New Regulatory Instruments: Assemblages of Knowledge and Policy Constellations in the case of the Hungary’s Integrated Education Public Action

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Some of our findings indicate that a shift from government to governance takes place, yet traditional bureaucratic practices of regulation coexist and are complemented by post-bureaucratic policy instruments that follow the logic of the accountability regime.

This shift is the consequence of the development of instrumentation and results both the proceduralisation and scientisation of politics which, as Radaelli (2010) asserts, generates the politics of instruments. The politics of instruments works on multiple levels and follows the reconfiguration of the power relations within regulatory levels. The arrival of the EU structural funds played a substantive part in generating the shift in governance and the adoption (and transformation) of post-bureaucratic regulatory instruments.

New couplings, assemblages of knowledge and policy facilitated a process of unintended learning within the state (Radaelli, 2010). The government-governance shift becomes visible in the emergence of policy constellations whose aim it is to increase the effectiveness of administrative coordination. These “constellations” are either technologies of governance or institutionalized forms of knowledge-policy interaction that transmits knowledge (lay, scientific, advocacy, etc.) to the practice of governance and formats that knowledge into a politically legible form (Nassehi, 2008).

1. Novel interfaces, channels of transmission

A) Knowledge sharing and dissemination procedures

Knowledge sharing on the central level: personal consultations replaced formalized interactions with consultative bodies. Decision-makers prefer informal meetings with experts instead of multi-partite negotiations with interest groups or expert consultative bodies. After 2007, extra-administrative bodies (expert boards) were formed.

Knowledge dissemination from the central level: conferences and teacher training courses, organized for street level actors facing similar challenges, offered new sites of knowledge sharing and the translating of policy to everyday practice. Training courses that provided procedural knowledge necessary for the implementation of reforms and that aimed to change teacher dispositions through “sensitivity” programs were designed in such a manner as to encourage responsible, self-reflexive school communities (see Szabó and Tóth, 2010). Program funding has also been directed towards non-professional “partners”, informing stakeholders and mobilizing user groups, viewed to be less capable of championing their interests. Central actors created a website (the so-called Sulinova Data-bank) for practitioners and organized several conferences to facilitate knowledge exchange. It appear that the presentation of exemplars (“good practices”) is among the most important methods for the sharing of contextually bound practices among practitioners. The selection of best practices is motivated by communicative considerations (for example one of the best known schools in Hungary adopted a complex Cube-toys programme that improves logical thinking). Since 2009, school communities are financially motivated via calls for project propositions to crystallize and encapsulate their know-how as good practices and marketise them as products (as part of the project mechanism, schools are asked to produce DVDs about their good practice).

“Horizontal” knowledge dissemination: In the 1990s, non-governmental development projects facilitated horizontal learning and networking practices as an alternative to the general education system. Knowledge sharing networks that developed from “innovative alternative” schools and the knowledge accumulated on how to scale up innovation from the bottom entered the state in 2002. Horizontal learning and the facilitation of partnerships with the school’s peer institutions emerged as key concepts of the new “project-talk”. The National Network for Integrated Education was created to translate these knowledge sharing mechanisms to state institutional logic.

B) Novel roles

This move towards accountability for school modernization discourse creates a new subject of policy action, the “innovative teacher” who uses “modern, innovative teaching methods” (differentiated treatment, competence development are mentioned the most often) in her everyday teaching practice, provides individual treatment for each child and recognizes their special needs (as “mentor” of SDS children), consults regularly with the representatives of partner professions (social workers, special educators, prevention professionals) and the parents, shares her knowledge and cooperates with colleagues and plans and evaluates her own work. Specialized actors provide professional guidance for the “innovative teacher” via training courses and counseling interaction: the mentors and the trainers support and control the realization of tenders. Street level equal opportunity experts interact with schools and local authorities and represent a normative control of policy implementation by spreading sociological knowledge to reconfigure the values and objective of the actors, to steer the cognitive structures that determine school realities.

2. Assemblages of knowledge and policy

As it was argued earlier, a partial accountability shift took place both on the central and local level. Project agencies were set up at the central government where the negotiations on the allocation of funds brought together experts from various sectors. On the municipal level, local authorities were expected to plan cross-sectoral mid- and long-term action plans (focusing on public education, anti-segregation and urban rehabilitation), namely the state started to apply new public management regulatory tools to facilitate change through setting up goals and shaping the frames (benchmarks) of planning the future. The translation of the post-bureaucratic governing logic naturally meant that local political circumstances and path dependencies diverged when it came to the eventual outcome of these regulatory attempts. Among the intermediaries that translate and transmit the new logic of governance, we analyzed the documents introduced to audit and monitor the results of governmental interventions and extend central control: the documents regulating institutional practices (e.g. project documentation: self-evaluation and monitoring sheets, town-level planning set by benchmarks and indicators) and the procedural tracking of the activities of schools (procedural counseling and mentoring of tender realization). We analyzed Local Equal Opportunity Reports and Plans as boundary objects that assemble knowledge and actors from various social contexts and using procedures following a scientific logic, translate arbitrary social experiences to a standardized form. This shift also takes place at the level of individual interactions, new procedures and documents regulate (and medicalise) interactions in educational settings (e.g. individual development plans, career guidance, the planning of school transition pathways, mentoring records, student assessments, SEN testing and monitoring).

NEUMANN Eszter with BERÉNIY Eszter & BAJOMI Iván (2010), The Politics of Seating Plans, KNOWandPOL report, 91-93.

  • RADAELLI C. M. & MEUWESE A. C. M. (2010), Hard Questions, Hard Solutions: Proceduralisation through Impact Assessment in the EU, West European Politics, 33, 1, 136-153.
  • NASSEHI A. (2008), Making Knowledge Observable, short considerations about the practice of "doing knowledge”, Manuscript.
  • SZABÓ V. & TÓTH K. (2010), The intertwining of knowledge and politics in the policy connected to teachers’ in-service training, Know&Pol Research Report, Orientation 3/2.

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