The Cult of Efficiency in Education: Comparative Reflections on the Reality and the Rhetoric Author(s): Anthony R.

Welch Source: Comparative Education, Vol. 34, No. 2, Special Number (20): Comparative Perspective in Education Policy (Jun., 1998), pp. 157-175 Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. Stable URL: Accessed: 16/10/2010 12:34
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Comparative Education

Volume 34 No. 2 1998

pp. 157-175





Efficiency in reflections comparative




What is argued in this article is that the rising tide of 'efficiency' in contemporary education often masks a reduction in both the quality of education provided and attempts to reduce levels of resourcesinvested in education, particularly in the public sector. Historical and comparative examples of reform movements in education in the US, UK and Australia, the methodology of comparative education and the ongoing reformsin higher education in both the UK and Australia reveal that arguments about efficiency, not least in the current era of worldwide economic stringency, often consist of little more than arguments about economics or economism. In particular, efficiency movements can be argued to be predicated upon the idea that both individual worth and the worth of education can be reduced to economic terms. Equally, individuals and societies are also seen as rational, in so far as they invest in education only to the extent that education delivers a better economic rate of return than otherforms of investment.

Introduction If efficiency means the demoralization of the school system; dollars saved and human materials squandered; discontent, drudgery and disillusion-We'll have none of it! If efficiency denotes low finance, bickering and neglect; exploitation, suspicion and inhumanity; larger classes, smaller pay and diminished joy-We'll have none of it! We'll espouse and exalt humane efficiency-efficiency that spells felicity, loyalty, participation, and right conduct. Give us honorable efficiency and we shall rally to the civic cause. (Callahan, 1962, p. 121) There is a chill wind in the air and it goes under the name of efficiency. 'Goes under the name' because, ratherlike Winnie the Pooh who had the name 'Sanders' above his door and lived under it, all is not as it seems. Some of the historical and comparative examples of education in the nineteenth and early twentieth century treated in this article serve to clarify the covert meaning of efficiency and to show important parallelswith the current climate of efficiency movements in higher education. It is argued and instanced that the forms of efficiency which were imposed on schooling and higher education systems were motivated more by goals of cost cutting, a desire to vocationalise the curriculumand a desire to impose an ethos of business style principles upon publicly funded education systems, often during times of financialuncertainty.These goals were often achieved at a considerablecost in social terms, particularlyin terms of a loss in equity and a narrowingof the curriculum.Alternative notions of efficiency are advancedwhich, while having proper regardto questions of financial
Correspondenceto: Anthony R. Welch, School of Social and Policy Studies in Education, Universityof Sydney, New >. South Wales, 2006, Australia;e-mail <
0305-0068/98/020157-19 $7.00 @ 1998 Carfax Publishing Ltd

1985). in which government engages in only minimal regulation of the business cycle. Ultimately.lack the socially regressivecharacterand instrumental techno-logic of earlier forms of efficiency. implicitly or explicitly.individualshave economic worth in much the same sense as other economic commodities. education is seen in terms of its relative capacity to contribute to economic growth. Within human capitaltheory. the social realmworks best if run along pure forms of economic rationality such as the assumed 'laws of demand and supply'. particularlyin the public sector. should not have to invest (substantially) in the training of personnel. so too human beings are seen as having more or less value by virtue of their level of education and skills.efficiencymovements in education can be arguedto be predicatedupon the idea that both individualworth and the worth of education can be reduced to economic terms. One of the common corollaries of this approach is that. It has certainlybeen in vogue again for much of the 1980s and has licensed some growth in education. 1969). What is argued in this article is that the rising tide of 'efficiency' in contemporary education often masks not only a reduction in both the quality of education provided. Durkheim. Historical and comparative examples. Marginson. but also attempts to increase productivity levels in education. 1994). then. This idea. or by concerns with the environment or social welfare. World Bank. often of a specifically vocational form. and private enterprise is seen both as the prime engine of economic activityand a normativemodel for the operation of public sector institutions. UK and Australia. R. In particular.158 A. as this traditionis termed. beyond the elementary level. Marginson. 1989). The state. 1989). in areas as diverse as historical reform movements in education in the US. is that of a laissez-faire form. which should operate unfettered by interference in the form of controls upon monopoly. given the assumption that it is individualsthat reap the benefit of their investment in education. popular among modernisation theorists in the 1950s and 1960s and often used uncritically to legitimate substantial investment in education in Third World 'modernising' states (Welch. That is. they themselves should bear the costs. 1972. The less directly economically quantifiable elements of education are either discounted or assigned an (arbitrary) economic value. and individual and social involvement in education is seen as an 'investment' to be weighed against other possible areas of return. for example a naturalresource. Welch and other forms of public accountability. 1972. 1968.often consist of little more than arguments about economics or economism. Woodhall. particularlythose areas of inquiry which are . has waxed and waned over the post-war era. Individualsand societies are also seen as rational insofar as they only invest in education to the extent that education delivers a better economic rate of returnthan other forms of investment (Blaug.the methodology of comparativeeducation and the ongoing reforms in higher education in both the UK and Australia show that arguments about efficiency. but. that is that the actions of groups are ultimately reducible to the actions of individuals (Brodbeck. one of the asumptions upon which human capital theory stands is that of methodological individualism. Lukes. The particular form of economics which is appealed to. it is sometimes argued. not least in the current era of worldwide economic stringency. in the context of international economic stringencies. Equally. ultimately. since it is the individual who reaps the benefit (S. individualsand societies are seen as 'rational' to the extent that they calculate how to maximise their returnon their educationalinvestment (S.Just as naturalresourcescan be sold in their raw state or have more value added by furtherdevelopment of the product. Another contingently associated belief is the idea that education can contribute substantially to economic growth. Such arguments may be used frequently as legitimating strategiesby the state to reduce public sector expenses in the area of education. this notion has also meant a shift of resources away from public investment in education and away from an emphasis on equity issues. 1968. In this model.

