Educational governance transition in a social democratic country: A process-tracing analysis

Abstract

Despite the interest in governance transition in public education, it is challenging to find a theorised account of the process, and even more so in social democratic countries. To fill this gap, Israel can serve as a good case study for investigating how educational governance in social democratic countries changes under neoliberal influences. In the mid-2000s, the Israeli government presented the Dovrat reform, a greatly detailed plan for a new governance mode and multiple neoliberal policies in public education. Shortly after its introduction, political circumstances led to its formal demise, and as a result, many researchers called it a ‘failed’ neoliberal reform. As this analysis indicates, however, key features proposed by the reform ended up being implemented. This case study combines the ‘garbage can model’ and ‘institutional change’ theories to explain the dynamic of transition from a bureaucratic to a neoliberal governance mode in public education. The findings suggest that in Israel, and possibly in other social democratic countries, transition to neoliberal governance is a result of a dynamic that combines direct and indirect policy changes. The article discusses this dynamic and the circumstances that have helped produce it.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Mode of governance is a preferred array of policy goals and instruments, with a specific underlying logic (Howlett 2009a).

  2. 2.

    In a sense, the Dovrat reform was an attempt to promote a new educational governance, whereas the other comprehensive reform often discussed in Israel, the creation in 1968 of junior and high school levels that promoted socio-economic integration of students, although it was extensive in scope and had far-reaching consequences, was not a paradigm shift, as most prior processes and characteristics of the system were not targeted (see Dror 2006; Resnik 2012).

  3. 3.

    To avoid conceptual blurring, the present article does not focus on the neoconservative curricular elements identified in the reform plan, which seeks to reestablish ‘traditional’ values (Inbar 2006; Yonah et al. 2008), despite the fact that they often complement neoliberal policies (Apple 2006).

  4. 4.

    Neither does the present article address the relations between nongovernmental organizations and schools, as these were only very briefly noted in the recommendations of the report summary (Dovrat Report 2005, p. 28).

  5. 5.

    The analysis shows that several elements that are not neoliberal per se have also been promoted. Temporal proximity (March and Olsen 1984) to other neoliberal goals in a policy context that emphasises managerial goals is likely to end up subjecting them to the neoliberal agenda. For example, hours of individualised instruction tend to focus on highly tested subjects such as math and English, which are central to the evaluation frenzy that has gripped the system since the 2000s (Berkovich 2014).

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Berkovich, I. Educational governance transition in a social democratic country: A process-tracing analysis. J Educ Change 20, 193–219 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-019-09340-8

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Keywords

  • Garbage can model
  • Institutional change
  • Neoliberalism
  • Public education
  • Reform
  • Social democratic