Envisioned and enacted practices: Educational policies and the ‘politics of use’ in schools

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It is widely known that there is a discrepancy between educational policy on the one side, and teaching and learning practices on the other. Most studies have been focusing on the sociocultural and micropolitical frames that shape teachers’ understandings and enactments of teaching, and that cause the vast diversity of classroom practices around the world. This article wants to draw attention to the ‘politics of use’ in teachers’ work: how teachers mobilize larger political narratives when implementing curriculum reform. Arguably, these narratives provide a shortcut between the central government and street-level actors, thus circumventing the logics of these actors’ immediate institutional environments.

In order to showcase the politics of use, the article uses the case of education for creativity as it is designed for and practiced at Chinese schools. The case reveals how education for creativity is compromised by requirements emanating from larger political programs when implemented in Chinese classrooms. The article challenges the view that educational policy necessarily moves through a trickle-down process, from higher to medium to lower-level actors. In cases of strong ideological alignment between street-level actors and central state actors, educational policy may in fact sidestep and hence neutralize important institutional actors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-637
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Curriculum Studies
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Educational Sciences


  • educational policy
  • teaching practice
  • policy-practice divide
  • politics of use
  • China


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