Book Review: Tim Rudd and Ivor F. Goodson, Editors. Negotiating Neoliberalism -Developing Alternative Educational Visions.

Book Review:  Tim Rudd and Ivor F. Goodson, Editors. Negotiating Neoliberalism -Developing

Alternative Educational Visions.   Sense Publishers (2017) 210 pp. ISBN  97894630008525 paper $US

54.00; E-Book ISBN 9789463008549

By Edith W. King

 In recent years, post-modern nations are experiencing more attention to education from political and economic sectors of their governments.  This movement advocates the primacy of school choice through charter or “free” schools, imposition of high stakes testing, teacher performance remuneration, anti-teacher-union sentiments and international competency competitions.  Neoliberalism is the term that is applied to these policies of education and school reform being pressed in the more affluent countries — UK, US, Australia and Western European nations.  Negotiating Neoliberalism Developing Alternative Educational Visions edited by Tim Rudd and Ivor Goodson addresses the need to know more about the history, issues, policies, conditions and actions surrounding the neoliberal project.  The editors have chosen twelve educators from three different nations, the UK, Ireland, Norway, as authors of eleven contributions (labelled chapters) for the volume. Editors Rudd and Goodson provide the introductory chapter and a concluding chapter that summarizes the book’s collection.  As a reader proceeds through the book it is evident that the contributors interacted and frequently refer to material in others’ chapters.  There are contributions that focus on higher education in the United Kingdom, and in Norway, Nepal, and Ireland.   And there are chapters about the detrimental effects of neoliberalism on the schools, their teachers and students in these countries.

The impact of neoliberal thinking upon higher education in Britain is central to the segments by Richard Hall and Yvonne Downs.  Both draw from the Rudd and Goodson theorizing on neoliberalism as it has been affecting the universities.  Students in British higher education institutions are the topic of Nadia Edmonds chapter on what it means to be enrolled in the neoliberal university.  John Shostak brings an historical context to neoliberalism in education.  Norwegians, Stray and Voreland compare higher education, including some history, in their case studies of education in Norway and Nepal.  The role of UNESCO, UNICEF and other global organizations are discussed in this chapter that brings international considerations to the neoliberalism in education.

 Next I turn to the contributions in Negotiating Neoliberalism on the influence of neoliberal education policies for teachers, students, the school districts and the curriculum. The reader will encounter early on Mike Hayler’s chapter.   He details what has been happening to those teaching in the schools in England during the late 1980s into the 1990s as neoliberal policies are implemented.  Hayler brings his personal experiences to document how assessments are used as a tool of control.  He draws on teacher interviews to verify the deleterious effect of high stakes testing.    Closely following on Hayler’s selection filled with examples of the negative results of neoliberal policies upon primary and secondary schools is the chapter by Peter Humphreys.    In his material, Humphreys describes alternative forms of education prevalent in Britain and the US since the 1970s particularly emphasizing home-based learning.  A leading figure in the movement for “education otherwise” was the late Roland Meighan, my cherished colleague of many years.  Humphreys writes: “The idea of flexi-schooling came to Dr. Roland Meighan in the 1970’s when he found home educating families were not necessarily opposed to schools.” (p.45) The significance of learner managed education in resisting neoliberal policies is also taken up in this chapter.

In her forthright and outspoken contribution “Education Free-For-All” Deborah Philips details the management of English primary and secondary school funding by leading British government officials during 2014-2016. She points out how schools and academies toting neoliberal methods were receiving the generous financial efforts of high status private sources.  “Legislation introduced under the coalition government removed the provision of some schools’ service from local authority control and forced the hand of schools to offer contracts to private providers.”  (Philips, p.103) Her chapter serves to reinforce the cautionary accounts by Hayes and Humphrey.   The recent history and role of co-operative education, academies and schools are discussed in the contribution of Tom Woodin.  He points out that education in Britain has been an area of conflicting policies and attempts to implement contested programs.

There is an informative and noteworthy contribution from Stray and Voreland on Norway’s educational system and the impact of neoliberalism.  They present two historical case studies of education in Norway, a developed nation, as contrasted to Nepal, a developing country, along with the impacts of the international movement, Education for All (EFA).  Taking this global perspective on neoliberalism in the education systems of both countries offers insights with a unique global perspective.  These authors write that it is relevant to describe the Norwegian example and the Nepalese case.  They think being able to negotiate is more obtainable in Norway than In Nepal due to the pressures from international organization such as UNESCO and UNICEF.   Moving on to the effects of neoliberal education in Ireland by Stephen O’Brien and Ciaran Sugrue, again reinforces the consequences of global neoliberalism on all levels, primary and secondary schooling, as well as Irish higher education.  O’Brien uses the political support for neoliberalism in the U.S to contrast the more recent drives against high stakes testing and teacher evaluations.  He also describes the challenges during the financial drains in 2007 especially in Ireland.   Sugrue portrays the pressures this brought on Irish teachers providing a table “Perpetuating Austerity” (p. 172-173) to make her points.  He concludes that teachers and families do have possibilities for resistance to neoliberal actions on Irish education through the joining of forces and collective agency.

 It is appropriate to note that each contribution contains extensive bibliographic references as well as footnotes. This material is valuable for a reader and especially for academics and dedicated higher education students. 


King, Edith W. (2016) Educating Students in Times of Terrorism.  Kindle.

Edith W. King ( ) is Professor of Educational Sociology emerita and Chair of the Worldmindedness Institutes of Colorado

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