Symposium Books Logo

The Globalisation of School Choice?
Enlarge cover

Oxford Studies in Comparative Education

The Globalisation of School Choice?

Edited by MARTIN FORSEY, SCOTT DAVIES & GEOFFREY WALFORD

2008 paperback 252 pages, £28.00
ISBN 978-1-873927-12-0

IN STOCK NOW FREE delivery on all orders
All books are sent AIRMAIL worldwide

About the book

‘Which school should I choose for my child?’ For many parents, this question is one of the most important of their lives. ‘School choice’ is a slogan being voiced around the globe, conjuring images of a marketplace with an abundance of educational options. Those promoting educational choice also promise equality, social advantage, autonomy, and self-expression to families. But what does this globalisation of school choice actually look like on the ground? This collection brings together educationalists, anthropologists, and sociologists who use a rich array of empirical data to understand the complex realities of school choice across a range of political and social settings: in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, England, India, Israel, Japan, Singapore, Tanzania, and the United States. Together they show that, while the language of school choice has spread globally, it has done so unevenly across and within nations, and is always interpreted through local social and historical contexts. Neo-liberal policy initiatives are re-shaping education systems in many nations, but in complex and varied ways. This collection shows that rather than eliminating equity concerns, they re-embed them within new frameworks of choice and accountability. This is an important book for those interested in comparative education, as well as the sociology and politics of schooling.

Contents [Please click on author name for summary]

Title and preliminary pages, 1-4

Acknowledgements, 7-7

Martin Forsey, Scott Davies, Geoffrey Walford The Globalisation of School Choice? An Introduction to Key Issues and Concerns, 9-25

Christopher Lubienski School Choice Research in the United States and Why it Doesn't Matter: the evolving economy of knowledge production in a contested policy domain, 27-54

Scott Davies, Janice D. Aurini School Choice as Concerted Cultivation: the case of Canada, 55-71

Martin Forsey No Choice but to Choose: selecting schools in Western Australia, 73-93

Geoffrey Walford School Choice in England: globalisation, policy borrowing or policy corruption?, 95-109

Izhar Oplatka The Introduction of Controlled School Choice in Tel Aviv, Israel: an attempt to attain a balance between integration and pluralism, 111-130

Mariano Narodowski School Choice and Quasi-State Monopoly in Education Systems in Latin America: the case of Argentina, 131-144

Kristin D. Phillips, Amy Stambach Cultivating Choice: the invisible hands of educational opportunity in Tanzania, 145-164

Andrew Kipnis Competition, Audit, Scientism and School Non-Choice in Rural China, 165-183

Prachi Srivastava School Choice in India: disadvantaged groups and low-fee private schools, 185-208

Lesley Vidovich, Yap Meen Sheng Global-Local Dynamics in Expanding School Choice in Singapore, 209-229

Julian Dierkes Japanese Shadow Education: the consequences of school choice, 231-248

Notes on Contributors, 249-252

Title and preliminary pages

^^ Back to contents list

Acknowledgements

^^ Back to contents list

The Globalisation of School Choice? An Introduction to Key Issues and Concerns
Martin Forsey, Scott Davies, Geoffrey Walford

As one would expect of any complex reform process, the results of recent neo-liberal reform to Australian schooling are at best unpredictable. While choice has always been part of Australian schooling, governments of all political hues have been enhancing their commitment to educational choice by increasing funding to the non-government sector. There is now no choice but to choose and parents, students, teachers, politicians and bureaucrats have been drawn further into reproducing a social system that exacerbates social inequality. However, they are not simply dominated by a new freedom of choice or by naïve consumerism. Keynesian-style welfarism remains influential enough in the political machinations accompanying the reformation of Australian schooling and, as some parents have found, the private sector does not necessarily generate greater levels of efficiency and accountability, nor are its standards automatically higher than those found in the public sector. Not only that, far from being the great source of openness, freedom and democracy that some would have us believe we will find in private enterprise, it is quite capable of squashing individual freedoms.

^^ Back to contents list

School Choice Research in the United States and Why it Doesn't Matter: the evolving economy of knowledge production in a contested policy domain
Christopher Lubienski

School choice has flourished in recent years in the United States, expanding in a number of forms across almost all areas of the country. Yet even as policy makers enthusiastically embrace charter schools, voucher plans for private schools, and other school choice programs, the research basis for these programs appears to be tenuous, at best. This chapter offers a brief overview of the growth of various forms of school choice, and then examines the research for two of the most prominent models: charter schools and vouchers for private schools. The review indicates that these programs are not performing as market-based reformers claim in terms of academic achievement – the most anticipated outcome for school choice programs. However, the disjuncture between the rapid expansion of these programs and their weak empirical record illustrates the influence of a coalition of policy advocates/researchers, media, and think tanks in asserting a consensus not necessarily supported by research, and the power of these coalitions in producing the ‘information’ needed to justify ideologically-driven policy decisions. The concluding discussion considers the new political economy of education research in the USA, noting the changing roles of researchers in universities and advocacy groups, and pointing to the further politicization and commercialization of research.

