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Giving the 'Hidden Hand' a Helping Hand? The rhetoric and reality of neoliberal education reform in England and New Zealand

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ABSTRACT Recent moves in many parts of the world to restructure and deregulate state education have sought to link significant degrees of institutional autonomy with an emphasis on parental choice and competition, thereby creating 'quasi-markets' in education. This paper discusses such developments as part of a neoliberal project for education in two of the contexts in which these policies have so far been taken furthest-England/Wales and New Zealand. It compares five aspects of policy in these countries, namely school autonomy, diversity and choice, private sector involvement, privatised provision and accountability mechanisms. It argues that the rhetoric of neoliberal schooling policies is far removed from their reality, as governments confront the classic tension between fiscal imperatives and the need for legitimation. It points to the need for new political ways forward in a situation where there appears to be little creative thinking about alternatives to the policies of the New Right.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 1997

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