Balancing national and local needs/interests
Processes of curriculum renewal are increasingly shaped by the trend towards greater decentralization of educational management and governance. The range of decentralization in the Asia Pacific Region is documented here. In order to reinforce the involvement and empowerment of local communities and their people, Current trends promote decentralization of educational systems, in particular:
- participation in educational policy making;
A range of technical, educational and political rationales are most often advanced in justifying the need for decentralization. These include: managerial efficacy; enhanced quality and relevance of learning content to local cultural and economic realities; and increased legitimacy of curricula through greater stakeholder participation in policy formulation. In some cases, local empowerment may encourage teachers to redefine their roles as educational researchers and curriculum developers concerned with the specific needs of their own students. However, the quality of this work will depend on a number of factors including local capacity.
Levels of socio-economic development, cultural traditions, the type of political systems, the nature of national educational management systems and the structure of national curricula all have an important impact on the scope and process of consultation for curriculum policy change.
The nature of educational management systems, in particular, is a key parameter in determining the scope and the nature of decentralization of educational management and governance. Although differences remain in the degree of decentralization, most countries have at least decentralized their educational administration and management system, most often at three levels: the national, the local and the school levels.
A strong central government remains important particularly for the development of national curriculum frameworks, quality standards, indicators of school effectiveness, assessment and evaluation systems to ensure quality. These intersecting frameworks provide broad parameters within which education processes and products may be shaped to meet local needs and to secure the support and participation of civil society including parents and local community. Precisely for this reason, a strong, if transformed, centralized system can be efficient in addressing a very wide range of issues. Each context will have a particular balance between centralization and decentralization that is appropriate to particular needs.
TASK 1 - Processes / Trends in decentralization
Individually or in small groups, using the following headings and the chart below, identify the processes and trends of decentralization in your own context.
- Rationale for change;
- Direction of change:
· centralization and decentralization;
· language policy;
· other directions;
Other processes / trends.
- Consultation and involvement;
- Resistance to reform;
- Communicating/marketing strategies;
One group will offer a brief account of their analysis of the processes and trends of decentralization. Each of the other groups in turn may comment on points of commonality and divergence in their own analysis. It will be useful to discuss reasons for divergence. Any significant areas of disagreement should be noted and considered.
TASK 2 – Balancing national and local needs
Read Case Study 1 on Thailand, Reform of Curriculum, Decentralization and Adoption of School Based Management and consider the following questions:
- What were the most significant weaknesses identified in the existing curriculum?
- Why was decentralization perceived as being part of the solution to these weaknesses?
- During the process of decentralization, what difficulties arose and at what level?
- In your opinion, what steps could have been taken that might have addressed these problems and secured a better balance between the needs of the Ministry of Education and local schools?
Read Case Study 2 on Indonesia Can Decentralization Go Too Far? and consider the following questions:
- What was the rationale for adopting a policy of decentralization in Indonesia following the end of New Order rule?
- What steps were, or could have been taken, that facilitated more effective sharing of responsibility across the various levels of the education community including district/provincial administration, schools, teachers, students, parents and wider society?
You may also wish to read Case Study 3 Centralization and Decentralization of the New Curriculum in China.
In pairs or small groups briefly summarize your answers to the questions on the case studies and use the following questions as a basis for discussion of decentralization in your own context:
- In your view, what are advantages and disadvantages of decentralization for:
- Educational outcomes?
- What are the challenges of school-based curriculum management? What local capacities does school-based management involve?
- What are the critical factors in ensuring balance between international, national and local needs in terms of:
- Decision making;
- Curriculum content;
- Design a flow chart depicting a balanced process of decentralization reflecting the key elements of your discussion.
A reporter from each group will show and briefly describe the flow chart you have created and outline any controversy that arose. Time should be allowed for general discussion after all reports have been given.