^^ Back to contents list

School Choice as Concerted Cultivation: the case of Canada
Scott Davies, Janice D. Aurini

Canada’s school choice movement has imported and adapted American understandings of choice in ways that underplay market rationales. Rather than hailing choice as a mechanism to boost test scores or desegregate minority students, Canadian choice-seekers are energized by emerging middle-class parenting cultures. School choice is connected to ‘concerted cultivation’, an intensive form of parenting in which middle-class parents increasingly structure their children’s lives and treat them as projects-in-the-making. Sociologists typically invoke this concept to link the varying strategies that parents use to align their child-rearing practices with school requirements, and to emphasize how such parental resources are unequally distributed by class and race. Here the concept of concerted cultivation is extended by linking this parental agency to school choice, noting that choice-seeking alters parental relations with public educators from mere supportive roles to more directing and even adversarial roles. Survey data is presented showing that wealthier and more educated parents are more likely to engage in choice-seeking, and that choosers are more likely to embrace contentious notions of parental authority. Focus group data illustrates how choice proponents rationalize their actions. It is shown that choice advocates acknowledge concerns about the potential threat of choice policies to equity, but then redraw moral boundaries by portraying choice as a responsible and necessary form of parental involvement in schooling. These findings illustrate new forms of parental agency and expressive cultural ideals in processes of class reproduction.

^^ Back to contents list

No Choice but to Choose: selecting schools in Western Australia
Martin Forsey

This chapter reports on research conducted among parents and their children regarding their educational choices in Perth, Western Australia. The people targeted for this research all chose to change systems, either from so-called ‘private’ schools to the government education system, or vice versa. While choice has always been part of Australia’s schooling systems, governments of all political hues have been busily enhancing their commitment to opening up educational choices for parents and students through increasing funding to the non-government sector. Attempts to ‘de-governmentalize the state’ in education have led to parents, students, teachers, politicians and bureaucrats being drawn further into reproducing a social system that exacerbates social inequality. It is argued that Keynesian-style welfarism remains an influential element in the political machinations accompanying the reformation of Australian schooling. The free market is rarely ever free, and, as some of the parents interviewed found, the private sector does not necessarily generate greater levels of efficiency and accountability, nor are their standards automatically higher than those found in the public sector. Not only that, far from being the great source of openness, freedom and democracy that some would have us believe we will find in private enterprise, they are quite capable of squashing individual freedoms. As one would expect of any complex reform process, the results of recent neo-liberal reform to Australian schooling are at best unpredictable.

^^ Back to contents list

School Choice in England: globalisation, policy borrowing or policy corruption?
Geoffrey Walford

This chapter reviews the history of school choice in England, focusing particularly on the motivations for changes in 1988 and in subsequent years. It argues that, rather than being a case of ‘policy borrowing’ from Australia, the changes that occurred in England were more a case of ‘policy corruption’. England now has a well-established choice system in the state sector and there has been a considerable amount of research conducted on it. This chapter describes and evaluates several of these studies and discusses the relationship between greater choice of school and increased standards of attainment. It then examines the research work that has been conducted on the effects of choice on social segregation and finds mixed results.

^^ Back to contents list

The Introduction of Controlled School Choice in Tel Aviv, Israel: an attempt to attain a balance between integration and pluralism
Izhar Oplatka

Based on data gathered from school principals, parents of intakes, and written materials (school brochures), this chapter aims at examining the program of school choice in Tel Aviv, Israel, and at analyzing its underlying beliefs versus school reality. It is argued that whereas the advocates of the introduction of the school choice reform in Tel Aviv saw it as a result of a combination of integrative, egalitarian values with liberal, pluralistic ones, schools’ responses to this major change in their external environment were inclined towards the intensification of market philosophy rather than towards comprehensive values. This kind of philosophy seems to guide the parents in choosing the junior high school for their child. Implications and meanings of this analysis for school choice policies worldwide are suggested.

