ABSTRACT

In introducing the politics of education, the study thus far has concentrated on the major force which has shaped the debate: the disagreement between the government and progressive interests over the issues of democratic control and equality in education. As the previous chapter revealed, post-war education policy-making has been largely a history of the battle between the Ministry of Education and the teachers’ union. In terms of the analysis in Chapter 1, the dominance of this polarized, ‘left-right’ divide points to the basic validity of the ‘power-elite model’. As it predicted, the process has consisted primarily of a struggle between the ruling ‘conservative camp’ and the opposition ‘progressive camp’. The analysis, however, went on to argue that the power-elite model was an oversimplification of the policy-making process. The conservative camp, it found, is composed of various actors who often compete for power, money and ‘turf’ as well as policy: bureaucrats battle politicians and subgovernments fight other subgovernments. In most cases, it concluded, it is conflict within the conservative circle which determines policy outcomes. This chapter and the three which follow represent the first step in the effort to see how this process works in the case of the debate over education reform.