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Organizing the School Structure: A Review of the Literature

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There has been an ongoing debate about the control of the organization of the schools. There are two different sides to the debate. The Liberal side is for the decentralization of the schools. What this means is that communities and school officials themselves are the ones who should have the responsibility of making decisions when it comes to the schools. The other side of the debate is the Conservative side. They are for the centralization of the schools. This means that it is up to the state to make decisions when it comes to the schools. However, even though the debate is ongoing, for now, public schools are controlled by the state. This has been so since the early 1980s.

According to Janet S. Hansen, decentralization is beginning to raise interest once again. It was tried out in the 1980s and 1990s but the students’ performances only improved by a small percentage. Today, attention has been turned to decentralization again. It is the belief that the improvement of student learning relies on transferring the decision-making and authority of budget and resource allocation to that of the school level. One very good argument that she makes for decentralization is that, since teaching and learning occur at the school level, then things can be made to adapt to the current needs of the students. In addition to that, time and resources will be prioritized towards the student and teacher. An argument that she makes is that, in order for decentralization in schools to work, schools need to have that as their main priority. It should be the school’s main reform, not just one of a few. The result of decentralization being one of a few reforms was that it was disconnected and incomplete.

Even though Janet S. Hansen brings up very valuable points, she does not mention anything about the roles of the parents. She keeps talking about control from the school level, but doesn’t decentralization also include the parents as well? Nevertheless, she tries to approach the issue of decentralization from a different perspective, since it did not work in the 1980s and 1990s. She offers suggestions, even though she does not go too in depth in her explanations.

Hans N. Weiler, in his article Education and Power: The Politics of Educational Decentralization in Comparative Perspective, defines decentralization as taking national responsibilities and breaking them down into smaller, territorial responsibilities. He claims that in the U.S., there is more of a move toward centralization, at least at the state level. That is true. One point he brings up is that, with the involvement of parents and the community in decentralized schools, is that it would interrupt the smooth flow between the state and the agencies of capital accumulation. Another argument that is made in his article is that money in a decentralized school would be used much more wisely, which is, in most cases, true. A very important point that he brings up is the involvement of local and private institutions. Resources may be provided by these institutions, but in return for their involvement in the development of making and applying educational policies. To him, decentralization is the loss of control, and is a very ambivalent dilemma.

Weiler’s view is extremely pessimistic. To him, centralization and decentralization is tied to the Capitalist society in which we live in, which is true in a sense. However, decentralization would be a positive policy because it would focus the attention more directly to the schools. The school principal would be able to allocate money towards more beneficent resources. Parents and the rest of the community would be more involved with the schools because they would have actual power as to the goings-on of their children. Direct control would equal improvement because only those at the school level know what's going on with their students.

Decentralization is an appealing aspect for certain schools. However, as is claimed in the article Comparative Perspectives on Educational Decentralization: An Exercise in Contradiction? by Hans N. Weiler, he points out that it is a very contradictory topic, especially when it is tied with evaluation. Weiler breaks up the decentralization issue into three arguments. These arguments are: redistributing power, enhancing efficiency, and improving learning. The redistribution argument has to do with the sharing of the power. The efficiency argument is set towards enhancing the cost-effectiveness of the educational system through a more efficient deployment and management of resources. And the final argument, improving learning, emphasizes the decentralization of educational content. However, the three arguments are constantly being intertwined. These three arguments are supposed to respond to different political and social dynamics, and to have different results on both the educational system

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