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Making sense of school autonomy: the case of Kazakhstan

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Notions of ‘autonomy’ feature widely in official papers and in discussions about school reform in Kazakhstan. This paper discusses the notion of autonomy from perspectives of school leaders, teachers, boards of trustees and parents. The purpose is to trace ‘policy rationalities’ and understandings of different stakeholders of the school autonomy reform. In the first part of this paper, we examine different concepts of school autonomy developed internationally, distinguished by reference to (i) who rules the autonomous school (ii) what spheres of autonomy are permitted (iii) what forms of accountability are maintained, and, importantly, (iv) the underlying normative or ideological framework. In the second part we turn to the ways in which the concept of school autonomy is being understood and expressed in the official discourses of educational reform in Kazakhstan. Finally, we draw on 153 extended interviews and observations conducted in schools in five regions of Kazakhstan during the Spring of 2014.

This talk is part of the Kazakhstan Programme Research Seminar Series series.

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