions of voluntary service and people’s autonomy seem to have developed a high self-esteem and independence that has facilitated decentralized structures and local government. The marked hostility of the English towards any form of central control, bureaucracy, detailed prescription and homogeneity is evident in many of the official governmental documents that refer to educational matters and have a general recommendatory or non-compulsory character.

The above elements facilitated a quite progressive education during the 1950s and 1960s and raised the teachers’ status. A number of social and economic factors mainly as well as the diverse and defective in many cases training of teachers that caused low achievements in schools though changed public opinion and launched a new era for the teaching profession. Teachers became the scapegoats for the social and economic ills and the calls for greater accountability and control were increasing resulting in the imposition of the National Curriculum in 1988 and in a number of other changes in the teachers’ salaries and conditions of service. Educational policy has since then focused on the evaluation of teaching and teacher appraisal causing great stress and heavy workload on the schools’ staff.

Hopes that teacher professionalism and autonomy would be restored after the election of the New Labour were proved false since the new government’s educational policy in fact built on the previous one to continue and strengthen in some cases central control over school issues.

There are, though, some signs of attempts to restore the lost status and compensate for some of the problems identified since a number of measures were taken after 1997 to minimize teachers’ workload and improve their conditions of service. A significant amount of governmental documents have focused – among others – on the improvement of school management through more flexible structures and less prescription so as to facilitate initiative-taking and the development of partnerships within schools. Better education for headteachers and senior management staff has been catered for through the NCSL and the teacher appraisal system (Performance Management), despite the weaknesses of its application, also seems to be under constant review and development on the basis of the system’s identified deficiencies, having thus many characteristics of a pluralistic, partnership building evaluation system that can enhance student learning and teacher professionalism at the same time.

It remains to be seen whether the teachers’ deep-rooted professional culture of autonomy will prove more powerful than the global trend of marketization of education so as to help them regain their lost status and their ability to promote change and innovation in schools.

This article presents the international trends in research and in educational reforms related to preparation and development programs of school leaders, principals or head teachers. It concerns elementary and secondary schools of educational systems with a tradition in leader’s preparation and educational management practices. It contrasts the oversea practices with the eight-level professional knowledge, skills and competence expressed by the European Qualification Framework (2008).

The analysis focuses on the initiatives taken at a national and regional-level in countries, such as, USA, England, Wales, Scotland, Australia and Singapore, and discusses the needs for realizing such preparation and qualifications programs, which aimed at the professional development of candidate school leaders and are primary goals of investment.

Research on school effectiveness and organizational change suggests that a school principal could have a discernible effect on the school productivity that is, the school leadership model could have an important impact on school effectiveness, school improvement and teachers motivation.

The following historical review of the developmental process and the content of preparation programs shows: 1) a plethora of master degree programs designed by the universities in educational administration such a precondition for the appointment at the post (USA) 2) implementation of  national standards policy for head teachers and a National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) as a key for effective school leadership (England and Wales) 3) preparation and/or qualification programs as a national affair and investment (England, Wales, Scotland, Singapore) 4) a shift of academic scholars’ interest in investigating the effectiveness of these programs and the positive impact they have on school leadership role 5) deficiency of school leaders as the pushing factor for the  investment of million dollars in shape of professional standards for school leadership (Australia ) 6) disappointing results about the effectiveness and the quality of master degree programs in educational administration  (Levine Report in USA universities MA, 2005) and finally, 7) effectiveness of national preparation system of heads in Singapore that ascribed to eight-week mentoring practices for novice head teachers.

The politics of school leader’s development-preparation programs, qualification process and evaluation and selection systems of each country are compared.

Concerning the Greek educational system, questions about its effectiveness are raised and discussed centered to the absence of research deigns for the needs of school leadership role at national level adapted to particular educational environment. Moreover comments on the importance of school leadership and its impact to improvement of Greek public school are given. Also, recommendations for specifying actions about the preparation of school leaders in Greek educational system are made, which target to the professional development of leadership role by challenging the common conviction that “a good teacher can be an effective school leader”. The analysis provided focuses to the needs and the skills reveals from the head teacher’s role in Greek educational system today as the framework for shaping the status and the content of their preparation programs. 

Finally, the present analysis challenges the argument of leader’s preparation as an obligate precondition for head teachers who work in decentralized educational systems in contrast with those who work in centralized ones, where the power and jurisdictions of heads are limited and incarnate a role of mediators for the implementation of national policy about the function of public schools

The article focuses on the case of Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry teacher training system in Finland. It argues for and justifies the need for a master’s degree for teachers, on the ground of the expertise required from them to cope with decision making conditions in the schools. It also refers to the role of the universities in teacher training and the reflections and feedback they get from the curriculum. The article then turns to the case of the University of Helsinki in organising teacher training for mathematics and science teachers.