Analysing the present: drawing on the legacy of Vere Foster in public policy debate on futures of schools
- Publisher: SAGE Publications
This paper sets out a framing analysis for a public policy debate on the future of schools that resonates with practitioners in teaching and teacher education on the island of Ireland, north and south, but also in other countries. This is informed by a democratic impulse to facilitate public policy debates, particularly on the ways schools and higher education institutions are directed and constrained by budget cuts and the shrinking of public funding in this age of austerity and gross inequalities. This is also informed by a need for policy learning about global neoliberal agendas, free-market capitalism and its push towards profit-making schools in systems that are deregulated but experience tighter centralized control, which can result in the domination and control of teachers’ work by politicians, corporate-funded think-tanks, entrepreneurs and business managers. Even though Ireland boasts checks and balances in the form of current structures and education legislation in both jurisdictions, the global financial crisis and the collapse of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ together with the ‘troika’ bail-out and Ireland’s exit from the troika in tandem with the unravelling of the common economic model built up over the last three decades have troubled the constituent social and political settlements with regard to teaching and teacher education. The authors also take inspiration from Vere Foster (1819–1900), an Anglo-Irish gentleman, philanthropist and ‘social worker’ with the poor in post-famine Ireland, as well as a significant social campaigner renowned for his contribution to emigration and education. His ideas, generated at a time of great social upheaval, can be reworked to be appropriate in the Ireland of today to address the neoliberal agenda that has brought the Republic of Ireland economy to the brink of disaster. It is argued that imaginative responses about future possibilities for teaching and teacher education, their form, regulation and accountability are but a few of the terms needed for public policy debate that engages the profession on the type of schooling that would best meet the needs of Irish society now and into the future.