Knowledge-Policy constellations in the field of Special Education Policy in Hungary

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Knowledge-Policy constellations are either distinct technologies of governance, or, more simply, highly observable crystallized forms of regular interaction that lead to the incorporation of specific SEN related knowledges into the public action.

Consultative bodies. Decision makers and officers in charge hold regular meetings with interest groups (in consultative bodies, at regular conferences) which provided both civic and expert evaluation of planned legal modifications. Here, participants are invited according to their institutional affiliations (E.g.: National Public Education Committee).

Advisory boards. Decision makers of the SEN-field also have formal advisory boards as well as less formal policy labs (brain storming and workshops) to generate new policies and implementation ideas (see also below: "mixed tank"). Experts are invited to these types of consulting according to their scholarly fame, as well as their personal ties with decision makers, and "evaluated" according to their potential to provide useful arguments in case of debates within the administration. High level public servants, often with similar academic background and years of personal field experience (teaching, counselling etc.), uphold personal connections with researchers, former colleagues in university departments and background institutions. They tend to use these connections in order to update channels of academic knowledge (in which research papers, fresh volumes are transmitted in great quantity, although main points are highlighted verbally and emphasized in informal settings).

Experts, incl. academics and scholars. Advisers are hired occasionally or regularly to provide the knowledge basis of policy decisions. The circle of experts chosen by the Ministry and the background institute of the Ministry are in line with the dominant paradigm of the public action, thus first mostly social scientists, later educational specialists and finally psychologists.

The definition of the good expert/ policy advisor (oriented towards praxis) and of the bad one (theory-oriented scholars), from the decision-makers‘/public officers‘ perspective: "There are some people in the administration who can‘t stand scholars. This made again a good sounding assertion, the homework is to be done, but then do it in practice‘. And I agree. There are scholars who have a global view on the whole system but still cannot put anything into practice. But here it is operating the country or only operating the educational system and find the practical means how to make law based on the knowledge that was in the brains or in the articles. Of course there are scholars who can think in very practical ways, the kind of a scholar who has practical implementation ideas while conducting huge researches" (Public Officer, Ministry of Education, member of the "mixed tank).

Mixed tanks. This term (which is our invention) refers to a half-formal group including scholars/experts as well as decision-makers/bureaucrats set up to seek for definite solutions to given policy problems. Unlike many think tanks, "mixed tanks" are non-profit entities. Two "mixed tanks" were formed in the course of this policy 1) That of the core advocats of equality, a "mixed tank" of public officers and experts, who set the agenda and designed the policies. 2) That of the lobbyists of the Placement authorities, of Medico-psycho-pedagogic Centers, independent scholars and the Ministry‘s high ranked officer.

Planning: Since 2007 municipalities must develop compulsory long-term plans as well as action plans to become eligible for EU funding. Local Equal Opportunity Plans and Knowledge-Policy constellations are either distinct technologies of governance, or, more simply, highly observable crystallized forms of regular interaction that lead to the incorporation of specific SEN related knowledges into the public action.

Standardization and the elaboration of Protocols: As noted earlier, EU funds were mobilised to get hold of screening protocols, to offer novel diagnostic practices for Placement Authorities, and to modernize Medico-psycho-pedagogic centres. Conditions of screening and human resource requirements, as well as administrative relationships between Placement Authorities and special education schools were defined (Protocol Handbook; modification of the 1994 Ministerial Decree on Special Services). New protocols give instructions for special educators/psychologists about how to inform teachers, how to interpret a diagnosis and how to conduct efficient therapy. As a core event of the public action, new IQ tests were standardized and adopted (WISC-IV, Woodcock-Johnson III, see: local case study), to create internationally, scientifically approved psychometric methods of measurement.

Targeting: Different categories of "disabilities" were defined in order to make government intervention more effective, but also, to make the problem more manageable. Above all, the group of allegedly over-diagnosed ("falsely diagnosed") children was defined, based as a combination of two/three factors: social status/ethnic (Roma) origin and the diagnostic category itself (mild mental disability/retardation, later psychological developmental disorder and "SEN B"); targeting as a policy measure was, so to speak ab ovo a scientific (sociological and psychological) act. Students are categorized in the local MPPCs and Placement authorities, and registered on class/school level (as the lowest grid), so that financial support can be planned and official investigations (e.g. control of diagnostic screening) may be commissioned accordingly. Sub-categories of SEN are under constant reclassification in order to fulfil many competing goals. Legal reclassifications occur not only in order to meet international standards, to avoid potential discriminations and to avoid undesired policy-effects, but also to control financing.

