Governing education in the European Union – lessons for Australia

Year: 2019

Author: Klatt, Gosia, Hartnell-Young, Elizabeth

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The past couple of decades have seen a significant change in the practice and conceptualisation of formulation and implementation of public policy. Governing is no longer a domain of a nation state government but it increasingly depends on plural and networked forms of governance. The changing nature of governance in education is important to investigate as it affects democratic and just policy outcomes. It has been conceptualised in the literature through various theoretical lenses predominantly adopting political science’s focus on power and influence, or organizational management’s focus on efficiency and economics (Bromley 2016). Governance in a broad sense has been defined as the “process of governing societies in a situation where no single actor can claim absolute dominance” (Burns, Köster & Fuster 2016, p. 18), as well as the “coordination of social systems” with “formal and informal types of public interactions” (Pierre 2000, p. 3). Both definitions of governance focus on the “interactions among structures” through “steering” or coordination (Pierre & Peters 2000), and are highly relevant in the education space, which encompasses a variety of actors in continuous interaction.

To understand the complexity of the governance processes, and their effects on social policies increasingly a focus on “instrumental perspective” (Peters & Nispen 1998) or “tools framework” (Salamon 2000) has been utilised by academics across many disciplines including economics, law and public administration (Peters & Nispen 1998).

Building on the ‘instrumentation’ approach to understanding education governance and policy coordination in a complex multi-governance system in the European Union (EU), the presentation will identify the current trends of education policy governance and coordination in the Australian federal system. Governance mechanisms (i.e. standard-setting, elite learning, capacity-building) and policy instruments (i.e. coordinated networks, peer learning, data generation) which encourage stronger policy coordination and adoption in the EU member states will be described and used to assess ‘instrumentation’ of education governance in Australia. Further, this paper will attempt to identify main factors behind Australia failing to adopt lifelong learning policy in the context of overwhelming lifelong learning policy transformations globally.