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Processes of Transition in Education Systems
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Oxford Studies in Comparative Education

Processes of Transition in Education Systems


1998 paperback 102 pages, £30.00, ISBN 978-1-873927-48-9

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About the book

This volume is concerned with the stages or ‘processes’ through which education systems pass in countries which are moving from authoritarian styles of government to various styles of democracy. The authors have been concerned to identify common features that might be observable in systems which are, on the surface at least, very diverse: those of Latvia, South Africa and the former German Democratic Republic. The authors postulate a model which might be applicable both to the countries with which they are principally concerned and to other countries in similar – or comparable – states of transition.


Elizabeth A. McLeish. Introduction: processes of educational transition in countries moving from authoritarian rule to democratic government

Julia Bekker. The Process of Educational Transition in the School System of South Africa

Natasha Kersh. Current Developments in Education in Latvia: difficulties of renewal

Elizabeth A. McLeish. The Process of Educational Transition with Particular Reference to Schooling in the New Bundesländer

Nina Arnhold. The Transformation of East German Teacher Education

Stephanie Wilde. Reforming or Conforming? The Case of the Gesamtschule in Post-1989 Educational Reform in Eastern Germany


Processes of political transition from authoritarian rule to democratic government have not only sparked periods of educational transition in countries as diverse as South Africa, Latvia and the German Democratic Republic but have also resulted in processes of educational transition in these nations which share similarities in the sequence of events that defines those processes.

The phrase ‘nations in transition’ or ‘countries in transition’, as it is currently used in the literature, usually refers to the former communist countries (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 7). However, here it includes other countries, like South Africa, which are also engaged in the process of political democratisation. The reason for this is not any similarity South Africa bears to the former socialist bloc with respect to the type of transformations witnessed at either the political or economic level since 1989. After all, unlike the communist nations, South Africa has not had to face the challenge of converting its economy from communism to capitalism. Despite the absence of this ‘historical trend of transition from communism to capitalism’, which Bîrzea cites as one of the four dimensions which make up a theory of transition (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 9), South Africa does share some common ground with the former communist countries in the sphere of education. That is not to suggest either that there was a common starting point or that a common education system is being sought. The origins were in fact quite disparate and the desired end-points equally varied. These differences aside, however, the nature of the process of educational transition witnessed in South Africa following the collapse of the illegitimate Apartheid regime is sufficiently similar to the educational transition processes taking place in the former socialist bloc to warrant its inclusion in references to ‘nations in transition’. Thus, the concept of educational transition discussed in these papers is not confined to transformations in the education systems of communist countries since 1989. It is equally applicable to other countries that have experienced a transformation in their education systems following a political transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic government.

In order fully to comprehend the processes of educational transition with which South Africa, Latvia and the new Bundesländer in Germany continue to grapple, it is necessary first to establish exactly what is meant by the phrase ‘educational transition’. It is the task of this introduction to provide clarification as it seeks to address the following question: ‘What is the nature of educational transition in countries moving from authoritarian rule to democratic government?’ The concept of ‘educational transition’ will be defined and the process described in broad, non-country-specific terms, which is offered as a tool to assist in the description and explanation of the educational transition processes which have occurred following recent political transitions from authoritarian rule to democratic government.

The term ‘transition’ is used in common discourse to refer to changes in such areas as age, occupation and social status. The tendency to equate change and transition in this way, and to view life as ‘but a constant succession of changes or transitions’ (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 7) has prompted certain authors to define transition as ‘a permanent state of discontinuity in personal and communal life’ (Adams et al, quoted in Bîrzea, 1994, p. 7). However, the concept of transition with which this volume is concerned is a far more complex phenomenon, and one which cannot simply be equated with change, where change is defined as no more than a variation, an alteration or the substitution of one thing for another. Some authors, like Per Dalin for instance, offer a far more elaborate definition of change which makes the fit between change and transition less incongruous (Dalin, 1978, pp. 20-23). Similarly, the standard use of the word ‘reform’ fails to capture the essence of the transition processes addressed in the papers which follow, and thus to use ‘change’ and ‘reform’ interchangeably with ‘transition’ in this context is to distort the essence of the political, social and economic transformations which have occurred in many countries since 1989. The educational transition processes witnessed in South Africa, Latvia and the GDR following the collapse of the incumbent totalitarian regimes transpired not because of a simple change in government, but because of the wholesale transformation or transition of the prevailing political systems.

