Revolutions in Educational Policy: The Vexed Question of Evidence and Policy Development

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The argument of this chapter is that while at the inception of neoliberalism in education there was some intellectual credibility to the policy revolution that ensued, that is no longer the case. It is for this reason that the cracks are being papered over by rhetoric in order to keep the political interests associated with this policy paradigm in place. This is particularly the case when policies are based on ideological conviction albeit supported by what was at the time a novel theoretical approach to education. However, there are two problems that need to be addressed in making this case. The first is that all revolutions are necessarily complex; new institutions are created, the existing are restructured and the relationships between them reconfigured. How then, can we best make the case that this is a revolution that no longer has an intellectual justification? Clearly, we need to grasp the underlying theories and evidence on which the architecture of neoliberalism has been built. In order to do this, this chapter examines three theories that may be considered central to the paradigm: markets in education, school effectiveness and human capital theory. Together, they cover the primary and secondary sectors and higher education. In order to analyse these three theories and the evidence that has been adduced for and against them, a modified account of theories is taken from Imre Lakatos (1970).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationKnowledge, Policy and Practice in Education and the Struggle for Social Justice
Subtitle of host publicationEssays Inspired by the Work of Geoff Whitty
EditorsAndrew Brown, Emma Wisby
Place of PublicationLondon, U. K.
PublisherInstitute of Education Press
Number of pages27
ISBN (Print)9781782773054
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2020


  • Policy, Revolutions


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