The social and cognitive mapping of policy: The education sector in Romania

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The report written in the frame of orientation 1 provides an analysis on knowledge and policy in national context. It seeks to map the actors of the romanian education, the knowledge potentially available for policy makers, decision makers within education, to trace the relationship between those who hold and produce knowledge and those who use knowledge in policy decisions. In order to answer the research-questions interviews were conducted within politicians, decision makers, experts and professionals, supplemented by document analysis (policy papers, research reports, official notices, etc. have been processed) and field work.

The paper structured in three main sections discusses (1) the context and the recent changes of the sector; (2) the dimensions of structures, actors and knowledge and (3) the synthesis and interpretations of the results.

(1) The first section deals with the national context, drawing attention to the heritage of the communist era, the traditions (concept and practice) of the period between 1970-1990: centralized education system, centralized knowledge, lack of social participation and local initiations in education. Furthermore it indicates that the change of regime (1989) was the promotor of changes in education, since 1990 educational reforms are continously on agenda.

While the first decade of democracy was the decade of slow changes and unexpected challanges in education, it brought different experiments and experiences in practice. As the report claims, till the 2000s changes in education became more complex and rapid, legal regulations, policy-making processes and professional discourses were increasingly focusing on the support and stimulation of a complete reform in education. But there were two facts that limited the success of reform-initiations during the last two decades: (a) the powerful tradition of centralization and (b) the costs of education with that families were not aware and could not undetake. As a consequence of these social conditions and processes a paradox emerged: while educational reforms were supported intensively at discoursive level, very small in-depth changes could happen in practice (as the report claims: there are significant differences between policy narratives and the real situation). Moving from the context to recent changes the report outlines the institutional changes at the field of education. Taking the chronological order of the institutional development a process of progress can be seen, while the coordination of institutions and the collaboration between them has moderate effectivenes. The report specifies it as „mixed institutional model” and stresses that the situation and role of knowledge productive institutions is variable and uncertain. Concerning the other actors of the field civil society participation is weak/low, it runs out in teachers union movements and some professional – think tank type – institutions. Considering the delegated competencies the system of education is a half-way decentralised and half-way deconcetrated system.

(2) The dimension of structure focuses on political bodies, describing them and accentuating their roles and functions. The Public Policy Department for example represents an intermediate body that – working on public policy documents, planning, processing and evaluation - mediates between the Ministry of Education and the Government. While the Ministry of Education represents the hierarchic ideal-type that tends to move - through its new bodies and projectbased cooperations - towards new structures, less hierarchic communication and knowledge circulation. Knowledge production is divided to the ministry’s bodies and centres. A scientific institution is also subordinated to the ministry. The whole body is representing a hybrid structure where the formal cooperation is still very important while the new ways of policy management appear (consultations, roudtable discussions). After the findings of the research the actors of the field are the think tank type institutions (CEDU2000+ and the Romanian Academy of Science) and the specialists, experts they are represented by. There are only a few but significant and influential actors, representing the symbolic structure of education. The third section on the dimension of knowledge starts with a central afirmation: in national context policy making tends to move from the contemplative policy culture (discoursive-ideologist, control-based, eruptive, pressure-oriented and routine-oriented) to the evaluative policy culture (which is reflexive, action-oriented, trust-based, strategically-oriented and evidence-based). In this process the knowledge accumulated from the EU accession has significant role, as well as the knowledge taken over with policy transfer and policy transition. The report also puts stress on professional knowledge and administrative knowledge, saying that the latter still has a deeper effect on practice (decision making and choosing the policy alternatives) and is more increasingly circulated. The report gives also reference about knowledge that is less evident and less circulated (unused capital) within the system. Furthermore it stresses that the new types and forms of knowledge that appear are the consequence of new public management elements and characteristics that gained ground in national context also. There is a tendency due to knowledge about policies and knowledge related to policies increases.

(3) The interpretative synthesis summarizes shortly the most important findings of the research. It concludes that there is a limited interaction in knowledgepolicy relation, educational policy-making is characterised by occasional solutions and less works on regularities and strategies of knowledge-mobilization. There is no sufficient legitimacy in educational policy issues, the mosaic-like character and the ephemeral components of policies run against legitimacy.

As the report finally notes, the above mentioned findings give us a general view on the national education policy context, but we can have more detailed knowledge on policy mechanism and knowledge-circulation only if we look at exact cases of policies.

KÓSA István (2008), The Social and Cognitive Mapping of Policy: The Education Sector in Romania, KNOWandPOL Report.

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