Network governance in education: Between efficiency and democracy

Year: 2012

Author: Chan, Philip Wing Keung, Seddon, Terri

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This article explores the issue of network governance in education in relates to the efficiency and democracy.  Network governance can enhance democratic practice by furnishing new routes for actors to deliberate, make, and execute public policy (Navdeep & Chris, 2007). It is a consent-based, dialogue-driven process of collaborative governance and preserves conditions of mutual trust within networks.  This article builds on studies of network governance by Rhodes (1997) and Ball (2008) to argue that the mode of governance in education is moving away from a centralised system or market-oriented system and is, in practice, realised through the coordination of actors, resource exchanges, decision-making processes, and stakeholder motivations in collective decisions. Critics argue that working with such diverse and large numbers of stakeholders is time-consuming and inefficient. However, this paper argues that once arrangements have been worked out between these stakeholders, policies can be implemented much faster and smoother because trust is the central coordination mechanism among stakeholders. In other words, full consultation and engagement with all policy actors in the initial stages will reduce subsequent problems in implementation. This article uses interview data to report on two case studies in education policies in Victoria, Australia, and in China. This paper argues that network participation aims to influence the policy agenda, the range of feasible options, the decision-making premises, and the negotiated outcomes. Although traditional forms of top-down government remain in place, governance increasingly proceeds in and through pluricentric negotiations among relevant and affected actors interacting on the basis of interdependency, trust and jointly developed rules. We argue that transformations in state and society have increased the importance of networks in formulating, determining and implementing public policy. These networks engage public, private and civil society actors at national, regional and local scales in shaping the future of our societies.