wadmin | 2009. jún. 17.

Governing schools and education systems in the era of diversity

by Gábor Halász

General Director
National Institute of Public Education
Budapest, Hungary
e-mail: hal8281@ella.hu

A paper prepared for the 21st Session of the Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education on „Intercultural education: managing diversity, strengthening democracy”
(Athens, Greece, 10-12 November 2003 – Council of Europe)

Budapest, 2003 August


For the last two decades the themes of governance and management have continuously been on the top of education policy agendas in most countries. A great number of educational problems are now attributed to bad management or inappropriate mechanisms of governance, and politicians, as well as other social actors, see increasingly the improvement of governance and management as a major tool for solving educational or education related social problems. These trends acknowledged, one is not surprised that the term „managing” has appeared in the title of the 21st Standing Conference of European Ministers of Education in 2003. Democratic education based on an intercultural approach, which is a fundamental goal of the Council of Europe, cannot be achieved without considering appropriate governance and management solutions.

As Cesar Birzea's paper on „Learning Democracy. Education Policies within the Council of Europe” recalls: the Council of Europe and its member countries call education upon to support effectively the achievement of the basic values of human rights, pluralist democracy and the rule of law (Birzea, 2003) In Europe, consisting of different nations with various traditions and cultures, intercultural education is an indispensable condition for these values to be achieved. The 20th Session of the Standing Conference1 stressed the need for developing intercultural skills and competences through intercultural learning. The Athens session has chosen „intercultural education” as its main theme. What is demanded in our days is not another declaration of accepting common values. Ministers as well as the citizens whom their government represents demand concrete actions producing tangible outcomes. Focusing more on the issues of governance and management certainly helps the shift from ideas to effective action. If intercultural education is looked at from a governance and management perspective it comes necessarily to be linked with two other terms: quality and diversity. From this perspective policies of intercultural education raise two major challenges:

  • Since at the beginning of the 21st century safeguarding and improving quality is seen as one of the most important public policy goals, it is an outmost necessity that policies of intercultural education do not hamper quality. To put it in a positive way: positive synergic linkages have to be established between quality policies and policies of intercultural education. Or to put it in a more direct way: intercultural education should be used also as a lever of quality improvement.
  • Intercultural education is necessarily linked with accepting or rather fostering a higher level of diversity, and increased diversity is necessarily leading to governance and management challenges. It is not only more difficult to govern and manage diverse and complex systems, but also different, in general more sophisticated, governance and management mechanisms or instruments have to be used.

This paper is about the role of governance and management in the effective implementation of education policies aimed at diversity, interculturalism and quality. Its aim is to enhance the debate on the potential governance and management implications of policies of intercultural education, with a particular regard to the issues of managing increased diversity and assuring public policy goals, like quality. Intercultural diversity in the context of this analysis is seen also as a special form of complexity.

The paper consists of three parts. The first part treats some background issues, with a particular focus on the meaning of the terms of governance and management, and on the challenges that place them into the centre of our current education policy debates. The second part offers a short overview of the current changes characterizing governance and management in our modern education systems, and deals in more detail with the problems of managing diversity. Finally, the third part leads to some possible policy conclusions. This part is complemented by a short annex with questions and policy solutions that could be considered in the debate.

1 Governance and management: a key education policy problem

As stated above, in most developed countries the themes of governance and management have come to the top of the policy agenda. In fact, this is not a new development. As early as at the end of the sixties the influential book of Philip Coombs – then the director of the International Institute for Educational Planning of UNESCO –, entitled „The World Educational Crisis”, already presented the growing crisis of educational systems as being a crisis of administration (Coombs, 1968). Furthermore, governance and management coming into the foreground of education policy is only the reflection of a global process that goes far beyond the realm of education. The problem of governability and manageability has been raised in many sectors both on the domestic and the international scene. The growing complexity of social and technical processes and the rising of what in the middle of the eighties Ulrich Beck called „the risk society” (Beck, 1992) have shed a bright light on the capacity of societies to control the social and technical world they created.

1.1 The increasing interest of international organisations

It is not surprising that most of the international organisations that have a major role in shaping policies on a global or macro-regional scale are making significant efforts to draw the attention of policy-makers to the questions of governance and management and also take concrete steps to increase knowledge and improving action in this field.

For instance in 1994 UNESCO created a program for „The Management of social transformations” (MOST) which promotes international, comparative and policy-relevant research on contemporary social transformations and issues of global importance. One of the sub-programs of MOST deals with the question of globalisation and governance and aims at improving the understanding of the globalisation process and its impact on governance mechanisms and structures. Another sub-program focuses on the problems of urban development and governance. A key concern of both is ethnic diversity in multicultural societies (UNESCO, n.d.).

