Theorising contractualism In education

Year: 2014

Author: Shaun, Rawolle, Julie, Rowlands, Jill, Blackmore

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper develops a theoretical framework and conceptualisation of the role of contracts in education institutions, from classroom practices through to the production of education policy texts and political statements about the role of education in fulfilling social contracts. This framework is presented as a research framework, and builds on the work of Yeatman (1996) in providing a conceptual language for understanding contracts and our own work published elsewhere that connects with Bourdieu's accounts of fields and practice (Rawolle, 2013; Rawolle, Rowlands and Blackmore, 2013). We see that contracts have become a central medium through which practice is governed in educational settings in Europe, in Australia and throughout the globe. The term contractualism is often used to refer to the mediating role that contracts play in the governance of institutions such as education or welfare services. The theoretical framework in this paper builds on our previous writing related to governance and contractualism and three associated research projects. One research project underpinning this account examined the spread and take up of the knowledge based economy as a globalized policy text developed by the OECD (1996), in which the knowledge based economy was represented as a new kind of social contract (Rawolle 2005). The second research project underpinning this account was a study of School Improvement Plans in schools within a network; in this account school improvement plans acted as contract-like mechanism. The third research project underpinning this account is an ongoing project concerned with the role of contracts and contractualism in schools.The theorisation offered in this paper draws on this research base, alongside relevant literature on globalization, governance and the social contract in education policy sociology and political philosophy (Hobbes 1998/1994; Pateman, 1988; Sen, 2009). The orientation of this theorisation is to inform policy and sociological research on contracts in and across education settings. Given the scope of the problem outlined in this paper, the contributions and outcomes of this paper are in line with a broad attempt to develop a sociology of social contracts in education. These include the development of an outline of analytic categories for the description of different types of contracts connected to education institutions, an identification of proposed mechanisms embedded in the process of contract negotiation, the drafting and wording of contract like texts, effects associated with the state of being "in contract", points of accountability, and an exploration of asymmetrical relations between contracting parties.