Auditing: The basic strategy followed by the Ministry of Education in order to track the results of government interventions was to extend control and enhance the probability of potential penalties issued by the (Government‘s) Educational Authority. Medico-Psycho-Pedagogic Centres and Placement Authorities are obliged to provide increasingly detailed yearly reports about their facilities and special service output. Although dimensions of reported data from such sources are rarely comparable with figures of official statistics, the adoption of auditing techniques has helped to diminishsomewhat strong yearly bounces in one or another disability category, and also, regularly audited institutions are ready to cooperate with local institutions along with central policy lines (For instance, Placement Authorities now need to figure out what sort of pressure can they build on to sidetrack schools and education counsellors (MPPCs) who still want to send them too many Roma students for that they get certified diagnosis of their special needs).

Training and knowledge dissemination: Within the HRD OP program on SEN and on Roma/ SDS integration, so-called innovative teaching methods were developed with the involvement of professors from most pedagogy departments of universities and teacher training colleges in the country, not to mention the Special Education Faculty. Teaching materials are available through websites via the users‘ institutional registrations. Both materials and the website (Sulinova Data Bank) put an emphasis on the education of socially disadvantaged students, and students with special needs. By 2008, about 10% of schools (1500 out of 15 000) had participated in "preliminary" sensitivity training and programs, and about 300 did actually adopt integrative methods. Different layers of attitude forming intentions (multicultural, inclusive, and integrative) seem to co-exist peacefully in the teaching materials. Programs offered for non-professionals (parents, school neighbourhoods) are to "enlighten stakeholders.

The mobilization of layers, the target group itself have proved to be less successful (e.g. the encouragement of early screening, the adaptation of a critical attitude towards diagnosis).

Quantitative forms (standardization, targeting, auditing, planning) are becoming prominent mostly among central state decision makers and their advisors, while qualitative forms (consulting, training) are put forward rather by pressure groups in the sector.

Other constellations: Advocacy; advocacy groups, NGOs collecting data on the field and exercising political and legal pressure. Foundations, Institutes, Associations, etc. Street level bureaucrats who happen to be trained special educators/psychologists.

Personal networks become influential because of the relatively small number of people involved in the field (E.g. personal experiences with a specific good practice becomes a policy goal).

Evidence-based policy – as an ideal and as a communication strategy. Agenda setting has evolved: the definition of political agenda is no more the pure declaration of policy goals, but a complex set of measures, focusing on the intervention of various experts at various levels, policy isn‘t (or at least isn‘t presented) as a series of administrative measures, bureaucratic/legal acts, but as the disclosure of expertise. The Educational Roundtable used evidence-based policy as an explicit strategy.

Public background-institutes. Educatio Public company (the former Sulinova), and the National Institute for Public Education [OKI]. Stake-holders. Professional associations (e.g. Pozitív, Szakértelem) oppose or escort given policy measures, or both. They mobilise their expert knowledge as a resource to influence decision-making not only from outside, but also from within, as they are within the PA.

Board of the Wise: The "Hungary Tomorrow Roundtable" and, to some extent, the State Reform Committee.

Inquiries (called "research"), like the 2005 inquiry in two counties (see details above): "research" focusing on legal aspects (whether or not service providers trespass), carried out (in part or entirely) by ministerial officers as a pilot initiative, to gather (non-representative) data and raise the street-level bureaucrats awareness of the (new) agenda.

Equality experts. New faces of the never-ending PA, sorts of "street level applied sociologists". "Equality experts" are involved in the SEN-screening process of SDS children, on the parents´ or the Authority‘s demand.Local Public Education Equal Opportunity Programs. State initiated local knowledge-production which is at the same time a local self-regulation tool (deployed within the framework of NDA-programs and defined as pre-condition of EU-grants).

Best/good practices. Katona (2008) for example cites good practices from Britain, Denmark, Finland and the US.

NGS, Non-Governmental State Institutions. These are entirely financed by State subsidies and are part of the country‘s public institutional landscape, but lack administrative/financial policy tools, therefore try to intervene though the knowledge they produce; this is typically the case of the Ombudsman for Minority Rights (who initiated research on the overrepresentation of Roma which happened to have great impact).

ERÖSS Gábor & KENDE Anna (2009), All against misdiagnosis - Sociologists, neurologists, economists, psychologists and special educators for inclusion, KNOWandPOL report, 80-84.

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