The World Bank conducts a number of activities in the framework of its strategy on Reforming Public Institutions and Strengthening Governance (The World Bank, 2000; 2002), which has a particularly strong focus on fighting against poverty and corruption and on making public service delivery more efficient. Education is also in the focus of the World Bank's strategy on governance reform, favouring among others decentralisation, public-private partnership, the use of knowledge management and competency building. During the nineties this organisation produced a huge amount of analytical material on educational decentralisation, and promoted decentralisation reform policies in many countries.

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) is particularly active in promoting international knowledge development and policy improvement especially in the framework of its Public Governance and Management program, operating under the direction of its Public Management Committee (PUMA) established in 1990. OECD promotes reflection on governance and management issues in various areas. For example in its Forum for the Future offering a platform for decision makers to discuss visions and concerns about the future a series of conferences was organised as part of the preparations for EXPO 2000 – the World Exposition in Hanover, Germany –, and a number of advanced studies were presented on the challenges governance would face in the 21st century (Governance in the…, 2001). Recently the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation (CERI) of OECD has conducted a comparative analysis of new school management approaches (New School Management…, 2001), and the theme of how to govern schools and school systems became a central theme in its program on the future of schooling as well (Networks of Innovation, 2003). One of the key factors determining the now well known OECD scenarios of future schooling is governance (Schooling for tomorrow, 2001).

It is natural that the problems of governance occupy a high position on the policy agenda of the European Union as well. Promoting new forms of European governance became one of the four strategic priorities of the EU Commission led by Romano Prodi. In July 2001 the Commission published its White Paper on Governance in the European Union (European governance, 2001), based on a number of studies produced by specialized expert groups. The White Paper was put to a wide public debate and, on the basis of this, the Commission have already initiated several concrete measures. The reform of EU governance has far reaching impacts on the education sector as well, as it supports the construction and the development of new regulatory instruments that are going to be used also in the field of education, not only at supra-national, but also, increasingly, at national and sub-national level. One of these new instruments is the so-called open method of co-ordination, which is a complex regulatory tool based mainly on common goal setting, peer control and performance evaluation based on concrete indicators (benchmarking), and particularly mutual learning.

The Council of Europe, although the new governance and management challenges have not yet received great attention in its overall educational program, also perceived the increasing importance of this issue. It is natural that its project „Secondary education for Europe”, completed in 1996, and the pursuing „Prague Forums” have touched upon many governance and management themes (Kallen, 1997). The 1999 Symposium on „Strategies for education reform: from concept to realisation” addressed directly core governance and management issues when focusing on the theme of efficient reform implementation (Laderriere, 2000). The last Forum, in Spring 2003, focusing on quality improvement, had a clear and strong governance and management dimension.

1.2 What are we talking about?

Before looking closer at what happens in our days in the area of governance and management of schools and education systems and the current challenges that have to be faced in this problem area, it is necessary to give some kind of definition to the terms we use here. What do we mean by governance and management of schools and education systems?

First, it is the term governance that requires explanation. Anybody reading the policy literature could notice that in the last one or two decades in most texts the word governance slowly replaced that of government. This is not just an academic fashion. It reflects a deep societal change and the concomitant transformation of our thinking about governing mechanisms. It is linked with a number of factors, like (1) globalisation and the new interplay between national, sub-national and supra-national forces, (2) the democratisation of societies accompanied by the growing limitations on national governments to use unilateral administrative instruments, (3) the increasing complexity of the economies and the markets, and (3) the strong internal diversification of our modern (or post-modern) societies. As a British sociologist, a pioneer of the study of social and cultural aspects of globalisation noticed in a recent publication, „the rise of the term governance expresses revised expectations of the kind of control that the state can exercise over society in a transformed world. Steering (not rowing) is the preferred metaphor, and there are many hands on the tiller” (Albrow, 2001).

According to a definition quoted by Paquet, (2001) governance refers to three elements: „(1) individuals and institutions (public, private and civic) manage their collective affairs, (2) the diverse interests accommodate and resolve their differences; (3) these many actors and organisations are involved in a continuing process of formal and informal competition, co-operation and learning”. Governing in this sense means the management of collective affairs, while accepting and taking into consideration the existence of diverging interests, and also the dynamism and the openness of the process. It is of ultimate importance that governance is linked with learning in this definition. In our modern (or post-modern) democracies it is this openness and dynamism based on competition, co-operation and learning that characterises the governing of nations. The whole scene is characterised by the overlap of different responsibilities, competencies and interests of different public, private and civil institutions, which try to assert their interests, to adapt their behaviour to that of others and to solve various problems by cooperation or by competition. The scene is even more open and dynamic if we shift from the national to the European or the global level.