1993. Habermas (1974) is profoundly critical of the extension of an instrumentalrationality (associated with aspects of Max Weber's account of modernity in society). it is harder to fulfil that charter. Indeed. in particularthe principle that the worth of activities should be measured. largely or wholly. it is argued. criticaltheory extends its reach to the analysisof modernity and society. Criticaltheory and its most prominent contemporary exponent. 1982. showed how correlatenotions of business efficiency are assumed rather than problematised in education. but at the same time the public sector is made increasinglycaptive to the argument that it must be run on business lines to be efficient. 1978.The Cult of Efficiency in Education 159 seen to have a less substantial or less quantifiableeconomic return. Lyotard.. Efficiency. Peters. 1992) by both the state and conservativepressure groups. such efficiency movements have tended to redefine the relation between the state and education.. p. in particular to the extension of a form of rationality and related social processes. on the assumed grounds that the public sector is inefficient. such that the role of the state is increasinglycircumscribed (Cemy. Jiirgen Habermas. 1990. which thus means that the public sector in education is progressively disempowered. In contrast to the principles of economism outlined above. then. however. The original distinction between 'praxis'and 'techne' is owed to the Greeks. Welch. are distinguished by a greater concern with the technical (that is. wherebynorms and social goals are simply assumed. 1984). In the process. is deeply critical of trends in modem society. a simple correlationbetween efficiency and privatisation can occur at the core of so-called efficiency movements. which under the guise of efficiency are actually interested in pursuing a form of economism. 1996). for example. 270). whereby problems of system effectiveness are addressed by the 'purposive-rationalapplication of techniques assured by empirical science' (Habermas. privatisationmay well be an associated feature of contemporary efficiency movements. a technology become autonomous dictates a value system-namely its own-to the domain of praxis it has usurped. With Marcuse (1968) and others. which have diverged from older practices which related theory to practice. 1984. ratherthan debated: '. Now. 1974. which may well have the effect of reducing quality (in education). administrative/industrial/functional concerns) than with the practical (which have more to do with ethical and political decisions). 1991) at the expense of ethics and older notions of the social good. in economic terms. Welch. is promoted at the cost of other considerationssuch as equity and the provision of service to the whole community. who may often espouse a directly business ethic in respect of education. means-ends values of economy and efficiency permeate social institutions and practices (Pusey. older goals of human and social enlightenment and emancipation and notions of the social good have been subsumed by a more technocratic consciousness. 254. as part of an increasing technology of control. Modem (Western capitalist) societies.particularly for marginal or disadvantagedgroups. At the very least. the assumption that the privatesector is (necessarily)more efficient than the public sector is often legitimated by the perceived greater conformity of the private sector to the canons of (business) efficiency. Indeed. who have the most to lose at the hands of efficiency. Ball (1990). and all in the name of value freedom' (p. rather than enhancing it. Yeatman. since it is now open to the charge that it is no longer fulfilling its charter adequately. Another form of argument which links economism with efficiency movements in education is the way in which education may come to be characterised increasingly as a commodity (Apple. 1988. see also Habermas. . Indeed. both the neo-Marxist school of critical theory and theories of post-modernity offer somewhat similar critiques of contemporary notions of 'efficiency' and their associated practices (although this is not to diminish important differences on other fronts). Thus. which celebrates efficiency at the expense of ethics. 1970. given efficiency arguments.

there are some interestingsigns that the notion of performativity now being applied to the analysis of education and. Cowen. The latter number fell from 2792 to 2403 within 6 years of the scheme being introduced. . 1984. 35). p. 51). 1861): 'The Commissionersheld the common view of the period that the notion of accountability. a Christianversion of the three R's for boys and girls up to the age of ten or twelve' (Musgrave. 1968. 1996b. the scheme. then. What. p. at a time of demonstrably increasing need.The standard was based upon the assumed needs of industry for a literate workforce. 1998). 47) and questions drawn from the discourse of business efficiency dominate: 'Is it efficient?' or 'Is it saleable?' become more important and more common questions than 'Is it true?' (Lyotard. 1998b). p. perhaps its major proponent. 79-82). Thus. Indeed Robert Lowe. p. 1968. p. perhaps the best known educationalinspector of his age. system performance criteria are invoked to decide whether a particular research centre should be allowed to continue (Lyotard. while Matthew Arnold. 229-232). is Welch. 1973. Efficiency in Education-historical examples The first of two historical examples which reveal the covert character of educational 'efficiency movements' is that of the 'payment by results' or Revised Code. 1973. The defence of the English scheme was encapsulated in Robert Lowe's boast: 'If it is not cheap it shall be efficient. 1984. 1969. to changes in universities and academic work (Cowen. Coulby & Jones. Universities and academic work are therefore subject to processes of performativity. The scheme had a profoundly depressing effect upon both monies expended by the state upon elementaryeducation (the grant fell from ?813. Knowledge itself is being commodified and is now one of the principal productive forces in late modem society. the scheme's legitimacywas assured by the strong prevailingcurrent of business accountabilityand efficiency reflected in the Report of the Newcastle Commission (Newcastle Report. more specifically. While comparativeeducation has come to post-modernity rather late (Rust.whereby 'optimising the system's performance'(Lyotard. were the major problems encountered with the utilisation of these values as the principal means of regulating elementary schools in England in the nineteenth century? In practice. p. 1991.. so vital to a well-run business. 1968. 36) specified a standardwhich each child had to attain to pass at that 'standard'.160 A.441 in 1861 to ?636. Accountability and efficiency are both measures which continue to command wide community support in our society. Welch While more thorough going in its rejection of modernist epistemological claims and less rooted in a careful exposition of specific episodes in the development of modern society. In general terms. xxiv) becomes the ultimate goal and the technology is found within the discourse of business and management.806 in 1865) and also heralded a precipitous decline in numbers of pupil teachers and teachers' college trainees. R. pp. 36). estimated that one of the principal effects of the introduction of the Revised Code was to worsen the ratio of pupil teachers to students in schools: from 1:36 in 1861 to 1:54 5 years later (Maclure. 1984. introduced into British education around the 1860s and in various forms into some of the Australiancolonies at much the same time (Turney.if it is not efficient it shall be cheap' (Maclure. as much as the qualities which were assumed to be needed by the working class: '. largely inspired by middle-class fears of rising calls upon state funds for elementary schools (which were patronised by the working class) and the needs of a 'business age' (Musgrave. should be applied vigorously to all forms of government expenditure' (Musgrave. Currie. once claimed that the rationale for payment by results was 'more financial than literary'. 1996a. 1996. Lyotard's (1984) account of (post)-modernity is also critical of the extension of what he termed performativityinto many arenas of society.. pp.

