Economic change, educational policy
formation and the role of the state
ERNEST R. HOUSE
We live in an age of economic productivity, during a time in which the dominant concerns in all our countries are expanding the economy, raising personal income and increasing the standard of living. No government in liberal democracies can long survive without economic expansion, whether the country is run by conservatives, social democrats or socialists (or apparently communists either). This concern for productivity is manifested in a drive for greater efficiency and has special implications for education. In fact, it is the source of most educational policy at the national level.
Although productivity is a dominant concern in all industrial countries, it results in somewhat different educational policies in each. Britain, the oldest industrial economy, is different from the ageing economy of the United States, which is different again from the mature economies of Japan and Germany, or the relatively young economy of Spain. One national educational system expands, while another contracts painfully. None the less, in most countries educational policies appear to be formulated primarily with regard to the national economy and without sufficient regard for educational practice.
Of course, other factors, like culture and history, influence educational policies as well. For example, racial politics permeates everything in the USA and is not duplicated elsewhere, though some countries show signs of catching up. Britain clings to its eternal class structure, which manifests itself throughout British society. And Spain nurtures a virile traditionalism which suffuses its lifestyle. None the less, despite these differences, in all these countries economic concerns influence educational policy more strongly than anything else at the current time (Wirt and Harman 1986).
I am not saying that economic policies necessarily influence educational practices. Educational practices (everyday teaching and learning patterns of