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Devolution of power: The ideological meaning

Watt, J. (1989) Devolution of power: The ideological meaning. Journal of Educational Administration, 27 (1).

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The policy of radical devolution of responsibility for educational decision making is criticised. Current Western Australian and Victorian moves towards self‐governing public schools and earlier moves in that direction in the 1970s are briefly reviewed, and a wide agreement on the progressive nature of these changes is noted. That agreement is questioned. The potential of this policy shift to increase in several ways the inequalities between schools in affluent and poor areas is described. The tendency is noted for the policy to be propounded by reference to the values of diversity and freedom of choice rather than to egalitarian values. Devolution of power over schooling is placed in the context of a trend in Australian society since the 1970s towards increasing concentration of privilege and more extreme class stratification. Ideologically the period has been marked by a shift to the right, away from egalitarianism towards the ideology of individual freedom, competition and privatisation. The flight to private schools is presented as an aspect of this general trend in Australian society. It is argued that the trend towards diversity and local control in public schooling should be seen as another aspect of this shift to the right, which has, as its central social function, a sharpening of the differences between the schooling of the rich and the schooling of the poor, and therefore a facilitation of the inheritance of affluence and poverty.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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