Marketization, Managerialism and School Reforms: A Study of Public-Private Partnerships in Elementary Education in Delhi

Research Project (to be discussed at the Winter Academy) by Vidya K.S.

Vidya K.S. joined the Max Weber Stiftung Transnational Research Group “Poverty and Education in Modern India” in 2014. She is a doctoral student at the Zakir Husain Centre for Educational Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University New Delhi, where she works on the interaction between global and national discourses of privatisation in school.

Through the late 1970s, there was a fundamental repositioning of education in relation to the nation-state, most notably in the United States of America and the United Kingdom. Part of larger processes of economic reforms initiated by New Right governments in these countries, a central feature of this trend was the move to “disempower centralized educational bureaucracies and create in their place devolved systems of schooling, entailing significant degrees of institutional autonomy and a variety of forms of school based management and administration” (Whitty 1997: 299). These reforms were advocated with the view of addressing the rising discourse of falling educational standards in public schools in these countries that blamed teachers and poor school management (Whitty 1997, Helsby 1999, Connell 2009, Maguire 2010).

In the run up to the reforms, various facets of the school came under public scrutiny. These included forms of management, kinds of curriculum, teaching and learning transactions and the structures of labour hierarchies within schools and across school administration boards. The project of educational reform led to new forms of partnerships between the state and the private sector. Principles of public management emphasising performance and outcomes popular in the corporate industrial sector were imported as alleviatory measures into the public school system. Increasingly, these typologies of reform are being imported into later developing countries, including India, as effective measures of repairing an increasingly maligned public school system. The modes through which these discourses of reform are interfacing with educational reforms in the context of a postcolonial country such as India present a complex picture today.

The focus of this research study is to examine these broader global discourses of reform and the complex nature of this interface with a heterogeneous government schooling system in India. The consequent changes that these reforms impose on the school will be examined through the lens of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that are one of the key modes through which markets are entering elementary education in the country. Teacher training programs are an emerging form of PPP that are seen as central to improving school outcomes. Apart from a survey of the range and nature of teacher training PPPs, the study will examine the ‘Teach for India’ (TFI) intervention, one significant PPP in teacher training, that seeks to address educational inequity in teaching-learning transactions in the classroom.

Through the late 1970s, there was a fundamental repositioning of education in relation to the nation-state, most notably in the United States of America (USA) and the United Kingdom (UK). Part of larger processes of economic reforms initiated by New Right governments in these countries, a central feature of this trend was the move to “disempower centralized educational bureaucracies and create in their place devolved systems of schooling, entailing significant degrees of institutional autonomy and a variety of forms of school based management and administration” (Whitty 1997: 299). These reforms were advocated with the view of addressing the rising discourse of falling educational standards in public schools in these countries that blamed teachers and poor school management (Whitty 1997, Helsby 1999, Connell 2009, Maguire 2010).

In the run up to the reforms, various facets of the school came under public scrutiny. These included forms of management, kinds of curriculum, teaching and learning transactions and the structures of labour hierarchies within schools and across school administration boards. The project of educational reform led to new forms of partnerships between the State and the private sector. Principles of public management emphasising performance and outcomes popular in the corporate industrial sector were imported as alleviatory measures into the public school system. Increasingly, these typologies of reform are being imported into later developing countries, including India, as effective measures of repairing an increasingly maligned public school system. The modes through which these discourses of reform are interfacing with educational reforms in the context of a postcolonial country such as India present a complex picture today.

The focus of this research study is to examine these broader global discourses of reform and the complex nature of this interface with a heterogeneous government schooling system in India. The consequent changes that these reforms impose on the school will be examined through the lens of Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) that are one of the key modes through which markets are entering elementary education in the country. Teacher training programmes are an emerging form of PPP that are seen as central towards improving school outcomes. Apart from a survey of the range and nature of teacher training PPPs, the study will examine the ‘Teach for India’ (TFI) intervention, one significant PPP in teacher training, that seeks to address educational inequity in teaching-learning transactions in the classroom.

