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Public education policy

Interest in public education policy has increased due to the central role that education has gained in the understanding of a transition from an industrial to a knowledge society. Education has become a central form of capital in international competition among nation states. Transnational organizations have been particularly instrumental in spreading a human capital discourse. The growing influence of transnational organizations on national education policy is a result of the very agenda these organizations help spread; an agenda emphasizing  Such organizations have gained increased influence on national education policy through a global education agenda emphasizing standardization, free choice, (quasi) privatization and the creation of a free global education market. During this period, education has been subjected to detailed political regulation through incentive structures, output measurement, the development of ‘quasi’ markets and the implementation of national qualification frameworks. Today, public policy of education is entangled with employment, labour market and industrial policies as education is perceived as a central parameter for the competitive state to create the conditions for enterprises to perform in a global market economy.

The change in the public governance of education has led educational research to focus on the relationship between public policy of education on the one hand and practice as it unfolds in public administration, schools and classrooms on the other hand. A central research interest is to understand the effects of the increased political intervention on the teaching profession, the educational institutions and the relationship between teacher and student.

Conducting research within the field of public education policy has two aims: 1) to understand what works in a policy and explore processes of implementation in order to identify major challenges in achieving policy objectives and 2) to critically investigate the rationalities and (intended and unintended) effects of public policy and how reforms change education as a fundamental societal institution. As such, research on public policy of education can on the one hand be perceived as applied research responding to societal needs for policy planning and evaluation and on the other hand as a critical perspective aimed at ‘speaking truth to power’ in order to contribute to a public debate about the consequences of educational reform.

Within the research unit for Education Policy, Governance and Administration (EduPol), our approach to public policy of education is primarily critical and aims at understanding how public policy of education is produced, negotiated and translated across multiple arenas. EduPol works broadly with public policy of education, covering all educational sectors from day-care to adult education. A specific interest is in processes of Europeanization, such as the Bologna, Lisbon and Copenhagen process, and in the new mode of governance these processes have entailed: the Open Method of Coordination. Although education is a national policy area, soft governance tools are increasingly leading to the adoption of transnational policies. As such, divergence and convergence have become central issues in discussions concerning the development of education policy in the 21st century.