The educational transition process is not exemplified by the passage from one class to the next within a school, or even the graduation from one level to another within the education system as a whole. It is a far more complex concept which, as Badat has explained, is clearly related to the broader political arena (Badat, 1995, p. 151). That is not to argue that every political change is accompanied by a change in the education system. As Hofmeyr has emphasised, ‘education systems do not change just because there is a change of government’ (Hofmeyr in McGregor, 1992, p. 17). However, the inextricable link between the recent post-totalitarian political transitions and the ensuing processes of educational transition has been acknowledged widely, and thus it is important to examine the notion of political transition prior to advancing a definition of post-totalitarian educational transition.

Before embarking upon an analysis of the concept of political transition and its impact upon educational transition processes in countries moving away from authoritarianism and towards democracy, it is necessary to justify the deliberate exclusion of an in-depth examination of the economic transformations which have occurred in these nations. After all, the economy has failed neither to affect nor to be affected by the political transition. Bîrzea has argued that what transition really means is a ‘set of interdependent economic, political and social reforms’ (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 12), and Broadfoot et al acknowledge the power of the economic climate and the prevailing ideology, either alone or together, to effect considerable change in the overall political situation (Broadfoot et al, 1981, p. 4). Pastuovic also emphasises the importance of the role played by the economy in the successful transition to democracy: ‘Education and all the most important social sub-systems are, although relatively autonomous, mutually dependent’, she argues, and therefore ‘partial changes to any ... have no chance of success’ making ‘synchronized changes in education, the economy, politics and culture (ideology)’ a requirement (Pastuovic, 1993, p. 411). Péter Darvas & Felisa Tibbitts also identify economic crisis as a contributory factor in the transformations of 1989 (Darvas & Tibbitts in Tjeldvoll, 1992, p. 162), a view shared by Claus Offe who advances an almost purely economic explanation for the transition process witnessed in the German Democratic Republic following the collapse of communism (Offe, 1996, p. 12). Clearly, the economic dimension is an important one, and were it the task of the papers in this volume to examine the political transition from authoritarian rule to democratic government as a process in its own right, it is a dimension which would be considered in significant depth.

However, the political transition process is of interest, not because it is the focus of this volume, but because it figures prominently in the educational transition processes being examined. The impact of the economic reality on the political situation has fluctuated considerably from country to country. It is arguable that the South African economy played a more insignificant role in the political transformation of that country than did the East German economy in the transition of the German Democratic Republic, itself probably less of a factor than the Hungarian economy was in that country’s political transition to democracy. By and large, the economic situation has had an indirect bearing on the educational transition processes being examined here and, therefore, it is an aspect which will receive no formal consideration. The same cannot be said of the political dimension, however. Its role is too central to ignore. That said, the given task is not to delve into the origins of current political transitions, but to arrive at a definition of the concept of educational transition, and so political transition will be considered strictly in relation to its part in the educational transition process.

Writing in 1981, Salter & Tapper argued that ‘the dynamic for educational change is politically controlled’ (Salter & Tapper, 1981, p. 30) and that the longevity of any change is dependent upon its ideological legitimation (Salter & Tapper, 1981, p. 67). The same can be said of the educational transition processes which have been witnessed since 1989; they too have not only been subject to political control at various stages in the process, but their endurance has also been dependent upon an important shift in the prevailing ideology. Very little has been written about post-totalitarian educational transition from a theoretical point of view, and thus there is no body of literature upon which to draw in an effort to provide a theoretical construct for the notion of educational transition. However, there is a growing list of sources which focus on the political transition from authoritarian rule to democratic government. The strict transfer, to the concept of educational transition, of the theories and definitions posited with respect to political transition would be both unwise and problematic. That said, however, the aforementioned definitions and theoretical underpinnings do help to elucidate certain aspects of the educational transition process and for that reason they are worth considering.