In this context it is worth quoting a longer passage from the White Paper of the European Union on European Governance: „The concept of governance is well suited to bring out the wealth and uniqueness of the European Union as a political system. The essence of the European Union is the construction of a Community that is founded on law and that also respects the identity of each of its Member States. This requires a delicate balance between the institutions that establish this law, characterised by a unique sharing of legislative and executive powers as well as an obligation towards co-operation. As governance is grounded in ideas of interdependence and interaction between various powers at multiple levels, improving governance will help to improve the conditions under which this equilibrium functions and co-operation occurs.” (European governance, 2001). This document sets five principles that underpin good governance: openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence. These European ideas follow the concept of governance as problem-solving, characterized necessarily by openness to deliberation, learning-by-doing type experimentation and mutual evaluation (Laffan et als, 2000).

Although the term governance is particularly often mentioned in analyses treating global and supra-national problems, it would be misleading to think that it has less relevance in national, sub-national, sectorial or even organisational contexts. If one looks at the ways internal organisational processes are controlled in modern (post-modern) companies or at the ways economic, social and cultural processes are managed by modern (post-modern) nation states one sees something that resembles much more what we call governance than what was once command-line production control or one-way state administration. The education sector is naturally not exempt from these changes. The French word „pilotage” (Michel, 1993) as well as the terms „regulation” or „steering” which take more and more often the place of „administration” or „inspection”, reflect this change. Governance is applied not only to systems but also to particular organisation and institutions. Many education systems make a distinction between school level policy-making, which is the responsibility of some kind of representative governing body, and operational management, which is the preserve of the principal (Bush & Heystek, 2003).

It is important to stress the strongly interlinked but very different meanings of the two terms of governance and management. While the word governance is used for stressing the openness of schools and educational systems, the term management is used rather in order to underline the technical and instrumental dimensions of governing. We govern those things or beings the behaviour of which cannot be predicted totally (because of, for instance, the existence of autonomous units capable to assert their interests and to negotiate alternative solutions). We manage things or beings, the behaviour of which is easier to predict. When we govern, we do negotiating, persuading, bargaining, pressure making etc. because we do not have full control over the behaviour of those we govern. When we manage, we tend to instruct and order because we think we have strong and legitimate power to do so. When we speak about education systems, we prefer using the term governance, especially in more or less decentralised systems based on complex interplay of many autonomous partners. When speaking about schools as organisational units, we use more often the term management. However, as schools are becoming more and more open institutions, rooted in specific local social and economic settings, and characterised by a complex array of different needs and interests, we tend to resort, also at this level, to the use of the term governance.

1.3 The reasons of governance and management becoming key education policy themes

The lasting policy interest in the management and governance of schools and education systems can be explained by several factors: some of them being internal to the education system, but many of them being external. The box below lists the factors that are worth being mentioned. One should remark that the number of external factors is particularly high.

External factors:

  • The overall difficulties of the welfare state to regulate the economy and society since the end of the post-war expansion period (that is the mid-seventies)
  • The restrictive budgetary policies that have been followed cyclically by many governments since the middle of the seventies
  • The broader reforms of governance and public management stressing goals like quality assessment, consumer satisfaction, performance management, public-private partnership, agency creation, outsourcing etc.
  • The impact of labour market policies (stressing decentralised, locally or regionally adapted solutions) on the education sector
  • Various participatory, democratisation and autonomist movements of national, cultural, religious or language minorities
  • Ideological and cultural changes reinforcing individualism, localism, market solutions etc. (as opposed to social, community or national solutions)
  • The increasing ethnical and national heterogeneity of western societies due to demographic and immigration processes
  • The high level differentiation and individualisation of social and consumer needs accompanied by growing consumer awareness, and the search for individualized products (satisfied increasingly by fabricants due to new production technologies)
  • Globalisation and international integration weakening the role of nation states in regulating national economic and social processes
  • The development of management science, its growing academic recognition, and its increasing attention towards notions like learning organisations, adaptation or self-regulation
  • National and international innovation and development policies fostering local initiatives and entrepreneurship
  • The emergence of new information and communication technologies and their impact on the governance and management of systems and organisations
  • New quality techniques and policies stressing institutional level quality assurance approaches
  • The specific social and political processes in Central and Eastern Europe (political transformation accompanied by natural negative attitudes towards the strong state power and by the need to revive an active civil society).


