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Business-Managed Democracy

“Business-managed democracies are those in which the political and cultural arrangements are managed in the interests of business”

Sharon Beder

Business-Managed Education

Turning Schools into Businesses

During the last two decades schools around the world, particularly in English speaking nations, have been restructured and ‘reformed’ in the name of efficiency and accountability. There has been a marked shift in government attitudes towards school education. The ideal of education as a social/public good whose equitable provision is a collective responsibility has been almost totally replaced by corporate ideologies of efficiency, individual achievement, competition and consumer choice.

The Business Model Devolution Standards and Testing High Stakes Testing Consequences stooges poster

The overriding goal of economic efficiency in education, forced by the funding cuts, led to the introduction of business management methods into education. The aim is to achieve better educational outcomes for less financial inputs. Instead of increasing school resources and interpreting accountability in terms of how funds were spent and what practices were adopted, the emphasis shifted to evaluating outcomes without reference to funding inputs.

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Inaccurately characterizing public education as a mass failure, [business leaders and government officials have] embarked on a sweeping crusade to transform the system by applying business-management methods to schools. The three pillars of what's been called "corporate reform"—accountability, the use of "metrics," and competition—have produced charter schools, high-stakes testing, teacher rankings, and an obsession with numbers.

Batteries of student tests have been introduced around the world so that school productivity, cost-effectiveness and performance can be measured. Schools are now economic enterprises with economic goals. Social goals, such as promoting a vibrant democracy of educated citizens, and individual goals, such as student self-actualisation and fulfilment, have been neglected.

Education departments were also expected to become more business-like. Throughout the English speaking world, as part of a broader push by neoliberals to reform public services, education departments were subject to various forms of corporatization, variously termed the ‘new public management’, ‘new managerialism’, ‘entrepreneurial governance’ and ‘corporate managerialism’.

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Education departments, like other government departments were expected to be primarily concerned with efficiency, accountability and rates of return rather than with serving the public interest. The focus moved “from maximising general welfare to maximising returns on investment”.

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