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The community, policy making, and educational quality : community influence and participation in policy making for educational quality


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Given, Sheila 1993 , 'The community, policy making, and educational quality : community influence and participation in policy making for educational quality', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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In this study of school governance, the problem for investigation is seen to lie in the
presumption that formal collaboration of local laypersons with professional educators is an
effective way to administer learning institutions. The purposes of this research are to discern
the potential of community participation in policy making and to report on the possible
influence that decisions made by governing bodies may exert on the quality of education.
Against a background where administrative decisions about schooling appear increasingly to
be devolved to communities, the foreground issue is the present policy making practice of
school-site government. Initially, investigation into a perceived trend towards decentralised
administration was undertaken in countries which share a cultural heritage with Australia.
To gain an understanding of the patterns, processes, and politics of an alleged devolutionary
trend presently operating in, or envisaged for, some widely dispersed populations, inquiries
in New Zealand, Canada, the United States, England, Ireland, and Scotland were
The international perspective gained at that level led to identification of major factors in
decentralised educational administration. Further observation proceeded in three Australian
States - Victoria, New South Wales, and Tasmania - before bringing key issues for
participatory governance into sharper focus through case studies in the locality of Hobart,
Tasmania. Participant observation of administrative performance, procedures, and policies in
three learning institutions is used to perceive the possible impact of community participation
in governing bodies.
Findings derived from the three levels of inquiry indicate the capability of a coalition of
professional educators and 'amateur' administrators to govern a school, provided that certain
critical pre-conditions are met. The capacity of policy eventuating from collective decision
making to enhance educational quality is evident, but it is dependent on clarity in defining
the 'desired quality' aspired to, whether by a state, a region or an individual institution. The
degree of empowerment underlying administrative procedures, and the policy-for-policymaking
on site, are found to be important if participatory governance of schools is to have
maximum influence.
Maintenance of some centralised control is not seen to be obviated by the progressive
devolutionary trend in educational administration. Participation of local communities in
formally making decisions for particular institutions is demonstrated as being supportive and
responsive to teaching and learning. This can be achieved in a proximate and personal way
that is unavailable to distant, centralised, bureaucratic authority. Crucial to a collaborative
relationship between the teaching profession and the laity is recognition of differentiated
expertise and experience required for the task of school administration as distinct from the
actual provision for learning. Effective communication and interaction between personnel
from the internal and the immediate external environments of a school are found to
contribute to fulfilment of the potential which a local community has to enhance educational
quality though policy making.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Given, Sheila
Keywords: Community and school, School management and organization
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

Copyright 1993 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright
owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We
would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 1993. Includes bibliographical references (leaves [304-324)

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