As noted above, processes of political transition from authoritarianism to democracy have sparked periods of educational transition in a number of countries since 1989. As the primary catalyst with respect to educational transition in these nations, political transition necessarily occurred first, where political transition, to adopt O’Donnell & Schmitter’s definition, ‘is the interval between one political regime and another ... delimited, on the one side, by the launching of the process of dissolution of an authoritarian regime and, on the other, by the installation of some form of democracy, the return to some form of authoritarian rule, or the emergence of a revolutionary alternative’ (O’Donnell & Schmitter, 1986, p. 6). In this collection of papers the limits of the political transition processes are even more narrowly defined: the collapse of the prevailing authoritarian regime, and the adoption of a democratic system of government. This apparent simplicity is misleading, however, as consideration of the factors which contributed to the political implosion reveals. Ágh attributes the transition in Hungary, for instance, to the ‘disintegration of the bipolar world system’ (Ágh in Cox & Furlong, 1995, p. 15), a transformation which Darvas & Tibbitts suggest was facilitated by a combination of ‘economic crisis, political fragmentation and popular resistance’ (Darvas & Tibbitts in Tjeldvoll, 1992, p. 166). These examples lend credence to an argument advanced by O’Donnell and Schmitter long before the collapse of communism and the initiation of the processes of transition being considered here. They maintain that, setting aside transitions from authoritarian rule which are caused by military defeat in international conflict, transitions are launched primarily as a result of internal or domestic factors (O’Donnell & Schmitter, 1986, p. 17). ‘There is no transition’, they argue, ‘whose beginning is not the consequence – direct or indirect – of important divisions within the authoritarian regime itself, principally along the fluctuating cleavage between hard-liners and soft-liners’ (O’Donnell & Schmitter, 1986, p. 19). Despite the predominant role they assign to domestic factors in the transition process, however, the authors do acknowledge the importance of paying due regard to external factors as well (O’Donnell & Schmitter, 1986, p. 18).

The link between the transformation of the political system and that of the educational system in countries engaged in the democratisation of an authoritarian regime is undeniable. That is not to suggest that an education system remains static, apart from in periods of political transition. However, the wholesale transformation or transition of an education system, like that witnessed not only in the German Democratic Republic following unification, but also in Latvia following the collapse of Communism and in South Africa after the democratisation of the Apartheid regime, is clearly related to political transition and thus it is prudent to consider the roots of the political upheaval. The importance of the political climate as a factor in the educational transition processes with which these papers are concerned is evident from its inclusion in the model presented in Figure 1. The model portrays the series of distinct but interrelated phases which defines the process of educational transition in countries moving from authoritarian rule to democratic government. The starting point is the authoritarian system itself. The depiction of this system as a closed circle at the base of the diagrammatic representation of the processes of educational transition in the model in Figure 1 is deliberate. The closed circle represents the essence of such systems in which, traditionally, the rules and regulations governing society are not only well known but strictly enforced, with the result that a large degree of certainty with respect to what one might expect to find in such a system is ensured. Consequently, it is possible to encapsulate all possible combinations and permutations within a finite boundary as demonstrated in the model. So, what is it that undermines this integrity? More often than not, as alluded to earlier, both internal and external forces combine to challenge the legitimacy of the existing system, and in so doing engender an anti-authoritarian climate in which the prevailing ideology is threatened. O’Donnell & Schmitter cite as a typical indicator of the start of the political transition process, the modification, by the authoritarian incumbents, of their own rules with a view to the provision of more solid guarantees with respect to individual and group rights (O’Donnell & Schmitter, 1986, p. 6).