^^ Back to contents list

School Choice and Quasi-State Monopoly in Education Systems in Latin America: the case of Argentina
Mariano Narodowski

Latin American educational systems experienced a large increase in the number of private schools and students throughout the second half of the twentieth century. This process of privatization of schooling is not a product of the recently labelled ‘neo-liberal wave’ of the 1990s – its roots go further back in time. The increase in the choice of private schools in Argentina can be observed even though there are no economic incentives, specific programmes or even ‘experiments’ stimulating this practice. This chapter analyzes two models of educational supply – public (or state) monopoly and educational markets and quasi-markets – and develops a third theoretical option, the quasi-monopoly, useful to understand these processes. National educational systems in Latin America continue to be based on a model of provision that is centrally guaranteed by the state in what pertains to its financing, regulation and provision. However, it seems hard to maintain that it is monopolistic if one considers the educational system as a whole and not just the sector of the school that is operated directly by the state.

^^ Back to contents list

Cultivating Choice: the invisible hands of educational opportunity in Tanzania
Kristin D. Phillips, Amy Stambach

This chapter examines the relevance of the concept of choice to the educational context of the United Republic of Tanzania, where secondary school enrollment opportunity remains low and fees for study are prohibitive. In Tanzania, the concept of choice remains peripheral, not only to debates at the national policy level, but also to the way that parents and communities frame their claims to educational opportunities. Drawing on ethnographic research in two contrasting regions – Singida and Kilimanjaro – the chapter describes not how people ‘choose’ between their given options or rate the ‘choices’ open to them, but rather how they produce educational opportunities through social interaction. People cultivate and strengthen a variety of relationships, including those that involve putting oneself at the debt and the mercy of benefactors, and those that involve creating horizontal relationships of reciprocity, where people call on those with similar means and help them in turn. It is argued that it is through these relationships – rather than through a disinterested educational ‘market’ – that people in Tanzania access educational opportunity.

^^ Back to contents list

Competition, Audit, Scientism and School Non-Choice in Rural China
Andrew Kipnis

The promotion of school choice has often been interpreted as part of the worldwide spread of neo-liberal governmentality. School choice, in this vision, is seen as a measure to encourage competition and thus effect the efficient production of atomized, neo-liberal subjects. School choice is imagined as enforcing market discipline on the providers of educational services, providing a neo-liberal form of audit and accountability. This chapter describes in detail the policies of one county in rural China with regard to (mostly preventing) school choice while promoting competitive exercises (between students as individuals, classes of students, teachers, schools, principals and school districts) in the extreme and conducting scientistic ‘quality’ audits. The resulting combination of governing techniques can be said to have a coherent logic of sorts, but it is not neo-liberal. In addition to providing a case study from a Chinese context, by a careful questioning of what forms of education policy, audit culture, and competition deserve to be labelled neo-liberal, this chapter suggests that great care must be taken in using that term.

^^ Back to contents list

School Choice in India: disadvantaged groups and low-fee private schools
Prachi Srivastava

Increased marketisation and privatisation of schooling in economically developing countries have led to the emergence of private schooling for socio-economically disadvantaged groups. The ‘low-fee private’ sector in India is one example of a private schooling sector that is targeted to and financed by fees from lower income households that have traditionally had low participation in formal schooling. Thus, the emergence of the low-fee private sector marks the need to examine changing school choice behaviours of disadvantaged groups. Dominant middle-class hegemonic discourse in India and the wider literature has characterised these groups as ‘vulnerable’ and ‘likely to be duped’ or as ‘irresponsible’, ignorant of the benefits of schooling, and unwilling to send their children to school due to limited resources. To arrive at a more nuanced understanding, this chapter, based on a study of low-fee private schooling in Lucknow District, Uttar Pradesh, presents a model explaining the school choice processes of one group of disadvantaged households accessing the low-fee private sector. Challenging traditional assumptions, results indicate that households in the study made active choices about their children’s schooling through a complex process that involved analysing competing school sectors, incorporating their beliefs about education, analysing local school markets, and managing particular constraints.

^^ Back to contents list

Global-Local Dynamics in Expanding School Choice in Singapore
Lesley Vidovich, Yap Meen Sheng

This chapter examines the opening up of school choice in Singapore. The establishment of privately-funded international schools for the first time in Singapore in 2005 marked a significant and symbolic policy shift further away from highly centralised government control of education characteristic of Singapore. With this reform, families were able to choose these fully privately-funded schools (provided they could afford the fees) rather than the previous model of schools selecting students on the basis of ‘merit’. This initiative potentially challenges the long-standing governing ideology of ‘meritocracy’ in Singapore. The chapter analyses the policy processes involved from the macro level of elite economic agencies, to the meso level of the Ministry of Education to the micro level of the new privately-funded international schools.