Internal factors:

  • The disillusion caused by the poor results of the overall systemic educational reforms of the sixties and seventies
  • The specific management and governance problems raised by the growing complexity of modern learning systems following their expansion
  • The increasing diversity of student populations following the expansion of secondary and tertiary education
  • The demand by teachers for the enlargement of professional autonomy
  • The development of the professionalisation of teaching
  • The impact of specific policies treating educational failure and social inequity based on institutional and local empowerment techniques, individualisation and local and school level initiatives (e.g. ZEP in France)
  • The development and the spreading of new pedagogical technologies like the project method or other individualised teaching and learning techniques
  • The new paradigm of life-long learning leading to questioning the existing institutional and organisational frameworks of learning
  • The increasing role of a global market of educational goods, and the similarly increasing role of supra-national influences questioning the former unquestionable locus of power: the national government.

All these factors together – mutually reinforcing each other – have led to a situation that can be characterised with good reason by the following statement: education cannot be managed/governed any more the way it used to be in the past. There is a well identifiable management/governance crisis/challenge that cannot be neglected if human or social control over our increasingly complex systems of education is to be maintained. There is a pressing need to reinvent educational management and governance. This process has started in many countries and has already led to various changes. In the following we try to give an overall, although simplified image of the current trends of transformation of systems of educational management and governance.

2 Understanding key trends in educational governance and management

Under the common influence of the factors listed above educational governance and management have been changed and is still in transformation in most countries. These changes are often marked by the term decentralisation, but a closer look at them shows a more differentiated picture. On the one hand, it is more accurate to speak about a complex process of reallocating responsibilities both horizontally and vertically (Winkler, 1991; Riddell, 1997), which follows different parallel patterns. On the basis of this a typology can be created (see Table 1). On the other hand, the reallocation of responsibilities followed different patterns depending on the various functions of the education system (Decision-Making, 1995; Fiszbein, 2001). It could happen, that while some areas (e.g. financial management or content definition) were decentralized, others (e.g. personnel policy or quality control) remain under central control.

Table 1.
The various forms of reallocation responsibilities in education systems

Form of responsibility transfer Target of responsibility transfer
De-concentration Lower level (e.g. regional) units of the state
„Real decentralisation” Elected bodies of local and regional communities, self-governments
School autonomy Schools gaining autonomy but continuing their operation as public institutions (management power delegated to the school leader or the staff)
Privatisation, „marketisation” Private schools or public schools placed under the control of autonomous governing bodies behaving as owners
Participation, partnership Responsibility shared horizontally with social partners and civil society (parents, employers, civil organisations)
Community control Responsibility shifted to linguistic, cultural, national, ethnic communities
Deregulation No real target – overall withdrawal of regulations

Most educational systems can be characterized by a combination of different forms of responsibility transfer. For instance, in England following the 1988 Reform Act, responsibilities were transferred from local governments to schools and the national government, but marketisation processes were also very strong. In France, both de-concentration and a limited form of „real decentralisation” have taken place in the framework of a general decentralisation of state administration since the beginning of the eighties. Sweden implemented a radical „real decentralisation” policy at the beginning of the nineties, transferring responsibilities in many areas to local governments. In Spain and Belgium responsibilities were transferred to cultural-linguistic communities in the 80s. Most countries introduced measures increasing the autonomy of schools.

The overall process of reallocating responsibilities has been accompanied by a number of changes in the regulation mechanisms of education systems. These changes can be called regulation reforms, although this term is quite rarely used in studies analysing education sector governance reforms (Altrichter & Halász, 2000). The transformation of regulation mechanism followed similar patterns in different sectors: some analysts see in them the reflection of those overall public management changes that are often grouped under the term New Public Management (Dempster, 2001; Mulford, 2003; Halász, 2003). The following list presents a collection of these:

  • encouraging parental choice and competition between schools
  • introduction of new financial mechanisms permitting larger local and institutional discretion (e.g. lump sum financing, financial autonomy, per capita financing)
  • e transformation of curricular regulation and curriculum development so that schools could plan and develop their own curricula
  • definition of new national curricular standards permitting large scale outcome measurements
  • reforming evaluation systems and use of evaluation as a major system steering instrument,
  • outcome-based assessment and the exposure of school performance to public scrutiny
  • introduction of school level quality assurance technologies sometimes imported directly from trade and industry
  • encouraging school level self-analysis and goal setting, encouraging institutional self-development
  • assessment of teachers against predefined competencies and a tighter regulation of the teaching profession
  • setting up or reinforcing national, regional and school level consultative or decision-making bodies, and greater involvement of the social partners in decisions
  • reinforcing school community relationship
  • school publicity, the openness to users, an increase in consumer control through, for instance, the school governing bodies
  • introducing demanddriven teacher professional development systems
  • expanding the powers of school principals and parallel setting up management training and management development systems, and school management becoming a major study area in education science
  • introducing new ICTdriven management solutions
  • introducing mediation as a new function