Just as the forces which combine to prompt such a modification vary considerably from country to country, so the nature of the transition launched can also be subject to variation with respect to how it is brought about. Huntington draws three categorical distinctions: transition through transformation; transition following regime breakdown; and transition through transplacement (Huntington, 1991, p. 114). In the first category, the initiative remains, primarily, with the regime itself. In the second, the regime is forced outside the process altogether, and in the third democratisation is realised on the strength of the combined efforts of the government and opposition (Giliomee, 1995, pp. 94-96). Karl & Schmitter also acknowledge the existence of more than one route to a democratic political system. They concentrate on four modes of transition: the pact; imposition; reform; and revolution (Karl & Schmitter, 1991, p. 276). As summarised by Bîrzea, the pact assumes that a compromise is reached by the élites; imposition involves the use of force by the élites in an effort to establish a new political system; reform follows a grass-roots movement in favour of change in both the social and political arenas; and revolution describes the process of transition when the masses resort to violence in order to secure change (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 26). It is important to note that these modes are not distinct. Karl & Schmitter cite numerous examples of composite cases involving transition by pact and imposition, by revolution and imposition, and by pact and reform (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 27).

Clearly, then, as both Huntington and Karl & Schmitter have demonstrated, the mode of transition can and does differ even between countries which share a common objective, namely, the dissolution of an authoritarian regime and the installation of a democratic government. That is not to argue that all modes are equally successful, however. As Badat has argued with respect to policy formulation, ‘the nature of the process ... has an important bearing, not only on the content of the policies themselves but also on the legitimacy of the policies adopted’ (Badat, 1995, p. 154). The greater the degree of democratisation which characterises the mode of transition employed, the more legitimate the end-product of that transition process and hence the more likely its long-term success. The importance of the nature of the process by which decisions are reached is echoed by Weiler who argues that: given the nature of policy choices and the question of their legitimacy, the process by which they are arrived at may be as important as, if not more important than, the directional criteria which define (and delimit) the options to be taken. (Weiler, 1978, p. 190)

The nature of the educational transition process which invariably follows the collapse of an authoritarian regime is as important, therefore, as the product of that process. Its starting point, as argued above, is directly related to the political transition process which is itself dependent upon the presence of an anti-authoritarian climate. This climate, which can be generated by very different internal and external forces from one country to the next, contributes to what Bîrzea identifies as political rupture, or the abolition of the political monopoly of the single party (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 33). This he presents as the first phase in a five-phase post-communist transition process. The corresponding phase in the model being employed here to aid in the description and explanation of the process of educational transition is called the Pre-Phase. As indicated in the model, this phase is characterised by a shift in, if not complete collapse of, the prevailing ideology. It is a less specific descriptor than that used by Bîrzea on account of the broader interpretation this study accords the term ‘countries in transition’; the authoritarian regime denoted in Figure 1 is not, by definition, communist. The difference in the identification of this phase – Pre-Phase in the model presented here and phase one in Bîrzea’s transition – is subtle but important. Bîrzea’s phases are restricted to political transition, whereas the model in Figure 1 represents the phases which describe the process of educational transition. The political situation is obviously a crucial component in educational transition, but it acts, initially, as more of a background factor and thus it is not until after the ideological collapse that ‘active’ educational transition is deemed to begin, as suggested by the manner in which the phases are labelled from this point forward.

As the model shows, by the time of the pre-phase the finite boundary demarcating the authoritarian system has been replaced by a boundary which is not only far more vague in its general shape, but devoid of any means of keeping ‘alien’ influences out and of preserving the integrity of the prevailing ideology; the perforation is simply too far advanced. The small gaps in the circle surrounding that encapsulating the authoritarian system itself, are representative of the first ‘chinks in the armour of authoritarianism’. When the status quo can no longer be defended in the face of mounting pressure and governments are unsuccessful in arresting the ideological collapse, the transition process moves into an interim period, Phase I, which is characterised by great uncertainty as nations await the outcome of the political transition process. The anomie which accompanies not just this phase, but a large part of the educational transition process, is not confined to educational transition. It is also an important feature of political transition as Bårzea emphasises in his discussion pertaining to the need for a general theory of transition, in which he suggests that the anomie which accompanies the change from one social and political system to another warrants recognition as the second dimension in his theory of transition (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 9).