Cramming. writing and ciphering.inflatingthe numbers of pupils enrolled so that the numbers were kept up.. p. And humiliated too. Teachers were. 1978. 1978. p. p. p. 'The mode of teaching in the primaryschools has certainlyfallen off in intelligence. a mechanical turn to the get children through the Revised Code examination in reading. 1973. in his annual report of 1867. the following assessment: The annals of this School for the last six or seven years are merely records of failure and inefficiency.. it will with . now had to negotiate with school managers 'as to their rate of remuneration' (Musgrave. The Cult of Efficiency Education 161 p.Attention is paid to the subject which pays to the exclusion of all others' (Hyndman. 81). because 'any one of them can copy three desks off' (Hyndman. 34) their pupils on test items once the teachers knew that the visit of the inspector was imminent. thus creating a more favourable impression upon the visiting inspector.. spirit. 282). which. It encouraged cheating on the part of teachers whose annual salaries were now tied both to the numbers of pupils in their classes and to the number of passes obtained by their students in particular exams. 1973. (Maclure. upon which teachers' salarieswere dependent (Hyndman. Another teacher proudly proclaimed that his entire class would pass the test. [Just]as it is now found possible. p.) Moreover. In a country where everyone is prone to rely too much on mechanical processes and too little on intelligence. p. so. teachers and the process of education were made poorer as a result: 'Now there is always a tendency both in teachers and pupils to confine themselves to the minimum of requirement. 1978.and a narrow instrumentalism with respect to educational aims. and unless steps are taken to raise it from its present unsatisfactory condition. by ingenious preparation. based upon the specific curriculumareas outlined in the test.. It could not well be otherwise. 32) Matthew Arnold. and inventiveness during the four or five years which have elapsed since my last report. p. Other teachers falsifiedtheir registers. is and must be trying to the intellectual life of a school. teachers. 81) An inspector of the time wrote of the '. in a working-class school in 1885. 37). before they could take the test. as when one teacher had to inscribe into his log. 1978. who had previouslybeen paid directly. For example.' of teaching infant classes of such things as 'pachydermatousanimals. 34) and there were also reports of excessive punishment for those who let their teacher down. Or manifestly sick children were dragged along to school to satisfy attendance requirements. makes the point quite unambiguously. Indeed. impoverishedby this system. became the means to ensure one's livelihood as a teacher and there is no doubt that pupils. ratherthan teaching. literally. (Turnbull in Hyndman. was that children were drilled rather than educated. absurdities . 1978. by making two-thirds of the Government grant depend upon a mechanical examination. one of the major defects of this regime. inevitably gives a mechanical turn to the school teaching. A furtherproduct of the Revised Code was a narrowingof the curriculum. inspectors reported that teachers 'stuffed and almost roasted' (Hyndman. p. 30). and monocotyledonous plants' (Lawson & Silver. it will soon be a question whether it can any longer be recognised as an efficient School. a change in the Education Department's regulations. Other teachers secretly trained their pupils so that when they were asked questions they raised their right hands if they knew the correct answer but their left if they did not. as when a teacher caned his entire class for leaving the 'd' out of 'pigeon' on the test. 5 years after the introduction of the Revised Code. 37) (Pupils had to have 200 attendances per year to their credit.

but its implementation was justified by appeals to the principle of 'efficiency'. Western Australia. with reducing costs (termed 'wastage') to the state in education and.. were dominated by the standards and engaged in mechanical forms of pedagogy which slavishlyfollowed key texts. however.. see also Rodwell. whom they suppose to be strongly in favour of this kind of [mechanical] teaching.. p. the 'cult of efficiency' as it came to be called. and also a reduction in the ability of the education system to respond to the needs of Blacks. Teachers' promotion prospects were directly tied to the results obtained by their pupils in the test. Welch practice no doubt be found possible to get the three-fourthsof the one-fifth of the children over six through the examination in grammar. under the banner of efficiency. The introduction of the so-called 'standardsof proficiency'into New South Wales by William Wilkins entailed scrupulously close following of the set requirements by teachers and a similarly close examination of those requirements by the inspectors. and . 107. 230). are afraid to displease their inspectors. p. mechanical teaching methods.. A narrowing of the curriculum in the direction of vocational training was accomplished. without their really knowing any one of these three matters. rural dwellers. away from industry which had been their traditional training ground. too. while the role of inspectors changed from that of mentor to more of an assessor: 'The work of the inspector largely became one of mechanical examining and his reports became mainly based on statistical analysis of results' (Turney. p.. 1981. poor Whites and the growing proportion of immigrants in the US. defeated by the machinerywhich they were obliged to employ. but who were nonetheless . 1969. The Australian schemes. p. Here again. 1969. A second example is the introduction of Taylorism or scientific management into US schools and universitiesin the period around World War I (Callahan. impoverishededucation.162 A. through apprenticeships. (Maclure. the inspectors. Teachers. One of the major effects of the introduction of the scheme was that of '. 1962). The impulse for the introduction of Taylorism into US schools had much more to do with the development of US capitalism at the end of the nineteenth century and the . memorization rather than reasoning. Here. to formal. the payment by results scheme in England and a variety of similar schemes in Australiancolonies at much the same time were not the only ones to use appeals to efficiency as a means to promote business style reforms in education. 231). the impetus came from business interests who were concerned. 1969. encouraging rote learning and the use of mechanical modes of instruction' (Turney.. A critic of the time argued that the fault lay not with the teachers.. 232) In the colony of Victoria payment by results was acknowledged to have achieved 'the encouragement (of) . upon whose reports their bread depended. The schoolmasterswho would fain teach in a more rationalmanner. (Turney.. R. keeping the curriculum narrow' (Barcan. p. 1973. They were bound by the books prescribed to them. 81) The scheme was introduced largely as a means of curbing justified growth in state expenditure on education.. were perhaps bound by the same books in testing the proficiency of the scholars . at the same time.. with shifting the financial burden of training workers. which were introduced into the colonies of New South Wales. many of whom did not wish to teach in such a narrow and instrumental fashion. geography and history. have been characterised as having largely produced similaroutcomes to those achieved in England. Historically. South Australia and Victoria in different forms. 1992).