These elements can be identified in many countries. For instance the introduction of „open enrolment” with the 1988 Education Reform act in England or the introduction of per capita financing systems in many other countries aimed at encouraging competition and parental choice. Schools were invited or legally obliged to elaborate institutional level strategies and programs in most European countries. National assessment schemes covering all institutions were introduced in France and England as early as the beginning of the nineties, and England went further, prescribing the publication of aggregated school assessment data. Significant investment was made into the development of management training of school leaders especially in the UK, in the Netherlands and in Sweden. A national service of mediation was created in France and in Hungary in order to help the solution of social conflicts related with education through non-legal channels. The creation of Charter Schools (that is the contractual transfer of institutional autonomy in exchange for accepting performance obligations) in the United States has attracted the interest of a number of European countries. The list of examples could be continued for long.

All these forms of transformation of the ways of managing and governing (regulating) education systems are strongly connected with the problem of diversity and complexity. They can be interpreted as a systemic answer given to the challenge of growing diversity and complexity, sometimes in the framework of coherent government policies, sometimes as the outcome of complicated interactions of various policy actors. Sometimes the policy actors perceive these changes as the enlargement of their freedom and autonomy, sometimes as ideologically motivated measures reinforcing market mechanisms, sometimes as the result of a search for achieving public policy goals more efficiently. But behind the different interpretations one can grasp a more or less coherent common trend of trying to tackle the problem of diversity and complexity.

2.4 Managing diversity and complexity

The title of the Athens ministerial conference points to one of the greatest challenges related with the current developmental trends of educational management and governance: how the manage diversity. This problem can be approached in two parallel ways.

Diversity as a human value and economic opportunity

The first approach is based on the assumption that diversity is a value in itself and the question it focuses on is how to maintain and strengthen it. As Cesar Birzea's background paper prepared for the ministerial conference rightly noted: „Diversity is the very substance of both nature and culture. It is an inherent attribute of life, which the new generations must maintain and improve. Furthermore, as the diversity of ability and talent is part of the human condition, any society should seek to take advantage of this potential and value it through human development policies (Birzea, 2003). Diversity as a value is evident for those who think in evolutionary terms: this is what made possible the emergence of the natural environment that surrounds us (this is why the maintenance of biodiversity is a fundamental goal of environmental policies).

With the growing diversity of workforce and consumers in ethnical and cultural terms this value is increasingly acknowledged in economic life as well. Greater diversity may lead to competitive advantages, and, in the case of multinational companies this is often seen even as a condition of economic success. In a speech delivered at a conference on effective diversity management in the middle of nineties an American public sector chief executive described why companies are interested in enhancing diversity the following way: „… we do it because it is morally right. But we also do it because it is smart. First, institutions known for successfully promoting cultural diversity will attract the best and brightest minority and women candidates in the future. (…) Second, it is a strategy to better serve your diverse customer base and capture new markets. (…) And last, institutions that don't develop sound diversity practices now, and don't learn how to deal effectively with diversity, will find themselves dragged down with internal conflict in the future…. The amount of time they will spend on internal conflicts at that point, surely will deflect key management energies from focusing on their external competitive issues” (Walters, 1995). Some time later, at another conference the President of a Canadian bank said this: „A few years ago, it could have been said with some truth that all Canadian banks are alike. But I can tell you with certainty, they are not all alike. Thanks to our diversity commitment, (…) our strategies are bolder, our implementation more innovative, our goals more aggressive. And all this is a direct result of the diverse backgrounds, skills, styles and experience of our employees.” (Kluge, 1996). Having these opinions of economic leaders in mind one cannot be surprised that in the last decades diversity management and diversity consultancy in some developed countries, especially the United States, have become a marketable profession and even led to the creation of a „diversity industry” (MacDonald, 1993). This process was strongly supported by national policies aimed at creating fairer ethnic balance. A symptomatic sign of this process is that one of the leading figures of this new profession founded an American Institute fort Managing Diversity2 in 1984 and published a number of books that are very frequently referred to in business circles involved in diversity issues.