The insecurity and anxiety engendered by the ideological collapse is, not surprisingly, replicated in the educational transition process. After all, it is impossible to separate one process from the other, the educational transition process often being dependent on political developments for its next cue. Thus, uncertainty and indecision in the political arena necessarily exacerbate existing anxieties and insecurities with respect to educational matters. Given that the political transformation from authoritarianism to democracy does not, of course, occur instantaneously, the certainty and stability sought is invariably slow to come. This ubiquitous uncertainty and instability is reflected in the disappearance of the circular shape in the model. To demarcate a boundary when unsure as to what it is that is to fall within it is difficult. Thus, from Phase I onwards, the circle is replaced by increasingly flattened arcs, characterised by growing gaps in the ‘shell’. This is designed in the first instance to depict the uncertainty and chaos which would appear to form part of the transition process from authoritarianism to democracy, and later the variety of attitudes, actions and beliefs which characterise the increasingly democratic society and its educational establishments. As O’Donnell & Schmitter have remarked, ‘compared to periods of “order” which characterise the high point of authoritarian rule, the uncertainty and indirection implied in movements away from such a state create the impression of “disorder”’ (O’Donnell & Schmitter, 1986, p. 4). The transition process is thus sandwiched between the stability and certainty which is indicative of authoritarian politics on the one hand, and the limited, yet manageable, uncertainties which accompany stable, democratic regimes on the other. That which is true of the political situation is, in this case, also characteristic of the nature of the education systems at either end of the spectrum.

National and Provincial Elections, Phases II and III respectively, figure prominently not only in shaping the nature of the new educational system, but also in alleviating some of the chaos and uncertainty common to all nations engaged in the process of democratisation. The reason for this is that the political elections bring a degree of closure to the political transition process, and in so doing serve to clarify, somewhat, the likely direction if not outcome, of the educational transition process. That the elections do not mark the conclusion of the political transition process in its entirety should not come as a surprise for, after all, as Glaeßner has noted, the transformation of the political culture is likely to take a generation if not longer to realise (Glaeßner, 1996, p. 35). It is important to note that these two phases are concurrent in some nations, as this reality highlights a very important feature of the model of educational transition presented in this study, namely its fluidity. The phases, though distinct, are inter-dependent and should not be viewed as different steps in a strictly linear progression in which each phase necessarily follows the one before it and precedes the one after it. Phases II and III may well occur simultaneously, for instance, and together have a profound impact on the next phase. Equally possible, however, is a situation in which the national elections occur first and, although significant in determining the outcome of the local elections, have no bearing on the legislation enshrined during Phase IV. The nature of the impact of national and provincial elections respectively on the educational transition process is undoubtedly related to the type of democratic political system sought and the corresponding division of power and responsibility within that system with respect to education. After all, if education is to be a national or federal matter, Phase II becomes relatively more important. However, where education falls under provincial jurisdiction it is the outcome of Phase III, or the local elections, which is of greater significance. Clearly, then, the role of the political in the educational transition process is not restricted to that of the primary catalyst in the process. It also figures prominently later in the process, as the remarks above with respect to the impact of elections on the educational transition process attest.

Unlike political transition, educational transition is neither easy nor simple to delimit. It may be relatively straightforward to identify the process of political transition as the primary catalyst, but to determine both a finite start and end to the educational transition process is somewhat more difficult. With respect to its beginning it can be argued that this coincides with the ideological collapse and that the process of educational transition, though passive at first, becomes active with the start of Phase I or the Interim Phase. Its end-point is even more of a challenge to delimit, however. In an effort to address this difficulty it is suggested that the process be sub-divided into two parts, namely macro-level transition and micro-level transition which culminate in Phases IV and V respectively as shown in the model.

The division of the educational transition process into two parts imitates the distinction Windham makes between the ‘so-called inner efficacy of education (change in the individual) its outer efficacy, reflected in the effects on various environmental sub-systems’ (Pastuovic, 1993, p. 407). The distinction is both necessary and important for, as both Skilbeck and Kandel have emphasised, the translation of policy into practice is exceedingly difficult and complex (Skilbeck in Turner, 1991, p. 21; Kandel, 1948, p. 17). The reality concerning the process of educational transition is no different.