. 6). books on 'classroom management' were being published and widely read.g. They desire to increase their trade. whereby the best-known school administrators were people like William T. 1962. in practice. rather than an argument based upon education. the navy. great business enterprises (or small business enterprises for that matter)" (Callahan.. US universities were also coming under pressure to reform their practices to be more in tune with the climate of business efficiency. Horace Mann and Henry Barnard. In my own experience I can say that I have known few young men intended for business who were not injured by a collegiate education. p. This meant that. During the period 1900-1925. The Cult of Efficiency Education 163 beginning of the twentieth century and the associated celebration of businessmen and business principles. the manner in which the legitimation of the introduction of business principles into US schools was achieved followed a ratherstandardpattern. This represented a profound change from the practice of the nineteenth century. sometimes quite drastically. (Callahan. and they came to be increasinglydominated by businessmen. 1962. p. 1962. 9) . One last importantarea of change provokedby the rising tide of business ideology in US education at this time was that of curriculumreform. they offer social advantages and business openings to their patrons' (Callahan. of applying business-industrial criteria (e. The fire and energyheve been stamped out of them. it could be arguedthat 'Our universitiesare beginning to be run as business colleges. the ubiquitous school boards were re-fashioned to reflect the climate of business efficiency more closely. which arguedthat classroommanagementmay be looked upon as a 'business problem' and that "unquestionedobedience" was a cardinalprinciple in a fashion which was "entirely analogous to that in any other organization or system-the army. They advertise. In schools. deleterious and impractical nature of college study. One of the principal efforts engaged in by some of the more spectacularly successful businessmen of the time was to make the curriculum more practical.they compete with one another. the National Education Association commenced its symposium on research directions with the topic of a 'Comparison of Modern Business Methods with Educational Methods'. 1962. 1962. consisted of making unfavourable comparisons between the schools and business enterprise. one not very differentfrom the rationale for the introduction of the same principles into the field of local government at much the same time. The argument '. they pretend to give good value to their customers. 7). Two years later. the Atlantic Monthly magazine argued the case strongly: 'The management of school affairsis a large business involving in a city of 100. Carnegie was particularly severe in his condemnation of the wasteful.whose fame derived principallyfrom their work as educational scholars and reformers. 6). p.000 annually. whose major brief they saw as the renovation of school administrationalong business lines. In 1903. p. Had they gone into active work during the years spent at college they would have been better educated men in every sense of that in the case of the Boston School Board which was cut from 24 to five members. and of suggesting that business and industrialpractices be adopted by educators' (Callahan. By 1910. Harris. the same business principles adopted in modem industry should be employed here' (Callahan.000 inhabitants an expenditure of probably $500. economy and efficiency) to education. and how to so manage as to live a life of idleness and not a life of usefulness has become the chief question with them. Well-known figures such as Andrew Carnegie or Vanderbilt or Rockefeller argued that their success had nothing to do with 'book learning' or 'mere scholastic learning' but was based on good old fashioned common sense together with the kind of business acumen which could not be taught in schools. two principal changes tended to characterisethese reforms:school boards were cut in size. p. 7). By 1907.

two strategies suggested themselves: either to import foreign labour (particularlyfrom Germany. became increasingly alarmed at the paucity of skilled personnel which was available to service the needs of an industrialisingeconomy. the industrialistsdid not wish to adopt the financial burden of training US youth themselves. the tactic adopted was to press the state to adopt the burden. as lacking in public spirit. The contradictions in this argument. In the case of US schools and universities. In the other case discussed.. In the first instance. The arroganceof the manufacturerswas two-fold-first. 1962. in condemning the schools for not doing what . And why? Because the public schools are not training artisans-doing the work that had been done by employers of labour for thousands of years. arguably. Although there were those educationists who preached the need to resist the power of the 'almightydollar'. had never before been considered the duty of the schools to do. nonetheless the dominant mood was one of increasing accommodation to the business mentality. as inefficient. pp. R. efficiency was seen as both the promotion of the business ethic within schools (in terms of specific revisions to the curriculumand to the overall value . From here it was but a step to the introduction of the 'efficiency expert' into schools (Callahan. Here. the Revised Code (or payment by results scheme) was introduced as a means of curbing the increasing call upon state finances at a time of the extension of elementary education to the British working class. that appeals to the principle of efficiency often mask underlying arguments which are of a more directly economistic form. To inhibit the spread of elementary schooling among the industrialproletariatcould be seen. US business interests. having consistently failed to invest in the training of apprentices. the arguments about efficiency were at least as central. the rhetoric supporting this change was somewhat different. .. 15-17. 1962.. in demanding that the state. and 153-178). fill[ing] the pockets of the manufacturers [through tariff protection]. (Callahan. to be both unjust and inefficient with respect to the development of British industry. Indeed.. but took a somewhat different form. This accommodation to the demands of business also meant the proliferationof more vocational courses in schools. 10). which hinged around the notion of efficiency. at least for those 70% of pupils who did not go on to high school..It was suggested that business English could usefully be substituted for composition and that business principles. tired of the carping criticisms of the manufacturers. although clearly it could reasonablybe argued that the potential increase in expenditure on education was quite justified and efficient.. However. whose technical and industrial education was universally admired) or to train the future workers in the US. 13-14) What the two historical examples discussed above reveal are something of the contradictions involved in the arguments about efficiency in education. in contrast to the claims of those who invoked the claims of efficiency. Thus. particularlyGerman competitors (Welch. In particular. Welch In the years after 1900. and second. Given this lack. the dominance of which was coming under increasing threat from foreign competitors. At least for this group and. p. efficiency was defended in precisely these terms by Robert Lowe. they and their agents in unmeasured terms denounced the public schools as behind the age. the examples reveal. pp. after . were occasionally pointed out by educationists. should then proceed to pay the bills for training their workmen. in different ways. 1962. 'efficiency' was defined rather differently.164 A. as a first step to secure their ends. pressure to renovate the curriculumof both schools and universities along practical and utilitarianlines grew ever stronger. However.for all pupils the 'love of learning' should be subordinated to the 'love of earning' (Callahan. 1981). contracts and bookkeeping be instituted in schools.