Diversity issues received increasing attention also in the public sector. For instance, the capacity of managing diversity became a crucial factor in military organizations involved in multinational peace-keeping operations based on varying international coalitions and forced to apply „multinational logistics”. This is seen not only as a challenge – for example how to assure secure communication, high level information sharing and trustful cooperation between troupes representing different national communities and speaking different languages – but also as an opportunity. For instance an American military expert evocating in an article the UN peacekeeping operation in Bosnia where the activities of 384 people from 14 nations had to be coordinated wrote the following: „Improvements in multinational logistics must harness the full potential of all nations working together toward innovative solutions. Each individual is important as a potential contributor, but it is the responsibility of senior leaders to provide an environment where staff members, in pursuit of mission accomplishment, can reach their full potential” (Gorman, 2000).

The value of diversity is particularly often stressed in European documents and political declarations. This appears sometimes in a negative form, as criticism or fear that integration may lead to the loss of diversity, but most frequently as a positive goal to safeguard and strengthen it. In the dominant European discourse cultural diversity always appears as value in itself and it is generally accepted that one of the main tasks of European organisations is its preservation. The diversity of European workforce also appears as a potential source of economic advantages, which is mentioned together with its skill level. For example a policy paper, prepared in the framework of the White Paper on European Governance, making proposals for EU policies in a longer-term perspective of 10-15 years stated that „on a medium and long-term horizon, employment policy in Europe will depend more and more on the diversity and level of skills of the workforce” (Policies for an Enlarged Union, 2001). Education is seen as major tool to promote the political goal of safeguarding and strengthening diversity as a European asset. This appears in a manifest form, for example, in the European action plan on „Promoting language learning and linguistic diversity” proposed by the European Commission for the years 2004 – 2006 (Promoting Language Learning…, 2003).

This positive approach naturally characterizes the Council of Europe as well. For instance, in its well known „Common European Framework of Reference for Languages”, a document aiming at guiding European national language teaching policies and practices one reads that „the rich heritage of diverse languages and cultures in Europe is a valuable common resource to be protected and developed, and that a major educational effort is needed to convert that diversity from a barrier to communication into a source of mutual enrichment and understanding” (Common European Framework, n.d.). Education is seen here also as the most important instrument for enhancing diversity as a positive resource.

Diversity and complexity as management challenges

The second approach sees diversity as a problem or challenge. In this perspective the notion of diversity is strongly connected with that of complexity and evocates also the notions of risks or threat. It is generally accepted that rapidly growing complexity is a key feature of our modern (post-modern) social and technical world, and there are many who think that this is the greatest challenge humanity will have to face in the future. The fundamental question raised in this context is how to keep the social and technical processes of our current world under human control. In many cases this approach is also characterised by a positive attitude of trying to elaborate and propose technical solutions for fighting complexity. Modern organisational and management literature is extremely abundant of texts treating this issue. In a recent book a leading economic consultant states that the speed of business change has made management much more complex than it has ever been and advocates for „complexity science”, as a cousin of the sciences of chaos. Learning, and knowledge management appear as key elements of „complexity management” enabling companies to become more responsive and therefore more efficient in an increasingly complicated world (Wood, 2000).

In his analysis on the possible socio-economic consequences of the advance of complexity and knowledge Hodgson (2000) mentions five possible elements that are all relevant for education:

  • In core sectors of the economy, the processes of production and their products are becoming more complex and sophisticated. Accordingly, all social activities, in consumption as well as production, are infused with greater complexity
  • Increasingly advanced knowledge or skills are being required in many processes of production. Skill levels in many sectors are being raised to cope with the growing degrees of difficulty and complexity
  • Faced with an increased variety of products, the consumer also has an increasingly complex problem of evaluating the quality and suitability of the goods and services on offer
  • Alongside general skills, there is an increasing reliance on specialist and idiosyncratic skills
  • The use and transfer of information is becoming ever more extensive and important in economic and social activities
  • Uncertainty is intruding increasingly into economic and social life

Theoretically there are two types of answers to complexity: one is the attempt to reduce it, and the other is to harness it. Most economic and social analysers of future development agree, and our everyday experiences also tell us this, that those (countries, organisations, individuals etc.) who manage to maintain and control high level complexity take advantage on those who are not capable to do so. Social and political decisions of encouraging the shift from industrial to knowledge economy and society can be interpreted as the acceptance of higher-level complexity of social and economic relations.

