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Globalization and Policy Research in Education

Explore some of the ways in which policy research in education -- conceived broadly to include studies of: the context in which policy options are explored, the political dynamics associated with policy development and implementation, and the issues surrounding policy and program evaluation -- is affected by the contemporary processes of globalization.

A traditional definition of policy: authoritative allocation of values. (David Easton 1954) But:

whose authority? how allocated? which values?

Where does the authority underpinning a policy come from, and how is authority exercised through that policy. Traditionally, it has been assumed that: with respect to public policies, the nation-state provides this authority. [Without the authority of the state, public policies can neither be supported with resources nor have symbolic value to guide action] But: ---How does the state allocate its authority through policy, seeking to manage community expectations and to develop subjects who are sufficiently vested in its political priorities? ---How do certain values become authoritative?

most policy researchers assume state authority to be sovereign. But this assumption is based on a Westaphalian understanding about the nature of political authority, which includes the view that authority can only be exercised: by a state over a defined geographical territory that each state has the autonomy to develop its own policies that no external actor can direct that states priorities.

Globalization has destabilized this Westphalian framework. Even if the authority of the state has not entirely declined, and even if many states remain influential and strong, its nature and scope is changing. The nation-state is no longer the only site of policy development and source of political legitimacy, and that global processes intersect in a variety of complex ways with the mechanisms of policy development, dissemination and evaluation at the national level. If the assumption that policy authority is always located within the structures of the state can no longer be taken for granted then it follows that, in analyzing the ways in which values are allocated in and through policy, we can no longer merely attend to issues internal to the state, but need to ask also how the interior of the state itself is being re-constituted by forces emanating from outside its borders

Globalization, a highly contested and much debated concept ...describe the various ways in which the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and interdependent, referring to a set of social processes that imply inexorable integration of markets, nation-states and technologies to a degree never witnessed before --in a way that is enabling individuals, corporations and nation-states to reach round the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before (Friedman 1999: 7)

The transformed state:


the exclusive link between the nation-state and political authority is broken

(even if claims about the imminent demise of the system of nation-states are grossly exaggerated)

The authority of nation-states remand indispensable in coordinating, and controlling global mobility, interactions and institutions the contemporary era has witnessed layers of governance spreading within and across political boundaries, transforming state sovereignty into shared exercise of power. With the emergence of new patterns of global interconnectedness: the scope of policy choices available to individual governments and the effectiveness of many traditional policy instruments tends to decline (Held & McGrew (2005: 11)

A shifting imaginary of education: We have always lived amid many social imaginaries of education. Each has a different point of origin, different axis, and travels through different routes and is constituted by different relationships to institutional structures in different communities and nations. However, any attempt to rethink educational policy research in the era of globalization cannot ignore the facts of policy convergence. Over the past two decades, this convergence has been towards a neo-liberal imaginary of education.

this trend toward global convergence is intensifying. current programs of policy reform in education around the world represent: an unprecedented scope and depth of changes taking place as well as the similarity of changes occurring in a wide variety of nations having different social, historical and economic characteristics (Schugurensky 1999: 284). While the actual dynamics and pace of change vary across national systems, the direction of change appears unmistakably similar, located within the same neo-liberal imaginary.

A sense of crisis in Education created by pressures to change -- from government authorities, students, employers, professional associations and other external stakeholders: to meet the needs of the fast changing global economy to satisfy the new requirements of the labor market to meet the rapid growth in demand for education to cater for the broadening of its class, gender and ethnic base, creating conditions for a new politics of difference to align education to developments in technology and distributed processes of knowledge production and dissemination As educational systems become larger and more complex, new requirements of policy emerge

Responses to these requirements include:


casting the role of education in market terms (marketization) linking outcomes of education in vocational terms (vocationalization) devolving system governance and organizational management (corporatization) introducing of new forms of performance management and accountability (steering from a distance) removing restrictions that impede the optimal allocation and utilization of public revenues (privatization) introducing new more flexible forms of conditions of employment of faculty and staff (casualization)

--> a culture of performativity

If this is so, then we need to examine some of the specific processes and material practices through which there appears to be global convergence circulation of policy ideas conventions and consensus cooperation and competition contracts and coercion In re-thinking educational policy research, a new framework for understanding these processes:

Everywhere, so it seems, policies associated with the neo-liberal imaginary of education have become authoritative. It needs to be noted however that this authority is not a function of globalization per se but involves actual human agents, organizations, and governments -- with capacity to accept, resist, or reject neoliberal priorities. It is fundamentally misguided to reify globalization, and treat as if it represents an inevitable historical phenomenon, leading invariably to a single and globally uniform perspective on education.

If the distinction between the inside of a state and its outside, which has been central to methodological territorialism, cannot be sustained any longer then this raises a range of new questions for the practices of policy research: New questions concerning: the global mobility of policy ideas. politics of local interpretation of globally circulating ideas. relational ties and policy networks spanning the world. the exercise of policy authority. modes of policy allocation. possibilities of critical intervention.