which was to be replaced by a more practical curriculum. the public schools were derided for their inefficiency with respect to the provision of that narrow technical training which was desired by US manufacturers. While education is indeed an industry. these moves were partlydefended on the basis that institutions would thus be encouraged to become more responsive and. a narrowingand vocationalisingof the curriculumand an instrumentalconcern with enhanced system performance. The concept of efficiency includes measurement of university production (of knowledge). the changes were economically and politically driven by conservative political interests and/or business. in more than a merely financial sense. particularlyfrom Commonwealth countries such as Malaysia and Nigeria.At the same time. however. and the test of relevance includes making what is researched (and taught) useful to the national economy. by a concentration on economics and business ideologies rather than a form of efficiency and effectiveness which comprehended equity. p. (p. This is a chapter of educational history . The Cult of Efficiency Education 165 system) and a reduction in emphasis on mere academic learning. reflect some of the preoccupations of the earlier 'efficiency' reformersin education. against these moves towards 'efficiency' was so strong that a subsequent package of amendments (the so-called 'Pym package') was introduced to ameliorate its effects. The fact that the efficiency proposals discriminated against traditionally marginal groups was of little interest to the manufacturing and business interests. In both cases. The worldwide reaction. 246) Policy changes in several areas of higher education since the 1980s reveal the hidden characterof appeals to the principle of efficiency. In both cases. are by no means the only examples of economically driven efficiency movements in elsewhere. and when overseas student enrolments fell substantially. recent and ongoing reform movements in the UK and Australia. migrants or Blacks. then. when the same government withdrew an estimated ?100 000 000 (Williams. when policies to introduce full cost fees for overseas students were proposed by the Conservative Government in the late 1970s and early 1980s. 1981. so-called 'efficiency' was achieved at the cost of effectiveness.Course viability was threatened in numbers of institutions in higher education and higher degree enrolments. Indeed. the quality and quantity of education was reduced. 167). traditionallystrongly represented by overseas students. the argumentsabout efficiencyreduced to forms of economism which in practice restrictedthe participationof fringe groups such as the working class. Efficiency for the manufacturersconsisted of shifting the burden for technical training from their own shoulders to that of the state. particularlyfrom the Third World. As Cowen (1996b) argued succinctly: The universityreform movement in the 1980s and 1990s is centred around making university systems efficient and relevant. In both cases. efficient.despite the fact that schools had never seen such specific vocational training as their brief. an increased business influence. however. 1962. In each case. In the UK. if it is allowed to become simply a business it becomes impoverished. Efficiency and Performativity: contemporary higher education The two historical and comparativeexamples treated above reveal that efficiency movements have coalesced around an agenda of cost containment. The above examples. hence. for reasons which had little if anything to do with the quality of education. The vice-chancellors and principals of higher educational institutions concerned could have been forgiven for thinking otherwise. 261) in funds. were much reduced. for whom questions of equity were outweighed by considerations of economics (Callahan.

Indeed 'the UFC demanded a clear link between efficiency. 1987. quantifiable economic gains (Miller. R. moves to concentrateresearcheffort. In the UK too. since a . by taking from the existing limited research cake and enriching a few selected research teams at the expense of all other researchers (Walford. could not substitute for the lack of governmentfunding. p. government argued that industry should be funding more research. Although funding cutbacks proved more severe in the UK than Australia. 1992). In the UK and Australia in recent years higher education has been under attack from several quarters. 1994. efficiency is once more the stick with which education is being chastised. Once again too. Even an Australian Government decision to grant a 150% tax exemption to industry for its research. inter alia. 7-8). partly in response to fiscal crises in both the UK and Australia (Altbach & Lewis. A furtherexample of the incorporationof 'efficiency'principles into higher education in the UK has been the institution of the centralised Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council (PCFC) and the Universities Funding Council (UFC) in the late 1980s. and the allocation of further growth' (Pritchard. As state funds for research were reduced (Peters.166 A. 1995a. p. see also Peters.public funding of basic research is suffering in both systems and the situation is unlikely to improve. the reality of efficiency belies the rhetoric. 1988. In this context. as the rise of a 'user-pays' ethos in higher education has licensed the significantrelativereduction in public funding over the last decade. That researchwhich is conducted in industrytends to be very mission oriented. necessitating. p. however. Despite rising retention rates at senior secondary levels in Australia and substantial growth in higher education enrolments in the decade from the early 1980s (Sheehan & Welch. in neither country did industry step in to fill the breach. pp.This motivation for and style of such attacksis not unique to either country. 1988). There is a clear danger in too heavy a reliance upon quantitative performance indicators. but there are some parallels between the British and Australian situations (Welch. the period of the 1980s and 1990s has been one in which 'universities and polytechnics were encouraged to increase overall student numbers while reducing per capita costs' (Miller. Welch upon which many Australianinstitutions have reflected. Certainly. 54). 1986c. The researcharena is another where argumentsregardingefficiencyhave abounded over the last decade or more. 1986). Clearly. provoking campaigns such as 'Save British Science' in the UK TimesHigher EducationSupplement. expressed by a university'sproportion of fees-only students. Yet it is precisely on these grounds that the changes are being defended. while important. 1996. universitiesare still being told that they must do more with less. largely from the Asia Pacific region. Miller. 1-2). 1995a. despite evidence that they have been doing so already for the past decade (Committee of Inquiry. the 1987 UK White Paper made this connection explicit: 'higher education should serve the economy more efficiently' and should 'take increasing account of the economic requirements of the country' (Department of Education and Science. can hardly be seen as efficient. efficiency is being used as a legitimatingideology to defend reductions in expenditureswhich are considered necessaryby the state. leaving basic research largely untouched. It is notable that both of the new bodies contained a 'greater representation of business interests than the former bodies' (Miller. 6). the latter replacing the University Grants Committee. in an era of declining resources and overall lack of economic growth. pp. with a growing emphasis in each system upon research which issues in short-term. a markedly greater emphasis upon the recruitment of full-fee-paying international students. Without pursuing all these parallels here. p. 46). according to often inaccurate quantitativeperformanceindicators (TheAustralian. 1992). see also Walford. 255. 43. 1988). 1997a). 1996. Indeed. 1995b). 1995b). p.

