A Learning-Centered Framework for Education Reform: What Does It Mean for National Policy?

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Whilst teacher security in Mexico has traditionally been a function of an inalienable contractual relation between the state and teacher, arbitrated by the power of the teacher unions, the current education reform proposes to weaken this contractual arrangement and to move toward a teacher security rooted in performance. Where there is good teacher performance, there will be job security and promotion. Where there is bad teacher performance, there will be negative consequences and possible dismissal in the case of new teachers. The terms under which teacher performance will be rewarded or punished are set out in the Ley General Del Servicio Professional Docente INEE, , a law that outlines the "institutional reform" alluded to by Bracho and Zorrilla and sets out to redefine the all important relationship between teacher and teacher and between teacher and state.

The re-working of teacher identity from 'trusted' appendage of the state to independent actor required to prove their usefulness through measurable criteria falls clearly within the brief of neo-liberal education reform Ball, In general terms such reform efforts attempt to align "public sector organizations with the methods, culture and ethical system of the private sector, [whereby] the distinctiveness of the public sector is diminished" p.

One of the central features of this re-alignment is the creation of what the OECD calls "a devolved environment". This new environment "requires a shift by central management bodies toward setting the overall framework rather than micromanaging [ As Ball points out, the changing roles of the central management agencies in this new environment rest, as the OECD , p. True to the ethos of neo-liberal reform we find that the current reform in Mexico does indeed rest largely upon the consolidation of monitoring systems the production of information, and the devolution of administrative and curricula powers to schools INEE, Across the world neo-liberalism has attempted to shift the focus of responsibility and accountability from the state to its citizens, and the field of education is no exception.

As Moore points out, the targeting of a failing body of teachers and its unions has been central to the prevailing global mood in educational reform. Such reform has spread across the world like "a policy epidemic" Levin, , and takes shape through "three inter-related policy technologies : the market, managerialism, and performativity" Ball, , p. Teachers caught up in this policy epidemic are expected. To set aside personal beliefs and commitments and live an existence of calculation. The new performative worker is a promiscuous self, an enterprising self, with a passion for excellence ibid.

In the case of Mexico we might caricature the legislation as the attempt, at least discursive, to convert teachers' passion for survival job security into a passion for professional excellence and enterprise.

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Thus the "existence of calculation" in which they are expected to participate is the calculation not only of their ongoing professional development, but also their professional survival. Whilst a realignment of job security necessitates that teachers undertake a strategic adjustment in their positioning within the power relation between state and union, evidence from studies of teachers across Latin America reveal the difficulty teachers face in adapting to the burgeoning discourse of teacher performance Fardella y Sisto, , ; Cornejo, , We might expect these difficulties to increase in situations, such as Mexico, where contrasting and seemingly contradictory reform components are embedded in this same teacher quality discourse.

On one hand the present reform discourse in Mexico promotes teacher autonomy within a culture of professional trust, and on the other hand it favours the control of teachers within a culture of professional accountability. The move toward teacher autonomy is evidenced by a decentralization of some decision making to the local, school level, requiring teachers to exercise their own professional criteria and leadership as individuals pursuing shared pedagogic and organizational goals.

And the move to teacher control is evidenced by the consolidation of the National Institute for Educational Evaluation's remit to evaluate teacher quality and provide the necessary criteria to make decisions on performance related pay, advancement or dismissal for individual teachers. It is possible to assign a schizoid quality to these contrasting messages by which government apparently cedes control at the level of schools and collectives, whilst gathering in the reins at the level of individual teachers. Furthermore, behind the surfaces of these two contrasting policy technologies are two contrasting educational or developmental schools of thought.

Evaluations linked to reward and punishment can be equated with behaviourism, whilst a furthering of local leadership and innovation can be equated with constructivism. Evaluations encourage teachers to learn excellence through a dynamic of reward and punishment, and school-based decision-making encourages teachers to learn excellence through a moral and reflexive engagement in their context and its problems. The Mexican education reform of is not alone in generating schizophrenic tensions within education.

Policies that support professional development in an era of reform

Indeed, neo-liberal education reform has long been labelled as fundamentally schizoid. Lyotard points to how neo-liberal's demand for productivity is offset by the time required for reporting this same productivity. Elliot points to the excessive 'systemic' energy demanded to generate the performative information required for perfect control.

Blackmore and Sachs conclude that "institutional schizophrenia" results from the pressure to maintain competitive advantage in both "first order activities" teaching etc. Troman draws attention to the low-trust organizational climate fostered within a supposedly high-trust meta-devolution of decision-making.


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Ball highlights a "values schizophrenia" whereby individuals and institutions simulate compliance and perform performance. This represents a type of strategic "gamesmanship" Ball, involving elements of compliance and resistance to standards and targets through the creation of "fabrications" Ball, or an "enacted fantasy" Butler, Drawing attention to the potentially schizoid tensions in reform discourse is one way of illuminating the complex reactions displayed by teachers at the receiving end of a polyphonic socio-political agenda.

