Psychologists and Neoliberal School Reforms: Multi-Faceted Problems Calling for Multi-Faceted Interventions


This paper extends on six aspects of an article on neoliberal school reforms, their possible influences on schools and school psychologists, and options for dealing with these challenges (Szulevicz, Integrative Psychological and Behavioral Sciences 2018). First, the reductions implied in the neoliberal view of the student as homo economicus and of an ideal student as self-regulated learner are described and alternative views of the student as a person (e.g., homo moralis) and of the ideal student (e.g., as intentional self-developer) are presented. Secondly, several promoting and inhibiting influences on neoliberal school reforms are discussed: competence-based school education, output-oriented school governance, and standardized school performance testing on the one hand, and critical discourses about these phenomena on the other. Third, attention is directed towards impending disadvantages of the aforementioned reforms (e.g., insufficient preparation of students for the fullness of life). Fourth, goals for interventions are discussed (e.g., reducing neoliberal influences on schools, creating an awareness of the disadvantages of neoliberal reforms, forming coalitions to promote alternatives to these reforms). Fifth, some intervention approaches for reaching these goals are considered with special emphasis on different system levels and stakeholders at which these interventions may be targeted (e.g., education policy makers, teachers and parents associations). Sixth, evaluations of the interventions are called for to monitor their effects and to refine the guiding goals, problem analyses, and strategies. In closing, some transferable principles of the preceding approach are highlighted that could be used to better understand and manage other educational problems as well.

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Many thanks to Prof. Carlos Kölbl and to an anonymous reviewer for very helpful comments on a prior version of this article. I would like to dedicate this article to Prof. Leo Montada on occasion of his 80th birthday.


This study was not funded.

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Correspondence to Thomas Boll.

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Boll, T. Psychologists and Neoliberal School Reforms: Multi-Faceted Problems Calling for Multi-Faceted Interventions. Integr. psych. behav. 52, 425–437 (2018).

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  • School reforms
  • Neoliberalism
  • School psychology
  • Educational objectives
  • Psychological development
  • Critical psychology