p. There is no doubt that the implementationof the Jarratproposalsin the UK in the 1980s achieved preciselythis in many British institutions and was exacerbatedby moves to rate individual university departments according to supposed research excellence (Times Higher Education Supplement. the proportion of tenured staff in that country has declined from 81% in the early 1980s to less than 60% a decade later (Sheehan & Welch. pp.the effects of the implementation of the changed staffingarrangementscould well be to weaken the principle of equity in institutions of higher education and. research and support personnel have declined in number. p. 55) In Australia too. p. similar pressures have also seen increasing use made of part-time and short-term contracts. as other institutions in society. And indeed this weakening seems to have been one purpose of the British proposals: 'The intention is that a department having been designated as weak by the UGC the university should be obliged to take some action. Experience suggests that the costs of such reviews are no less substantial in . 1992). In turn. 57-58) based on poorly defended efficiency arguments of economies of scale. tenure was effectively abolished in the UK for all new and promoted staff (Pritchard. became increasingly underfunded and there are moves to break the nexus between teaching and research through the creation of a species of teaching-only academics. pp. thus. but who can no longer expect promotion in universitieswithout a substantialresearchprofile. Paradoxically. 1988. Once again. queried the timing and underlying intent of such reforms at a time of severe financial constraints and increasingly strident attacks upon public sector expenditures.. Peters. it attracted the ire of the Australian Industrial Relations Court (AIRC) (The Australian. 60). this was paralleled in the UK to some extent: '. 1996. 1986a. 1-5. 44). in late 1997. 1996. Research. the institutions of which they are a part. 103). both at the national scientific research organisation (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) and within Australianuniversities. 1995a. 1990. This brief sketch of the changes in Australianand UK higher education in recent years reveals the covert characterof efficiency. Many. 36). 1995b. untenured staff fortunate enough still to have positions felt the chill winds of financial stringency ever more closely. These amalgamations led to much discontent and difficulties among academic staff and were undertakenwithout much consultation or the funding necessary to provide for the training of staff who were faced with new expectations and without a real increase in research funds to be apportioned specifically to that group of ex-college academics for whom research had traditionallynot been an expectation and who largely did not receive funds for that purpose. p. levels of support for tertiary students have fallen and academic staffing has declined (Walford. whether financed from the public or private sector. at the same time. In addition. p. however. 1996. p. 1988) and then tie a proportionof the institution's overall grant to this rating.The Cult of Efficiency in Education 167 perfectlyreasonableresponse on the part of universitieswould be 'to develop course appraisal systems which record performance in just those terms' (Barnett. and the weak weaker' (TimesHigherEducationSupplement 1986b. which was so excessive that. 1995a. 165) and part-time staff (Miller.Virtuallyno-one seriouslyopposed the principle that institutions of higher education should be run efficiently and effectively. either to strengthenit or to punish it. 1994) and increasing use made of short-term contract staff (Miller. Institutional amalgamations were forced upon often reluctant universitiesand colleges (Sheehan & Welch. there is pressure on academic staff in the former colleges and polytechnics to obtain Ph. despite the fact that many were recruited essentially as teachers' (Miller. In the name of efficient planning ('staff flexibility'). p. to reduce the effectiveness and efficiency of individual departments and. The idea is that the strong should grow strong(er). 1997b). Increasing cost pressures for cost containment meant that university libraries found it increasingly difficult to maintain services and stock at traditionallevels.. Neave. 1-23). often dismissed as 'wastage' (Welch.D's and engage in research.

Immediately. Welch Australia (Miller. 1994. 393) and research based upon the application of economic calculations. 152-158) or what. one fundamentalprinciple [as] . however. is ubiquitous.. Edding (1964) admitted that educators at times 'confuse economics with economies' (p. such 'quality' audits can lead to the opposite effect: 'a decline in standardsbecause of the great effort involved in satisfying the formal bureaucratic demands of the procedure' (Pritchard. rather than its counter. costs are high: the former vice-chancellor of a British university estimated that the costs to British universities of such efficiency audits were in the order of 'a third of an average sized university's teaching capacity.. One of the most basic of these assumptions is the implicit correlationof efficiency with both economism and rationality. 1988). and not merely in narrowly economic terms. paradoxically.. This conventional division between facts and values and the argument that research must be value free is part of . however. 393).. p. some have argued that social Darwinism is neither the most complete nor the most humane method of promoting genuine efficiency and effectiveness in higher educational institutions (Van Vught & Maassen. in stating his '. Is this the kind of efficiency to be promoted in our universities? For at least a decade. p. The costs of compliance by universities with forms of surveillancefostered by what has been termed the 'intrusive state' (Barnett. One consequence of this approach is that values are implicitly consigned to the realm of the irrationaland must not be allowed to interferewith the development of research. Equity. How has it operated and what effects did it have on the forms of analysis in which it was incorporated? One of the earlier explorations of the theme of efficiency within the literature of comparativeeducation was by an economist concerned with extending the range of quantitative applications in comparative education. a stand he criticised as unjustifiable. pp. productivity. he was faced with problems which were not addressed adequately.) However. In contrast. 1990. however. 1995b) and that. 1994. has been characterised as the triumph of the technology of total quality management [TQM] (Sheehan. in the Australian context. is likely to weaken seriously overall morale.The notion that values are also an area of rational research is anathema.' (Edding. Even in a financial sense. 393). p. '. 50 researchers'work and almost ?250 000 a year in photocopying' (Pritchard. 394). in particularcost analytics. as well as the excessive reliance upon narrow and quantitativeperformanceindicators.. an investment in equity can be seen as contributing to increased efficiency. choice and resources for basic research. is an important part of efficiency.(Some of the examples raised above may.. 1964. 1964. 1996) are substantial.. R.. 1964.. In the literatureof comparativeeducation the concept of efficiency has also been an important theme at certain points. it can be argued. the confusion of 'rational principles' (Edding. p.' (Edding. as examples of business investment in programmes of equal opportunity reveal. to achieve given ends with a minimum of resources and energy . as is often currently asserted by business groups and the media interests they control. in his own argument. A large part of the problem in Edding's (1964) argumentlies in its implicit assumptions.168 A.the creation and imposition of a marketin higher education. 258). 258). On the contrary. p. I formed the conclusion that this subject [efficiency] is nearest to the core of economics . The Theme of Efficiency in Comparative Educational Literature It is not merely in the area of contemporary policies in higher education that one may recognise the hidden agenda which lies behind the theme of efficiency. be seen to present some justificationsfor this apparentconfusion on the part of educators.