Macro-level transition, Phase IV in the model, is concerned with the design and adoption of new educational structures and practices. Once these structures and practices have been enshrined in law it is safe to suggest that macro-level transition has been achieved. The realisation of the macro-level in the model signifies the end of the first part of the educational transition process which, as an examination of the processes of educational transition in the German Democratic Republic will reveal, can be completed in a relatively short space of time. The same cannot be said of micro-level educational transition, however. The completion of the transition process as far as the structural/legislative level in no way implies that educational transition at the micro-level has also been achieved. Moreover, the completion of macro-level transition is no indication that the transition processes at the micro-level will soon be complete. That no country currently engaged in political transition from an authoritarian regime to a democratic government has succeeded in matching its realisation of macro-level educational transition with the completion of the process at the micro-level is testimony to this fact.

Transition at the micro-level is much harder to achieve as the experience of every country engaged in educational transition as part of a move towards democracy would verify. For, at this level we are concerned not only with individual schools, but with individual teachers and pupils within those schools, and thus, as Bîrzea has argued ‘the post-communist countries are encountering considerable difficulties when it comes to putting the much-needed educational reforms into operation’ (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 68). The same can be said of non-communist authoritarian regimes currently engaged in the process of educational transition. Micro-level transition can be, and almost always is, an extremely lengthy process. After all, by necessity it will take time for the similarity in outward appearance, in the superficial structures and terminology used to identify different aspects of the new systems, to be matched by internal cohesion; to change a label is easy, but to effect a comprehensive change in practice is very difficult, especially when engaged in a process of transition which has democracy as its aim. It would be hypocritical to employ authoritarian tools in an effort to secure democratic practices. The adoption of educational legislation marks the completion of the penultimate phase in the model, the fifth and final phase being devoted to the implementation of new education policies. It is with this fifth and final phase that many nations continue to grapple as they attempt to foster ‘democratic forms of behaviour and democratic management styles which [remain] to be learnt by many teachers, ... and educational administrators’ (Avenarius, 1994, p. 34). Even where the organisational-structural transformation of the education system has been completed or is soon to be completed (Avenarius, 1994, p. 35) the essential intellectual and psychological renewal or transition remains as yet unrealised.

How, then, does one summarise the nature of the educational transition process which has just been described in broad non-country-specific terms? To begin with it is important to emphasise that wholesale educational transition has its roots in the prevailing political climate and not, as Bîrzea has argued in the context of European countries in transition in general, in legislative reforms pertaining to education (Bîrzea, 1994, p. 68). This reality is clearly represented in the model presented in Figure 1. Another very important feature of educational transition is that it is a process which takes a considerable length of time. Like the political transformation from authoritarianism to democracy, it does not occur instantaneously, and involves the passage over time from a starting point that is certain to an end-point which is, in the beginning, almost always relatively unknown. The division of this passage or transition process into two parts is central to a thorough understanding of the processes of educational transition as experienced by any nation undergoing a political transformation from an authoritarian regime to a democratic government.

The transition process can be explained by a series of distinct, but inter-related and inter-dependent phases as demonstrated in the model. Each of these phases either impacts upon or is reliant upon at least one other. In its final phase, namely, micro-level transition, the educational transition process represents a particularly arduous task, as any society recently liberated from the bonds of an authoritarian regime and presently engaged in establishing a democratic nation is bound to discover. The complexity inherent in Phase V of the model is largely the result of conflicts continuously emerging between the political and the social as attempts are made to put policy into practice. Although at the present time, as mentioned above, no country has completed the process of educational transition in its entirety by concluding the transition at the micro-level, many have been successful in achieving macro-level transition. The enshrinement of educational policies and practices in law represents the completion of this phase. Just as micro-level transition depends upon the prior completion of macro-level transition, macro-level transition cannot itself be realised until such time as a new government and hence a new direction has been determined. To continue this logical progression, elections for a new government in a previously authoritarian regime simply would not be possible without either a fundamental shift in or utter collapse of the prevailing ideology as the cases of South Africa, Latvia and East Germany attest. This, however, is in turn dependent upon the presence of an anti-authoritarian climate, itself beholden to the existence in the first place of an authoritarian system.