^^ Back to contents list

Japanese Shadow Education: the consequences of school choice
Julian Dierkes

Deregulation has been a prominent aspect of Japanese educational reform discussions for the past 25 years. These discussions often refer explicitly to global discourses on school choice in general, and to British and North American debates in particular. National policy has enabled local education boards to establish school choice for primary and secondary schools. Some municipalities have implemented various forms of school choice. Although choice is being introduced into parents’ and students’ decision making at the primary and secondary level, it has been an important aspect of Japanese educational experiences for over 30 years in the form of supplementary, or ‘shadow’ education. The experience with shadow education suggests that school choice is more conducive to producing a variety of organizational forms within an education market than to producing curricular diversity.

^^ Back to contents list

Notes on Contributors

^^ Back to contents list

Contributors

Janice Aurini received her PhD from McMaster University in 2006, and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Waterloo, Canada. Her interests include sociology of education, organisations, qualitative methods and sociology of culture. She has published studies of new educational businesses in Sociological Forum, Canadian Journal of Sociology and Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology. Her current research compares changing parenting cultures among urban upper middle-class families in Canada, the United States, England and Japan.

Scott Davies is Professor of Sociology at McMaster University, Canada. He is also an associate editor of Canadian Public Policy, and sits on the editorial boards of Sociology of Education, American Journal of Education and Sociological Inquiry. His research interests include studies of markets, social movements, organisations, and stratification in education. His current projects are on school choice, comparisons of Canadian and American higher education, and the use of school organisations in other societal sectors. He has won awards from the American Educational Research Association and the Canadian Society for Studies in Education.

Julian Dierkes
received his PhD in sociology from Princeton University, USA and is an assistant professor and the Keidanren Chair in Japanese Research at the Institute of Asian Research of the University of British Columbia, Canada where he also is the associate director of the Centre for Japanese Research. He has examined portrayals of the nation in history education in Japan and East and West Germany and has completed a manuscript on this topic, entitled ‘Guilty Lessons? Postwar History Education in Japan and the Germanys’. He has also done research on the integration of the teaching of formal mechanisms of conflict resolution in graduate legal education in Japan. Julian’s current research focuses on Japanese education reform and the for-profit nature of ‘shadow education’ (juku) within Japanese education.

Martin Forsey lectures in Anthropology at the University of Western Australia. He teaches introductory anthropology, as well as Australian culture and society and the anthropology of organisational enterprises. Martin’s research interests include the organisational culture of schools, school choice and educational reform and he has written about ethnographic method, neo-liberal reform of schooling and organisational change. His monograph, Challenging the System? A Dramatic Tale of Neo-liberal Reform in an Australian Government High School, was recently published by Information Age Publishing.

Andrew Kipnis is a Fellow in the Contemporary China Centre and the Department of Anthropology, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, The Australian National University, Canberra. He is author of Producing Guanxi: sentiment, self and subculture in a North China village (Duke University Press, 1997), China and Postsocialist Anthropology: theorizing power and society after communism (Eastbridge Books, 2007) and is co-editor of The China Journal. He is currently working on a book on education fever in the People’s Republic of China and often travels to China for both research and pleasure.

Christopher Lubienski is an Associate Professor of Education Policy in the Department of Educational Organisation and Leadership at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, USA where he studies the political economy of education. He received his PhD in education policy from Michigan State University, and completed post-doctoral training at Brown University and with the National Academy of Education. His research focuses on the intersections of public and private interests in education policy in areas such as school choice, charter schools, voucher programmes, and home schooling. His work has appeared in journals such as the American Educational Research Journal, the American Journal of Education, and Educational Policy.

Mariano Narodowski is a professor at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow 2002 and a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, USA in 2006. He was recently elected as a Deputy and appointed as Minister of Education for the city of Buenos Aires.

Izhar Oplatka is a senior lecturer in the Programme of Educational Administration and Policy in the Department of Education, Ben Gurion University, Beer Sheva, Israel. His current areas of interest are school marketing and school choice, career and career development of teachers/principals, and the foundations of educational administration as a field of study. He has published in a wide variety of journals in education, among them Educational Administration Quarterly, Comparative Education Review, Journal of Education Policy, British Journal of Educational Studies, and Journal of Educational Administration. He is the co-editor of Women Principals in a Multicultural Society: new insights into feminist educational leadership (with R. Hertz-Lazarowitz, Sense Publishers, 2006).