The modern governance and management literature presents a number of solutions that are applied by both private companies and public authorities facing the management challenge of complexity. In many cases these solutions do not appear as direct deliberate answers to the complexity challenge but one can easily interpret them as such. Those in the education field will immediately recognise that most of these techniques have already been proposed or applied by education policies:

  • applying systemic approach and seeking holistic solutions, but, at the same time, relying on piecemeal approaches and delineated projects in development
  • introducing performance measurement and performance contracts
  • encouraging networking and strengthening horizontal communication
  • enhancing mutual learning and adaptation (through, for instance, benchmarking)
  • reinforcing human capacities, particularly the problem solving competencies of individuals and groups
  • developing the analytical capacities of decision makers (both policy leaders or institutional managers)
  • promoting knowledge management in organisations and enhancing the development of learning organisations
  • enhancing „experimental democracy” or „democratic experimentalism”
  • promoting decentralisation and creating self-managing and self-developing units
  • increasing the problem-solving capacities of local units and making them responsible for identifying and solving problems
  • introducing institutional level total quality management mechanism
  • strengthening stakeholder participation
  • promoting procedural legal regulation (that is prescribing procedures that help local actors to find their own solutions instead of prescribing the solution itself)
  • promoting regulation though contractual relationships
  • introducing modularisation
  • using enhanced ICT technologies

Growing complexity and the proliferation of risk phenomena characterize all education systems. There are many manifestations of this: let us see only a few examples. For instance the rapid changes in the economy make it more difficult to match educational outputs and economic needs, and input-output mismatches become more frequent. Social demands towards education are being differentiated and it becomes more and more complicated to steer education systems so that they respond to all of them. Following the acceleration of changes and the increase of their number conveying information from the national centre to schools and teachers becomes more difficult, and teachers often do not know the goals of central reforms. The increasing heterogeneity of the student population leads to a higher proportion of those demanding particular, special care, which makes the planning of provision more difficult. The growing variety of programmes increases the probability of individuals making wrong decisions and choices. The enrichment of the program and textbook supply makes the school level selection of these more difficult, and the appearance of new multimedia programmes makes the assurance of program and textbook quality more complicated. The emergence of lifelong learning policies that goes with the shifting of interest from initial formal learning to life-long and life-wide learning makes the governance and management of education systems more difficult.

In the area of education, similarly to other public policy areas, the major risk of increasing diversity and complexity is that the secure achievement of key public policy goals, such as equity and quality, becomes more complicated. Assuring quality is also becoming more difficult in complex and diverse systems. With the emergence of competing and divergent quality definitions public authorities find it difficult to set standards that are valid in all institutional contexts. Forcing unified quality standards may be contra-productive in certain institutional settings. Higher level diversity not only increases the risk of existing forms of inequalities, but also creates new forms of division (Hodgon, 2003). In educational systems characterized by the proliferation of learning paths, by the growing role of individual choices, by greater local and school level autonomy inequalities are unavoidably growing inequalities. In a world, where ethnic, cultural or religious conflicts seem to take the place of other types of conflicts, cultural diversity may not only become a major threat for peace, but it may also turn the operation of institutions, including teaching and learning in schools, technically impossible.

3. Managing intercultural diversity in schools and education systems: policy conclusions

Diversity as a positive value creates concrete tasks for education. In a world characterised by diversity and complexity people have to be prepared to live together with these features. Any education system that neglects the education of its pupils to live in an ethnically and culturally diverse society and in a socially and technically complex world fails to do its task, not only in moral or political, but also in practical terms. With an increasing number of people living and working in multiethnic and multicultural environments intercultural skills become indispensable life-skills for the individual. Living in cities with increasingly heterogeneous populations, doing daily business with culturally different people, working and earning their living in multinational teams, seeking friends or allies across borders, trying to make a career in internationalised industries or services like tourism or transport, trying to get information through global electronic networks or, possibly, taking part in multinational military operations may turn to be an everyday experience of anybody. Education for diversity and complexity in our days is not only a moral obligation stemming from our commitment to peace, human rights and democracy, but also a practical imperative originating from concrete social demands. Education policy, if it is to meet this concrete task of educating for diversity, has to look at governance and management as key factors, capable both of fostering and hampering the desired goals.

Educational governance and management in the 21st century will have to give answers to the challenges referred to in this paper at both system and school level. Managing diversity and complexity will certainly be one of the most difficult tasks of governments in the education sector. The administrative traditions of education, one of the oldest public services, often make the elaboration of adequate new answers particularly difficult. However, as we could see in the previous chapter, the new solutions are already being applied in many places. It is an outstanding task of educational leaders and thinkers to understand the nature of the emerging new governance and management solutions, to evaluate their potential impact from the point of view of societal needs and to „fine-tune” them on the basis of their experiences. In the European context it is worth stressing something that may seem paradoxical: diversity itself helps learning how to manage diversity. The lasting diversity of the European educational system, which is a consequence of Europeans' leaving the shaping of education policy in the jurisdiction of national communities in our era of growing internationalisation and globalisation, may create favourable conditions for mutual learning. An outcome of this mutual learning could be the emergence of new techniques for managing diversity.