 

Objectives

1. To look at the how policy documents construct the role of the market in reforms in ‘public’ (government) schooling in India.  More specifically to understand how policy documents visualise the role of Private Public Partnerships (PPP) in elementary education. .

How do policy documents visualize the role of market in the reforms in elementary education in India post 1990?

How are public-private partnerships constructed?  What is the rationale and how are they seen to improve government schooling?

What are the key domains in elementary education that PPPs are being encouraged?

 

2.  To review PPPs in elementary education in Delhi. More specifically to focus on PPPs engaged in teacher education, training and participation in governments schools. To study:

The range of organisations engaged in these partnerships around teachers and their training? What are the terms of their engagement in the partnership?

What are the plurality of perspectives of these actors on education, school improvement, the teacher and her training?

What are the processes that they adopt in relation to teaching and learning and school management?

What outcomes do they envisage and how are they assessed?

3.   To study a key PPP programme in teacher training in government schools in Delhi – the ‘Teach for India’ (TFI) programme. More specifically to understand:

What is the mandate of TFI and what are its linkages to ‘Teach for America’ (TFA) and other global networks?

What is the TFI perspective on reforms in schooling? How does it view educational inequity?

What organisational and managerial practices inform TFI work in schools?

Who are the TFI fellows? What are their social and educational background, professional and occupational trajectories?

 

4.   To examine in depth the ‘Teach for India’ operating in one government school of Delhi. More specifically to focus on TFI teachers (Fellows), their roles, engagement with the school and the teaching –learning process.

How is the teacher’s role constructed in the TFI classroom? What is the engagement with the students in the classroom? What pedagogy is used and what is the process of curriculum transaction?

What monitoring and assessment practices are put in place? How do they influence teacher ‘performance’ and classroom processes?

How do TFI fellows interact with the school – teachers and management? What are the perceptions of the teachers on the TFI intervention in the school?

How do TFI fellows understand their professional identity as teachers? What are their professional aspirations?

How does TFI engage with other related government and private organisations/actors having important interfaces with the school?

Theoretical Framework

In order to conceptualise ideas of ‘privatisation’, ‘marketisation’ and ‘managerialism’, the study draws on the research studies of Whitty and Power (2007), Clarke et al. (2000) and Ball (2007). Building on Whitty and Power’s (2007) categorisation of ‘privatisation’ in public education as a form that encourages State withdrawal from public provisioning and public funding that simultaneously encourages the creation of ‘quasi markets’ within schools, the study moves to examine the characteristics of privatisations that get constructed. Ball (2007) distinguishes these privatisations as both ‘endogenous’ and ‘exogenous’.

Both modes valourise certain principles of ‘managerialism’ that Clarke et al. (2000) describe as “attention to outputs and performance rather than inputs; separation of purchaser and provider; breaking down of large scale organizations and using competition to enable ‘exit’ or ‘choice’ by service users and decentralization of budgetary and personal authority to line managers” (Ibid: 6). Forms of school management systems, budgeting and auditing are ways through which governments are moving away from older forms of bureaucratic control to enforce ideas of cost efficiency as well as ‘performance management’ among school teachers and within their work environments. This relates to practices that regulate the school teacher and her work towards measurable productivity that affords for easy comparison and ranking on a certain universal scale. It seeks to enhance quantifiable productivity by tying her work to material incentives and rewards (Ball 2007).

These inter-related ideas of privatisation with market principles, ‘managerialism’ and their associated manifestations as ‘endogenous’ and ‘exogenous’ engage in diverse capacities with school systems and school teachers circumscribed within very different socio-cultural contexts in the developing world to produce a complex set of meanings and practices of educational reform. With regard to school teaching, Maguire (2010: 58) notes that it is a “complex, diffuse and differentiated occupation” constructed within “local histories, cultures and politics”. She argues for an approach that “recognises global changes in terms of their ‘vernaculars’; that is, the localised and sometimes distinctive ways in which these changes are configured and rewritten into national settings” (Ibid: 66)