Kristin D. Phillips is a joint PhD candidate at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA in the departments of Anthropology and Educational Policy Studies. Her research interests include rural political culture, the politics of poverty, educational development in East Africa, and the anthropology of food and hunger. She is currently (200709) a pre-doctoral fellow at the University of Virginia’s Carter G. Woodson Center for Afro-American and African Studies where she is writing her doctoral thesis on educational development and the production of rural citizenship in central Tanzania. Her article, ‘The Gendered Regime of Women’s Work: a view from Tanzanian Internet cafés’, appeared in Women’s Studies Quarterly in 2003.

Yap Meen Sheng is an Assistant Director at the Ministry of Education, Singapore. He has held teaching and senior management positions in various junior colleges, government schools and independent schools. He then ventured into the private sector in mid career as director of a multinational consortium before rejoining the Education Service. Meen Sheng’s interest is in school change and education policy. He has spoken in various international conferences in Korea, China, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Prachi Srivastava is Assistant Professor at the new School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa, and Visiting Research Fellow with the Centre for International Education, University of Sussex. She received her doctorate from the University of Oxford, and has previously held posts as Lecturer in Education at the University of Sussex, and as Economic and Social Research Council Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford. Dr Srivastava has worked for international NGOs in the Balkans, and has also served with the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo. She continues to provide expertise to a number of international NGOs in the area of education sector reform in developing and conflict-affected countries. Her research interests include: the marketization and privatisation of schooling in South Asia; school choice and access in economically developing countries; and applications of new institutional theory to educational governance. Dr Srivastava has published nearly a dozen journal articles and book chapters on the privatisation of schooling in India and international research methodology. Her work on low-fee private schooling in India led to an invited report for the Government of India, and to UNESCO as invited expert for the 2009 Education for All Global Monitoring Report. Her co-edited book, Private Schooling in Less Economically Developed Countries: Asian and African perspectives, was published in 2007 by Symposium Books.

Amy Stambach is Associate Professor of Educational Policy Studies and Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Her work examines the intersections of religious belief, educational practices, policy and politics in East Africa and the United States. She is currently working on a study of non-denominational church networks across East Africa and North America. Among her publications are ‘Revising a Four-Square Model of a Complicated Whole: on the cultural politics of religion and education’ (Social Analysis, 2006), ‘Rallying the Armies, Bridging the Gulf: questioning the significance of faith-based educational initiatives in a global age’ (Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, 2005) and ‘Feminist Theory and Education Policy: how gender is ‘involved’ in family–school choice debates’ (with Miriam David, Signs, 2005).

Lesley Vidovich is an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Western Australia. Her professional career has spanned both schooling (where she was a science teacher, curriculum developer and tertiary entrance examiner) and higher education sectors. Her primary research focus is the field of education policy and practices – both in the schooling and higher education sectors – with a special interest in education policy development in a context of globalisation and internationalisation. While she has published research on a wide range of policy domains, her largest volume of work has been on quality/accountability policy and curriculum policy. She has conducted research in a number of different countries, and papers stemming from her research have been published in international journals based in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, North America, Asia and Australia. She has recently completed an Australian Research Council Grant project on higher education policies and practices in mainland China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Singapore.

Geoffrey Walford is Professor of Education Policy and a Fellow of Green College at the University of Oxford, United Kingdom. He is the author of more than 100 academic articles and book chapters. His books include: Life in Public Schools (Methuen, 1986), Privatization and Privilege in Education (Routledge, 1990), City Technology College (Open University Press, 1991, with Henry Miller), Doing Educational Research (Routledge, editor, 1991), Choice and Equity in Education (Cassell, 1994), Policy, Politics and Education – sponsored grant-maintained schools and religious diversity (Ashgate, 2000), Doing Qualitative Educational Research (Continuum, 2001), Private Schooling: tradition and diversity (Continuum, 2005) and Markets and Equity in Education (Continuum, 2006). Within the Department of Education at the University of Oxford he teaches on the MSc in Educational Research Methodology course, and supervises doctoral research students. He is Editor of the annual volume, Studies in Educational Ethnography, and has been Editor of the Oxford Review of Education since January 2004. His research foci are the relationships between central government policy and local processes of implementation, private schools, choice of schools, religiously-based schools and ethnographic research methodology.

Related and recent books

Globalisation, Enterprise and Knowledge KENNETH KING, SIMON McGRATH

Private Schooling in Less Economically Developed Countries PRACHI SRIVASTAVA, GEOFFREY WALFORD

Globalisation and Europeanisation in Education ROGER DALE, SUSAN ROBERTSON

Globalisation and Higher Education in the Arab Gulf States GARI DONN, YAHYA AL MANTHRI

School Leadership in the Caribbean PAUL MILLER

Low-fee Private Schooling PRACHI SRIVASTAVA

International Schools MARY HAYDEN, JEFF THOMPSON

Share