“…although basing educational policy making on scientific evidence may be a good idea, it implementation and rigour are lacking”
(Weiss, Murphy-Graham Pretrosino and Gandhi, 2008)
Reflecting on evidence in policy making in education on a local, state, national and global level and it is obvious of its role in forming policies. But evidence based decision making is, as Wiseman (2010) states, “… all about what works or best practise.” The question asked is what works in what situation and in what community?
I have to say I am divided about all this “evidence” and its effect on policy making and of course on leaders and schools.
I believe I may be devil’s advocate and suggest that there needs to be “something” and that we can’t just irrationally propose a policy on education without basing it on “something”. Oakley (2002) suggests evidence “validates and legitimises education processes and products”.
Obviously, the challenge is to create a basis for evidence that has substance and takes into account social, gender, as well as geographic elements. This is where the criticism comes in that, as Wiseman states, “…it only focuses on what works in specific situations or with unique communities”.
But the question remains for me, is that continuing criticism of evidence based policy making can only lead to more authentic, genuine, truthful forms of policy, or at least one hopes. Or as Whitty (2006) states “we must consider evidence within context”.
To state it is politically driven or economically focused would predominantly touch at the hearts of those who, on a daily basis, value the true “depth” of education i.e. teachers, school leaders for example. Ask a policy writing politician and the response may be quite different. Each person’s role in education i.e. teacher, parent, student, leader, policy writer are all driven by different purposes of education e.g. educational, economical and political. And each has a domino effect on the other.
As Ladwig states “schooling is meant to provide many more things than just academic outcomes”. But for politically driven policy makers these “non-academic outcomes” are irrelevant to their political intentions. Evidence doesn’t cater for or truly reflect these non-academic concerns.
So that brings to to the point of “sitting on the fence”. As an educationally driven and motivated member of society, evidence based decision making and policy writing are too concerned with the quantitive rather than the qualitative measures but as a citizen of a forward gesturing nation, I ask “How else do we make these decisions? What do we base the policies on?
To the non-educational background onlooker the conversations and their understanding of the policy making politically driven agenda relies on numbers. It is what everyone globally can relate to. It is what we can globally compare. It is what we can sell newspapers with! It is what politician can be elected with. Sadly, education of students is just one piece of the “global educational pie”, often and more so it is becoming a smaller piece at that.
Ladwig, J.G. (2010). Beyond academic outcomes. Review of Research in Education, 34(1), 113-141.
Oakley, A. (2002). Social science and evidence-based everything: The case of education. Educational Review, 54(3), 277–286.
Weiss, C. H., Murphy-Graham, E., Petrosino, A., & Gandhi, A. G. (2008). The fairy god-mother—and her warts: Making the dream of evidence-based policy come true. American Journal of Evaluation, 29(1), 29–47.
Whitty, G. (2006). Education(al) research and education policy making: Is conflict inevitable? British Educational Research Journal, 32(2), 159–176.
Wiseman, A.W. (2010). The uses of evidence for educational policymaking: global contexts and international trends. Review of Research in Education, 34(1), 1-24.