The focus of this research study is to examine the various ‘vernaculars’ of privatisations most notably ‘exogenous’ programmes in the context of educational reform in India. The forms by which these ideas are increasingly getting conceptualised and implemented within schooling systems in the country largely operate within the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model. Of the various kinds of PPP engagements, the primary concern of this research study are organisations working in the realm of teacher training. The ways in which these ideas circulate, transmute and get embedded will be examined through Weaver-Hightower’s (2008) ‘policy ecology’ framework. ‘Policy ecology’, he observes, “centers on a particular policy or related group of policies, both as texts and as discourses, situated within the environment of their creation and implementation” (Ibid: 155). The ecological view thus demands analysis beyond circles of policy makers and needs to include media, parent groups, religious groups and other institutions that allow the process to work. It also “necessitates understanding the broader cultures and society in which a policy resides” (Weaver-Hightower 2008: 155).

 

In the context of the developing world, especially in a postcolonial country like India marked by diverse social, cultural, religious and linguistic characteristics, these processes and their interactions with divergent discourses within a federal state structure offer a complex but interesting picture. At the global level, India like other nation-states in the developing world constantly look at the West as ideal ‘reference societies’ to emulate (Schriewer and Martinez 2004 cited in Rizvi and Lingard 2010). Thus as Rizvi and Lingard (2010: 67) note that “while nation-states retain their significance for policy making in education, their capacity to set their policy priorities have become relativized, as they now have to refer to the global processes in a range of different ways, including their effects in specific nations”. There are several circles of mediation as these ideologies pass through different actors and organisations, working in varying capacities with the State and other related private entities, to find space in policy documents, larger advocacy discourses and as forms of practice within schools.

Rationale

There have been a number of research studies in the West that have examined the interface of growing privatisation measures drawing from discourses of markets and managerialism in their respective public education systems. These varied research studies have examined domains of policy formulation, forms of institutional practices, classroom processes and intersections between these realms as well. In the context of India, the move towards studying privatisation and its concomitant manifestations in policy and practice is recent. There have been few research studies that have examined its impact on policy formulation and its reflections in programmes and schemes across the country, such as PPPs, teacher training programmes, emergence of low-cost budget schools and voucher schemes. However, there are few studies that have interrogated these questions within the theoretical framework of ‘policy ecology’ that seeks to connect myriad discourses across a number of sites: policy texts, media, private and State actors, related institutions, schools, school teachers and private intervention programmes and their affiliated agents of reform.

Methodology

The research study which focuses on the study of policies and its practices will be carried out in three phases. The first phase will utilise Krippendorff’s (1980) thematic content analysis approach to examine discussions related to markets and specifically PPPs in the Indian context in select policy documents, briefs and relevant material. The second part of the analysis will involve a survey of the range of PPP models in teacher training operating in Delhi. The analysis will be carried out through surveying newspapers and websites to create a broad directory of the various models. Of these various models operating in Delhi, the next phase of the study will move towards locating and understanding one emerging PPP model in teacher training – the ‘Teach for India’ (TFI) intervention.

This focus on the TFI will involve two sub-themes of analysis. The first part will involve interviews with TFI fellows and associated private actors/organisations along with a survey of various documents, newspapers, websites and online advocacy groups to situate the intervention within the Indian context and locate its programme of action specifically within Delhi. In order to deconstruct the programme’s corporate, financial and advocacy networks locally, nationally and globally the method of analysis will build on the policy network mapping techniques employed by Nambissan and Ball (2010) and Vellanki (2014). The second part of this analysis on the TFI will seek to examine its modes of practices and engagements within one government school in Delhi.

The nature of observations and interviews to be carried out at the government school will focus on some pedagogical aspects through which learning takes place in the classroom. The observations will focus on ways through which school teachers and other private actors such as TFI fellows conduct their work in the classroom and how this work is simultaneously influenced by the socio-cultural and institutional location of the school, management and related peer hierarchies and the larger policy discourses of managerialism. These observations will also include some interviews with school teachers, private actors, managerial staff, students and the parents of students from the selected schools.


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