What has been said in this paper about governance and management has two significant messages for policy makers. The first one is that managing intercultural diversity should not be seen only as an obligation and a difficult task for governments and school leaders but also as a challenging opportunity that opens new pedagogical and organisational perspectives. The other is that promoting intercultural education should go beyond both legal prescriptions and affirmative actions: it has to be embedded in the complex subject of governance and organisational management of our current social reality, characterised by growing complexity. These two messages are closely interrelated. The challenge of diversity and complexity for governance and management in general has a similar nature to that of the challenge of intercultural education. Policy solutions that are proposed for the first are often also good for the second.

In the Annex of this paper the reader will find concrete policy proposals for discussion. Here we present only some general considerations. As implied in the title of this chapter, policies of managing intercultural diversity have to be considered at two levels: that of schools and that of education systems. Measures can and should be directed to both the government (and administration) of education systems and the management (and governance) of individual schools. One should add to this a third level: that of the supra-national.

At education system level the key element is the shift from administration to governance. This process has already been started in all modern democracies: this is well reflected in the current tendencies presented above. What we want to stress here particularly is that the current debate is less and less about the question whether there is a need for decentralisation. It is much more about how to govern and manage decentralised systems efficiently. We should not be surprised any more when we hear that decentralisation does not mean giving up control and weakening state power. On the contrary: it is the process of creating new instruments for effective public power and social control in the complex and diverse reality of our education systems. The goal of educational decentralisation policies is more than breaking the power of traditional bureaucracies resisting change: it is the creation of efficient governance, that is one capable of achieving the key public policy goals efficiently, such as quality, efficiency and equity. Given the complexity and the diversity characterizing education systems in the current world, efficient governance depends most on the learning capacities of governments, including education ministries. A recent OECD symposium on „The learning government: Managing knowledge in central government” indicated that an increasing number of government organisations introduce knowledge management measures in order to become, as stated in their strategic documents, „learning governments” (Conclusions from the Results, 2003). In some countries education ministers are the protagonists in this process.

As for the school level, there is one element we think should be stressed here: school level governance and management should have a key role in promoting intercultural education, and that this role should receive more attention than it currently does. One finds very little reference to school management in the official documents on intercultural education, including the recommendations of the Council of Europe. The role of the organisational conditions of schools and that of leadership is, however, recognised when the importance of favourable organisational climate or democratic leadership is mentioned. It is clear, that without appropriate leadership and organisational conditions offering real life experiences of intercultural diversity, cooperation or conflict management, no efficient policy in this area is possible. This is reflected, for instance, in the wording of one of the related Council of Europe recommendations:3 „Democracy is best learned in a democratic setting where participation is encouraged, where views can be expressed openly and discussed, where there is freedom of expression for pupils and teachers, and where there is fairness and justice. An appropriate climate is, therefore, an essential complement to effective learning about human rights” (quoted by Batelaan & Coomans, 1999). Creating open and flexible school organisations with a management enhancing organisational learning is perhaps the most efficient way to promote intercultural education even if this latter is not explicitly urged. These are strong synergies between policies of organisational development and management development, on the one hand, and policies of intercultural education, on the other. Those who back these policies can easily find common basis for alliance. The conclusion stemming from this statement is that policies of intercultural education striving for real results should focus much more on the development of school management through, for instance, professional development of school leaders or through projects aimed at the organisational development of schools.

Finally, mention has to be made also of the supra-national level. International organisations involved in fostering intercultural education are generally making efforts to go beyond formulating legally binding rules or non-binding recommendations. The Council of Europe, for instance, supports concrete intercultural education and education for democracy programs in its member countries. But these have s) little connection with the development of governance and management mechanisms. The new policy of the European Union for the coordination of national education policies in the member states, in the framework of the so called Lisbon Process, is a good example how international agencies can support the development of learning capacities of governments. This policy, based on the already mentioned „open method of coordination”, uses mainly communication tools enhancing „policy learning”, like common target setting, definition of indicators, international benchmarking and peer reviews. These methods have long been used deliberately by OECD (Pagani, 2002). International policy learning exercises of this type, coordinated by supra-national agencies, are excellent instruments fostering intercultural cooperation between national educational authorities. One cannot overestimate the importance of this, since only national authorities effectively engaged in intercultural cooperation and directly gaining experiences on the value of this activity will become genuine and efficient supporters of intercultural education in their domestic policy.

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