Education plc Understanding Private Sector Participation in Public Sector Education
Is the privatisation of state education defendable? Did the public sector ever provide a fair education for all learners?
In Education plc, Stephen Ball provides a comprehensive, analytic and empirical account of the privatisation of education. He questions the kind of future we want for education and what role privatisation and the private sector may have in that future. Using policy sociology to describe and critically analyse changes in policy, policy technologies and policy regimes, he looks at the ethical and democratic impacts of these changes and raises the following questions:
- Is there a legitimacy for privatisation based on the convergence of interests between business and the ‘third way’ state?
- Is the extent and value of private participation in public education misunderstood?
- How is the selling of private company services linked to the remodelling of schools?
- Why have the technical and political issues of privatisation been considered but ethical issues almost totally neglected?
- What is happening here, beyond mere technical changes in the form of public service delivery?
- Is education policy being spoken by new voices?
Drawing upon extensive documentary research and interviews with senior executives from the leading ‘education services industry’ companies, the author challenges preconceptions about privatisation. He concludes that blanket defence of the public sector as it was, over and against the inroads of privatisation, is untenable, and that there is no going back to a past in which the public sector as a whole worked well and worked fairly in the interests of all learners, because there was no such past.
This book breaks new ground and builds on Stephen Ball’s previous work on education policy. It should appeal to those researching and studying in the fields of social policy, policy analysis, sociology of education, education research and social economics.
1. Introduction 2. Privatisation in Context 3. Scale and Scope 4. Economics and Actors 5. Selling Change 6. Controversies 7. Ethics and Effects 8. What is Going on Here?
This proposal promises a major contribution to the fields of education and social policy by an eminent academic with an excellent track record. There is certainly a ‘real need’ for this book. As Prof Ball comments, private sector participation in public sector education is a dynamic and highly topical area with fundamental implications for public education both in the UK and abroad. As a recent ESRC-funded seminar series showed, there is a need for conceptual development and clarity in this area, as it is one with which academics in the UK are just beginning to get to grips. Prof Ball is supremely well-placed on three counts to provide this clarity and make a crucial contribution, helping to shape the emerging debate: i) He co-ordinated the seminar series and is very aware of recent developments here and abroad and the range of different perspectives on the issues concerned. ii) This book will be based on in-depth research by a highly-respected qualitative researcher, and iii) Prof. Ball’s history of scholarly analysis around educational policy, and his reputation as an incisive commentator on the recent waves of re-structuring affecting education and social policy. Prof Ball’s ability to retain subtleties and complexities in his analyses, and yet still provide hard-hitting critiques will, the proposal suggests, be repeated in this book. For the proposal is particularly strong for being a research-based analysis, and especially (in my view) in the contribution it will make to understanding the roles private sector companies play in new systems of governance of education (throughout the book, but especially ch. 5 focusing on schools) and his critique of ‘privatisations’ focusing on ethics (ch. 7)
With regard to your remaining questions:
• There is no competition that I know of in the UK, certainly not based on such extensive interviews with private providers, in addition to documentary research. As Prof Ball states, the book will ‘break new ground’, especially in its indication of alternative futures, over and against a blanket defence of the ‘old’ public sector.
• As indicated in the proposal, the role of private sector companies in relation to public education is a major issue in the USA and one of growing concern in Australia, but as the blurring of public/private boundaries is an almost global phenomenon, the issues are of concern in very many countries, and therefore there is a wide market for this book.
• The book promises to be of value to undergraduate and graduate students on education, social policy, and political science courses, as well as researchers and academics in these areas.
• With regard to the book dating, although this is an arena of frequent development, the quality and substance of Prof Ball’s analysis will ensure that the book retain its value even if specific events change.
I look forward to reading this book, and have no doubt it will make a crucial and lasting contribution to the field.