Values then are central to the consideration of efficiency in education. p. can be characterised as reductionist. this was not the only example of this process whereby efficiency was used as a basic organisingprinciple in comparativeresearch.. Giddens. 1972. and the efficient exclusion of that particularfactor known as experimental enthusiasm. equally substitutable. a strict isolation of factors . But they should not be allowed to hinder research' (Edding. 1970a. 1979). Organisationfor Economic Co-operation and Development. and .. these values. As in the social sciences more generally.. Within positivism. Given that education has to do with both 'growthprocess of body and mind. The Cult of Efficiency Education 169 Edding's (1964) implicit or unwitting adoption of the centuries-old positivist paradigm in which such dualities are rigidly preserved as the basis upon which research proceeds and in which all values (beyond that of a taken for granted scientism) are of equal worth. will determine what counts as efficiency within any particulareducation system. One of the more important chapters in the annals of comparativeeducation has been that of the influence of theories informed by functionalist precepts. in which simple measures of productivity would ignore questions of inequality based upon race. of which Edding (1964) was so shy. in the sense that the understanding of efficiency in education is reduced to the implementation of economistic principles. to which positivists are so committed. particularlywith reference to questions such as that of equity and freedom. The model of research which was indeed commended by Edding (1964) is of a conventionally positivist form: experimentalresearchand development as is to be found in industryand the natural sciences . 395). (then) allowances should be made for such values. the measurementof efficiencywithin a system dedicated to equity would be based upon different principles from one based upon market principles. Other problems raised by Edding's (1964) statement of the problem were further direct products of his tacit adoption of the positivist paradigm. 400) Edding's (1964) work. within education the determination of values affects the very way in which the education system functions. this size can be put into the formula as a fixed factor' (Edding. Perhaps one of the most major is consequences of Edding's (1964) adoption of positivism as his modusoperandi the question of the resolution of values. But what kind of research?By strictlyseparatingthe collection of facts from the question of values. Edding's (1964) failure to recognise that economism itself is a value lies behind his inability to deal with the question of values in his own research. Indeed. 1988). However. does one admit the role of values in education and yet not allow them to intrude into the supposedly technical issues of efficiency? Edding's (1964) answer to this genuine dilemma was that of the conventional positivist. values are not seen to fall within the parametersof 'research'. 1964. then. within positivism values are all of equal worth (and non-worth) and.Thus. As was argued above.. beyond ritually assertingthat ends are given. sex or class. since these are seen as quite outside the sphere of 'facts' or data.. controlled experiments with sufficientlylarge numbers of groups under various conditions . How. 394-395). thus.. then. Carr-Hill & Magnussen.However. Nor was it the only example in which efficiency masked the primacy of an underlying economism. Edding (1964) was already committing himself to one research tradition. 'If a certain size of school seems for non-economic reasons desirable. For example. within positivism there can be no rational discussion of values. spiritual values. a position admitted by scholars working in the areas of social indicators and indicators of performance in education (Olkinuora. all equally substitutable (Habermas. 1973.. pp. when Edding (1964) came to this question he was predictablysilent. 1964. functionalist assumptions were most influential in comparativeeducation in the post-war period . (p..

ex-colonial groups who seek economic stabilityin their own interest ratherthan genuine reform and democratic. but by the local bourgeoisie and by foreign. We have argued that the persistence of poverty. p. 1975. Indeed. 1983. by arguing that the efficiency of the state is rarelyneutral. p. 7). but the direct product of that development. 1985). in fact contains its own value system. for efficiency. as captured in the following quotations. one of the major disagreementsbetween Carnoy and Foster is over the question of efficiency. Epstein (1983) argued. 7). p. Systemic efficiency was a paramount concern within functionalist theory and legitimated a view of social change as slow. functionalists reduce education to a formula of technical efficiency: producing the correct number of graduateswith both the right blend of skills and a commitment to the given social system and hierarchy.Any major forms of social change were considered to be disruptive of social order and efficiency and to be dysfunctional. 396) We have also argued that the educational system in capitalist society is inefficient since it is unable to legitimize completely the inequalities of capitalism. Epstein (1983) examined some of these issues in the context of debates between Philip Foster and Martin Carnoy. As is well known. Likewise. It is here that the real meaning of efficiencyis again made clear. decentralizeddecision making' (Epstein. This inefficiency is contradictoryto continued capitalist growth and can be exploited to make further capitalist control difficult and to raise consciousness of the need to dismantle the existing production system. The notion of efficiency was an important organising principle within functionalist theory. the analogy was biological: just as species evolved slowly over hundreds and thousands of generations in order to suit their environment (with negligible change over any single generation). pp.while seen by figures such as Foster to be a value-free concept. in particularmodernisation theory (Welch. Implicitly then. schooling may be an efficientproducerof well-socialised and technicallyskilled individuals while still serving 'as an important part of the state's repressive apparatus by socializing and cognitively preparinglabour for the capitalist production of goods' (Epstein. . so too. accretive and evolutionary. as it is assumed to be within functionalist theory: '.. consensually held values in society. 1975.170 A. it was argued.. which is antithetical to functionalist concepts of integration and unitary. R. (Carnoy. Anything more was inefficient in terms of adaptationto the exigencies of the external environment. Teachers as 'middle management' and state distribution of knowledge along class lines is something which functionalists with their deep and erroneous commitment to value-free analysis cannot afford to acknowledge. with minimal changes. unemployment. 1983. Carnoy recognised the contradiction in Foster's position here. Welch and dominated particularareas of specialisation. (Carnoy. referredto a notion of class. Foster. 7). society must also evolve slowly. betrays conventional functionalist concerns by arguing for a view of the market system as the most fair and reasonable and conducive to economic growth and development: 'Interferenceby the state into the workings of the market erodes the inherent equitability and efficiency of that system and is therefore usually unwarranted'(p. and differential access to schooling is not the result of inefficiencies in capitalist development. 396-397) Carnoy's (1975) assessment that teachers are one of the principalforms of social control and that the state parcels out knowledge differentiallyto different groups in society. the state in non-socialist developing countries is controlled not by disinterested parties.