In the case of the present Mexican reform such schizoid tendencies are accentuated by its attempt to shift the longstanding rules of engagement between government and the teachers' union, and technical or educational components of legislation run side by side with legislation whose primary function is to decrease the power of the teachers unions Blanco, This radically changing relationship between the teacher and the state is a reflection of substantive modifications in the nature of the Mexican state and government, from the corporatist politics of the old-school Institutional Revolutionary Party PRI to the neo-liberal politics of the new-school PRI that began to take prominence post under the Presidency of Carlos Salinas.

The degree to which the PRI was prepared to dispense with the old arrangements was perhaps symbolized by its imprisonment of Elba Ester Gordillo, leader of the SNTE for nearly three decades, shortly after the reform laws were passed in Through this gesture the PRI signalled its reluctance to negotiate what it saw to be the central terms and conditions of its planned reforms, not least those aspects of the reform that undermined teachers' job security.

In this context, the undermining of individual job security simultaneously undermines the collective bargaining power of the SNTE, establishing through evaluation a new sphere of accountability to the state that challenges the traditionally dominant culture of accountability exercised through the rigours of union membership. Given the historic precedents and the relative importance of what is at stake for teachers, it is not surprising that this change in political culture has met with some resistance.

In the case of education and teachers, resistance is most vocal from teachers affiliated to the more 'radical' CNTE, and has resulted in large-scale mobilizations of teachers in states such as Oaxaca and Chiapas. Blanco , for example, makes the case that there can be no guarantee that the neo-liberal checks and balances of teacher evaluation will not be absorbed within the status quo, or corrupted by powerful inertias and pre-existing interests and power relations.

Blanco points out that if the backbone of Mexican reform is teacher evaluation, the key to its success becomes how to design and implement evaluation procedures that are responsive to the complexity and diversity of teachers and the complexity and diversity of contexts in which they work. Such a 'responsive' system might be more acceptable to teachers and less likely to be 'manipulated' by local realities that do not conform to a narrow evaluative rationale.

However, to call for the design and implementation of evaluation procedures that are truly responsive to the multiplicity of 'reality' is perhaps a misrepresentation of the modern 'reason of state'. Foucault , for example, clearly identified the examination as the modern state's quintessential technology of power, not because of its ability to reflect or 'capture' reality, nor for its strictly oppressive capacity, but rather because of its central role in modern power's production of subjectivity.


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Examination and its calculations create individual and collective truths about subjects. From the Foucaultian perspective, the rendering of the Mexican teacher within the machinations of evaluation-examination is a sign of the state's increasing disciplinary reach into the lives of its subjects. Whether or not the status quo can resist this thrust in the short term, as Blanco suggests, it seems that the tendency of modern power is to act increasingly upon the individual through.

Drawing on other important thinkers, Rose emphasises how the science of calculation has become central to the management of human beings:. Marx, Nietzsche, Weber, Lukacs, Habermas, and Foucault each, in his different way, suggested that calculation and calculability have become central not only in projects for the domination of nature, but also in relation to human beings.

We have entered, it appears, the age of the calculable person, the individual whose individuality is no longer ineffable, unique, and beyond knowledge, but can be known, mapped, calibrated, evaluated, quantified, predicted, and managed Rose, , p. It is no small irony or coincidence, then, that Mexican teachers and their counterparts across the world , so long the instruments through which a population of students were 'captured' in an "apparatus of uninterrupted examination" Foucault, , p.

Importantly, Foucault makes it clear that relations of power are never unilateral. A force operating upon a population or individual in this case the demand for teacher 'accountability' meets counter-forces that oppose this will. Foucault describes this state as one of "permanent provocation" Foucault, It is still too early to say how the different modalities of 'resistance' to the current reform in Mexico might play out, however, international evidence suggests that top-down macro-reform rarely generates its intended changes at the micro level of teaching and learning in schools and classrooms.

Described by Hargreaves as 'soulless standardization', reform agendas not only attempt to impose themselves upon a multiplicity of teachers and learners, but have also been shown to be ineffective in bringing about longstanding changes in the micro-practices of teachers and schools e.

Levin, ; Payne, Hargreaves and Shirley identify three main reasons for the difficulty of importing or imposing change from outside or from 'the centre' : the importance of hard-won situated knowledge, the uniqueness of educational agents, situations and relations, and the reality of omnipresent flux. Significantly, Hargreaves and Shirley's critique of attempts to import change operates right down to the exchange between two teachers working side by side.

The uniqueness of each teacher means standardized approaches to teacher development and good teaching run against our human reality. Similarly, the "values schizophrenia" highlighted by Ball , whereby individuals and institutions simulate compliance and perform performance, implies reform scenarios in which 'real' or 'felt' teacher transformation is not occurring; rather, what is occurring are realignments of strategies within relations of power.

There is a schizophrenic quality to this differentiated reaction to reform discourse. On the one hand policy technologies of performativity, managerialism and the market Ball, do effect change in teacher identity as "what it means to teach and what it means to be a teacher a researcher, an academic are subtly but decisively changed in the processes of reform" Ball, , p.

