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2019 Guest Lecture – The Absurdity of Education Reform: investing in disorder – Stephen J. Ball

Stephen J. Ball – (IoE, University College of London, UK)

Stephen J Ball is Distinguished Service Professor of Sociology of Education at the University College London, Institute of Education, previously Karl Mannheim Professor. He was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 2006; and is also Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences; and Society of Educational Studies, and a Laureate of Kappa Delta Phi; he has honorary doctorates from the Universities of Turku (Finland), and Leicester. Honorary Fellow at Oxford University Department of Educational Studies, and Affiliate Professor University of Copehhagen. He is co-founder and Managing Editor of the Journal of Education Policy. His main areas of interest are in sociologically informed education policy analysis and the relationships between education, education policy and social class. He has written 20 books and had published over 140 journal articles. Recent books: How Schools do Policy (2012), Global Education Inc. (2012), Networks, New Governance and Education (with Carolina Junemann)(2012), Foucault, Power and Education (2013), Foucault as Educator (2017).

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This lecture is a reflection on the current state of education and education policy in England drawn from over forty years of my involvement in education policy research. It articulates a strong sense of my discomfort, disappointment, and frustration with the current state of the English education system and with the educational state. I shall take stock and look across the school system, confining myself to compulsory education, and argue that there is no ‘system’ at all. Rather, I suggest, the current iteration of school reform perpetuates and exacerbates the messiness and incoherence, and the mix of meddlesomeness and reluctance, that have always bedevilled education policy in England and at the same time reproduces and legitimates complex social divisions and inequalities embedded in this messiness.


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