pp. In Australia. Said. economics as well as other sciences can easily appeal to their status qua sciences to claim extra legitimacy for their findings. we must continue to assert a genuine and humane efficiency and effectiveness and resist the imposition of a The Cult of Efficiency Education 171 Conclusion At a time when advanced industrialisedeconomies such as the UK and Australia. the power of Taylorism (see above. As Pusey (1991) and others have argued. 1995. p.. if the claim is thereby accepted that economics can be appealed to as a means of deciding whether to proceed with a policy (in education) or not. It rests upon a rhetoric of [institutional]autonomy. Currie. but often hidden side. pp. 1976. utilitarianand instrumentalistform of education by those who. migrants. wish nothing more than to justifythe reduction of warranted state expendituresin (higher) education or to reduce the economic and social costs of equity in education and return to an earlierera in which social hierarchywas less malleable than in the twentieth century. In fact. Welch. 'responsiveness'. blacks. 'efficiency'. there is a danger in allowing economics to masquerade as rationality. 'international competitiveness'. It also provides a mechanism for driving down educational expenditures which draws upon a discourse of efficiency and which effectivelyuses the proceduresof competitive formula . [individual]freedom of choice but delivers a very effective means of surrogate control. As in the opening quotation of this article. payment by results and TQM as reform movements in education. Gewirtz et al. 9-11. in large part. More than this. This phenomenon explains. 1-23) and displacing other more traditionalforms of rationality. 162). as against the interests of business and government to prune (higher) education furtherat the cost of those groups alreadydisadvantaged:women. however.. towards ones of economics and business management. the cult of efficiency often masks an particularthose which included an ethical component containing some vision of the 'good life'. 'managerialism' 'flexibility'. 1993) and there is increasing pressure to deregulate wages and conditions. as the historical and comparative case studies of both schools and universities reveal. In so doing. youth and the poor (Maclean et al. technicist conception of education which resists any incursions by criteria of equity or social or individual development.. Secondly and associated with the first point. 1996. 1990. many have argued that educators and intellectuals need to continue campaigning strongly to reassert genuine efficiency and effectiveness in education. The current imposition of business and marketprinciples of efficiency upon schools and universities results in predictable distortions of the principles of social justice and equality. 1994. As more than one recent scholar has pointed out. 1996. and . Appeals to efficiency can license attacks upon the very education system which it is supposed to enhance. weaken unions and reduce resources in the public sector. Offe. the implication which should be derived from the above argumentand the associated illustrationsis that as educators. the UK and the USA the rhetoric of efficiency now often belies the reality of attacks upon the public sector and principles of equality of opportunity.indeed the modem state itself.. 1998) among those who reveal at the same time an interest in reducing public sector expenditures in areas such as education and welfare. is under strain (Habermas. efficiency reveals its own value system very clearly and gives the lie to its own claims regarding its value-free nature. What has been argued and illustrated throughout this article is that the theme of efficiency in education has an ugly. then it has succeeded in representing rationality or rational choices between different social goals (Welch. 1998b). under the cloak of an illusory efficiency (economism). 'TQM' and 'economy' are terms much in vogue (Sheehan.

educational institutions are not immune to its effects. 1995. as their work is increasingly confined within systems of management. K. economistic form of rationality: cost containment. however. and introduces. Significant reforms in education in Australia. 1998.172 A. the commodification of knowledge and disempowerment and perhaps deskilling of educational workers. Such efficiency measures are accompanied by increasinglycomplex systems of appraisalof educational workers (teachers and academics) (Barnett. however. 1995. Business interests are. under such influences. 1997). Hartley. then.1997). (Gewirtz et al. it is arguably the case that the reforms were imposed in circumstances whereby education conceived as 'less part of social policy. impoverishment. Mok 1997).in reality. on the other (hand). consists of four main principles:efficiency. do more with less. be responsive to market forces. a common management of regulation across the private and public sectors based on a non-principled self interest. the ideology of the market is introduced by. once more. but was increasingly viewed as a sub-sector of economic policy' (Neave. endless) processes of so-called quality improvement. 166). fails to hide the outcomes of an underlying instrumental. neovocationalism. 9-12) termed the McDonaldisation of society. p. engage in entrepreneurial activities and engage in ongoing (indeed. which surfaced again in England in mid-1997 (Guardian Weekly. Individual institutions are left with the freedom to manage their own contraction. In each instance. p. which are overwhelmed by the technical imperative of system efficiency. predictabilityand the substitution of non-human technology for human controls. As the cloud of economic globalisation casts its lengthening shadow on both advanced industrial nations and the developing world at the end of the twentieth century (Martin & Schumann. 190) We see in the above quotation echoes of prior episodes when efficiency was used as a tool with which to refashion schools and universities along business lines. Welch funding to disguise cuts in public expenditure. via techniques of self assessment and regulation. public accountability and some kind of responsiveness to state and market. 1988. not altogether a surpriseto find a clear echo of the resistance by teachers in mid-nineteenth century England to the punitive effects of the Revised Code in allegations of teacher-assisted cheating at national tests of 11 year olds. 274). neutrality and objectivityrepresentedby such mechanisms of efficiency. technicist notions of efficiency. pp. which. however. such as the insecurity of (full-time) employment. R. it is still possible to . The mask of rationality. Furthermore. It is. is blind to questions of social justice and equality. as well as to the damaging human and social effects of these narrower. 1995b. Increasing criticalattention is now being paid to the applicationof this ideology and processes to schools and. 1995). they have been part of a much broader reshaping of the social order. increased stress and anxiety and a sense of powerlessness (Rees. p. schools and universities (like other social institutions) are pressed to be more efficient: to work better. he argued. one of whose principal tasks is to increase productivityby forcing workers continually to do more with less. These processes fit reasonably well with what Ritzer (1993. The moral technology (Ball.. in which education has been expected to help 'reduce public sector expendituresand. which are particularly experienced by socially marginal groups in society. increasingly influential on school and university councils and. more recently. to improve the economic performance and competitiveness of business' (Miller. the UK and the US over the 1980s and 1990s have been justifiedby appeals to business principles of efficiency. While recognising the need for efficient and effective decision making. 1990) of TQM (and like forms of business technology). to the academic profession (Currie.-H. quantificationand calculability. 1996) and a reduction in their professional autonomy.

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