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However, on the other hand, it is far from clear that the quality of teaching and learning is a central part of this change. Ball concludes that teachers will increasingly migrate not toward professional 'virtue' but towards a 'pragmatic' "existence of calculation".

Policies that support professional development in an era of reform

This 'playing the system' is decisively not the same as a concern for the quality teaching and learning. Likewise, Mexico's Programa de Escuelas de Calidad Quality Schools Program , implemented as part of a previous wave of reform, has been shown to be another arena in which teachers adapt to a vision of whole school projects and entrepreneurial leadership at the time of project design, but are subsequently unable to successfully deliver on the project's promises. Zorrilla and Perez's research provides a specifically Mexican window onto the schizophrenic tendencies within the neo-liberal reform as policy theory comes up against practice reality.

The conflation of programs such as Carrera Magisterial and Escuelas de Calidad with teachers' professional development and excellence in teaching and learning is a simplification of the subjectivity and agency of teachers. This simplification negates teachers' ability to make identity adjustments or to 'play the game' without necessarily undergoing a profound transformation in their educational commitments, understandings and practices.

This issue of simulation vs. Worryingly, we might expect that the requisite transformation in values and motivations will only occur where the assumptions and principles of reform resonate with teachers' real experience and with conditions on the ground. This simplification, he argues, is due to the increasing influence of the discourse of business and enterprise within education policy in Mexico. Mexico is not alone in this 'simplification' or 'industrialization' of education discourse.

Ball identifies a global trend toward the privatization of discourse and policy as the language and philosophy of education becomes impregnated with terms and ideas imported from the world of business. Yet, however ubiquitous the language of enterprise and business has become in official policy documents, evidence 'on the ground' still suggests that the life of schools, teachers and of education is constantly escaping the terms and conditions of business. If education reform is to transform the pedagogic and organizational tendencies of teachers, it is unlikely to be able to do so through simplifications of teacher identity such as the 'bad teacher' caricatures used in certain sections of the Mexican media to argue for the need to 'control' teachers Gil, Teacher evaluation, even when at its most sophisticated, will tend toward 'standardization' and insensitivity to the diversity of teachers and educational contexts Blanco, But a nuanced approach to teacher identity, one that is able to pause long enough to contemplate the complexities of teacher experience and educational context would appear to fall outside the established rationale of government.

It seems that a government that exhorts teachers to change their habits is itself condemned to its own habits of imposition and "soulless standardization" Hargreaves, As Gil maintains, such gestures are destined not to modify the quality of teaching and learning, but take shape as new strategies within the historic relations of power between the state and teachers. From this perspective an education reform that relies heavily on measures to 'discipline' teachers in the Foucaultian sense of the word will align itself not with a principle of education in its deep sense, but rather with the spirit of conditioning and the principles of reward and punishment see for example articles 27, 28, , 52 and 53 of the General Law for Teachers' Professional Service, in INEE [].

This means that such reform efforts often make their primary appeal not to the self-actualization that represents the highest level in Maslov's hierarchy of human need or development ; but rather, to the lower levels such as security and belonging. Ironically then, the reform implicitly confirms a limited regard of the capacities of teachers and their motivations, falling back on the historical lack of trust that Blanco identifies as characteristic of the government-teacher relations.

EDITORIAL ANALYSIS !!mentneccaripbowt.cf2019 !! (The Draft National Education Policy )

Embedded within this lack of trust is a tendency to ignore the teacher as person and to reduce them to objects or instruments. Goodson , speaking from a European context, and Tenti Fanfani , speaking from the Latin American context, both identify an over-instrumentalization of teachers' work and identity as a central obstacle for educational change. Such instrumentalization dehumanizes and simplifies the teacher experience, and ignores the learning that teachers have gone through to become who they are professionally and personally.

Goodson is categorical in his assertion of the need to return to the teacher as person and to bring the teacher biography centre stage:. The assumption is held that the clear enunciation of objectives, backed by a battery of tests, accompanied by accountability strategies, and confirmed by a range of financial incentives and payments by results, will inevitably raise school standards.

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According to Goodson, what he calls "the personality of change" is all too often seen as the "stumbling block" of real reform, rather than as a crucial "building block" ibid. To follow Goodson's recommendation to build educational change from the ground of professional biography is to embrace teacher education as profoundly moral or ethical, and to encourage a teacher reflexivity that stems from a trust in teachers' capacity to think and feel themselves towards 'good teaching' and to assume responsibility in the cultivation of professionalism.

It is also to acknowledge that changes in teacher identity do not come easily, and will only occur where teachers are fully engaged in the possibility of learning and transformation. In order to become different teachers, teachers themselves need to be learning differently.

The policy environment in which teachers work sends a myriad of often conflicting signals about how schools are expected to do business and about what behaviors and skills are valued and rewarded. Messages about more- or less-preferred teaching practices and learner outcomes issue from all of the major education policy domains, including those that shape curriculum, assessment, teacher and administrator licensing and evaluation, and accountability.

Does an assessment system evaluate student understanding, or does it test for rote recall of facts?