Waslander, S., Hooge, E., Drewes, T.
Steering Dynamics in the Dutch Education System
(2016) European Journal of Education, 51 (4), pp. 478-494.
Based on detailed empirical analyses, we paint a layered picture of emerging steering dynamics. Inspired by Foucault, we put the focus on roles stakeholders define both for themselves and others, how they give sense to policy, how they work together in policy elaboration and implementation, and the subtle and sometimes deceitful function of soft policy instruments such as information, communication, support and research. The policy to stimulate ‘schools as learning organisations’ in secondary education in the Netherlands is used as a case study. The Dutch education system is one of the most decentralised en complex systems in the world. While central Government aims to turn schools into learning organisations, it has no formal responsibility nor any direct means of control in this area. The study draws information from (1) relevant government reports, policy documents and websites and (2) semi-structured interviews with key actors. Data analysis consisted of data reduction through coding and memoing, data displays in tables and networks, and drawing and verifying conclusions. In the ground layer of the steering picture, we reconstruct how ‘schools as learning organisations’ came to be a topic for Government policy. The next layer identifies 20 (networks of) actors who play a substantial role in steering. The mutual relationships between the main actors are manifold, while funding appears to be an important means for the Ministry to position actors in a steering network. A wide array of steering modes was identified. The last step in our analysis adds a dynamic element to the picture, as we look at how different actors interact, starting with how actors envision their own steering roles and the role of others. The non-complementary role definitions that were identified in the documents, were confirmed in the interviews. Our results illustrate, in Foucault’s terminology, different processes of responsibilisation and normalisation. Above all, the study illustrates that the theoretical framework provides a promising starting point for the empirical study of steering dynamics in complex education systems. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Education system; Foucault; learning organisation; new public governance; the Netherlands