Policy implementation in government education systems

Dempster, Neil (1988). Policy implementation in government education systems PhD Thesis, Graduate School of Education, The University of Queensland.

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Author Dempster, Neil
Thesis Title Policy implementation in government education systems
School, Centre or Institute Graduate School of Education
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 1988
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status File (Publisher version)
Supervisor -
Total pages 329
Language eng
Subjects 330104 Educational Policy, Administration and Management
Formatted abstract
The focus of this study is the implementation of educational policy in bureaucratically organised government education systems. Its thesis is that policy implementation is a human concern resulting more in attention to instrumental administrative activity than to operationalising policy ideals or implementing educational program goals. The thesis develops the position that through the administrative actions of organisational members, program carriage, defined as one part of the implementation process, affords an opportunity for bureaucrats to enhance their power and authority while their actions unconsciously contribute to the reinforcement and replication of the system within which the implementation activity takes place.

In developing this position, the thesis first explains the antipathetical character of Australian Commonwealth/State governmental relations in educational policy-making and implementation before identifying the dominant paradigmatic orientation of a generation of literature in the policy and implementation fields. That orientation, it is argued, is functionalist, emphasising determinist views of human nature, realist ontology, positivist epistemology and nomothetic research methodology. The thesis further argues that in the Australian educational setting, the functionalist orientation to policy and implementation is exemplified in 'classical' administrative approaches to the implementation of Commonwealth Government programs.

The literature review enables the focus of the thesis to be narrowed so that research is concentrated on what happens as educational policy and programs are prepared by government bureaucrats for dissemination and operation in schools. The outcomes of the review are twofold: (i) the formulation of a series of propositions about the implementation of educational programs by organisational members; and (ii) the more specific identification of the purpose of the study so that investigations are directed towards gathering data to facilitate the analysis and interpretation of what happens to educational policies and programs in the hands of implementers, what occurs as a result of what they do and why it happens in the way it does.

The theoretical framework built for the study recognises a link between the activities of human beings involved in implementation and the implication of organisational structures in their conduct. Giddensian theory (1976, 1984) is used to develop the argument that as bureaucrats go about the tasks associated with the carriage of government programs, their actions are consciously and unconsciously influenced by physical and social structures unique to the organisations in which they work. The results of their actions produce both intended and unintended consequences which together contribute to the reproduction of the structures implicated in the action as well as to the replication of human organisational conduct.

The theoretical frame is used to justify a qualitative methodology for the study. Participant observation is the major research tool employed in recording a case account of the implementation of a Commonwealth Government Special Purpose Program in an Australian State Government Department of Education. The study itself is restricted to one part of the implementation process only - the carriage of the program through the planning and approval procedures prerequisite to its eventual dissemination and operation in the schools of the system. The closing chapters of the thesis present an analysis and discussion of the data, together with a theoretical explanation of program carriage before concluding with an outline of the implications of the study for further research.
Keyword Education and state -- Australia
Education -- Political aspects -- Australia
Additional Notes The author has given permission for this thesis to be made open access.

Document type: Thesis
Collections: Queensland Past Online (QPO)
UQ Theses (RHD) - Open Access
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Created: Mon, 14 Dec 2009, 11:26:18 EST by Ms Natalie Hull on behalf of Social Sciences and Humanities Library Service