Processes of educational transition, then, are clearly linked to the political transformation process from authoritarianism to democracy. Described as a passage from one system of education to another over time, the educational transition process is characterised by considerable uncertainty and chaos, especially in the early stages, following the necessary and crucial shift in ideology. Progress in the transition taking place in the political dimension plays a central role in the restoration of some degree of order and certainty to the process of educational transition. This process, as Figure 1 shows, can be divided into two parts, themselves made up of a series of distinct, but inter-related and inter-dependent phases. These phases should not be viewed as fixed elements in a linear progression, however. After all, as Kandel has argued, ‘because it is flexible and adaptive to changing circumstances, democracy is an ideal which is constantly being enriched’ (Kandel, 1948, p. 16). The democratisation of education is no different in that individual reforms within the process of transition are necessarily frequently revisited as they impact upon elements in other stages in the process; the impact in turn engendering the need for further refinement in the initial reform. Examples of such features in the educational transition process will be examined when educational transition processes in South Africa, Latvia and the German Democratic Republic following the collapse of the prevailing authoritarian regimes are considered in individual chapters. Julia Bekker charts the course of educational transition in South Africa following the collapse of the illegitimate Apartheid regime. Bekker’s chapter, ‘The Process of Educational Transition in the School System of South Africa’ focuses, in particular, on the development of policy formation with respect to South African schools. In her chapter, ‘Current Developments in Education in Latvia: difficulties of renewal’, Natasha Kersh examines the impact of the collapse of communism on the education system in Latvia and demonstrates how the Latvian experience, like that of both South Africa and the German Democratic Republic, fits the model depicted in Figure 1. The chapters by McLeish, Arnhold and Wilde concentrate on the East German experience with respect to the educational transition processes witnessed following the collapse of communism and unification with West Germany. Elizabeth McLeish focuses on the processes of educational transition at the school level in her chapter entitled, ‘The Process of Educational Transition with Particular Reference to Schooling in the New Bundesländer’; Nina Arnhold addresses the challenges faced in the area of teacher education in her chapter, ‘The Transformation of East German Teacher Education’, which concludes with a case study on teacher education in Leipzig; and Stephanie Wilde considers the Gesamtschule (‘comprehensive’ school) concept in the ‘new’ eastern Länder of the Federal Republic.


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NINA ARNHOLD completed her MSc in Comparative Education in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Oxford in 1996. After teaching in Poland for a year, she returned to the University of Oxford where she is now a doctoral student in the Department of Educational Studies. Her research interests include: higher education in Europe (especially in Germany), education for reconstruction, teacher education and processes of transition in education.

JULIA BEKKER works for Hertfordshire Education Authority, assisting in the development of the Refugee Education Support Project. She recently completed her doctorate in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of Oxford. Her main research interests include: educational transition, change and educational reconstruction and development, and educational provision for refugee pupils.

NATASHA KERSH is a researcher in the Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford. Her current research is supported by the Phare ACE Programme. Her research interests include issues of educational transition in the countries of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

ELIZABETH A. MCLEISH was a graduate research student at Lady Margaret Hall, University of Oxford. She earned her MSc in the Governance of Education in 1994 and completed her doctoral research in the Department of Educational Studies in 1998. She has taught a variety of subjects at a number of different levels in both England and Canada and her primary research interests include: processes of educational transition, education for reconstruction, and management and leadership in education.

DAVID PHILLIPS is a Fellow of St Edmund Hall and Professor of Comparative Education, University of Oxford. He has published widely in the field of comparative education, with a special focus on education in Germany. He is editor of the Oxford Review of Education and series editor of Oxford Studies in Comparative Education, and is currently chair of the British Association for Comparative and International Education.

STEPHANIE WILDE studied Modern Languages at Exeter College, University of Oxford, before qualifying as a teacher at the Department of Educational Studies. She has worked as a teacher and journalist in Germany and Belgium, and currently divides her time between Oxford and Berlin, completing an ESRC-funded doctoral thesis which examines the perspectives of teachers in Brandenburg Gesamtschulen.

Related and recent books

Opening Windows to Change JOHN SAYER

Education in Transition ROSARII GRIFFIN

State of Transition CLIVE HARBER

Education and Change in the Pacific Rim KEITH SULLIVAN

The Changing Landscape of Education in Africa DAVID JOHNSON

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