Educational Policy

Human engagements have been characterized by rules and guidelines for a long period of time now. The processes involved in the setting out of these regulations take different forms and may vary from one country to another depending on how people are expected to interact and address the various challenges that may arise.

The guidelines are usually referred to as public policies since they are expected to provide general direction to the members of the public and to ensure social order (May, 2001). The process of formulating, formalization and implementation has proved to be a daunting task since each sector in the society has its own unique policies (Cockrel, 2004). Different stakeholders in the society that may be affected by the policies must be engaged in one way or another in the public policy formulation process.

The essay seeks to discuss and rate the influence of the legislative bodies, leadership, the justice system, as well as the bureaucracy on the formulation and implementation of educational policies. It will briefly discuss the general pattern in the public policy-making process. The influence of other entities, for instance interest groups, political parties, and the media will also be considered.

Public policy-making process is a product of interactions as well as dynamics among different actors, interest groups, public and private institutions and other technical processes preceding the enactment and interpretation of any public policy. Numerous definitions of policy and policy-making process have been used depending on the context.

For the purposes of this essay, a policy shall be defined as either an explicit or implicit decision or decisions made by a group that lays out the instructions for guiding the subsequent decisions, regulate actions, or monitoring prior decisions reached (Ben-Peretz, 2008). The process of making policies, therefore, varies in complexity as well as scope and the dynamics involved must be acknowledged. A number of models have been designed to provide a general format followed in the process of formulating a given public policy.

The stages involved are well sequenced from the primary level to the ultimate enactment, implementation and interpretation of the policies (Schmidt, Shelly & Crain, 2009). There are five major components in any of these models and they include; problem advocacy, the opponents, the concerned authorities, the implementation, and interpretation/evaluation of the given public policy (Cockrel, 2004).

The first step is the problem identification phase which involves the definition of the issue at hand that the policy will seek to address. This can be done by the concerned/line authorities, institutions, or activists. The advocates of a specified issue will raise people’s awareness and hence recruiting more of them into their course. The target number of people depends on the scope of the problem and the anticipated policy.

The next step involves the proposal of available alternatives for addressing the problems or conditions at hand. These proposals will provide a frame of action in alleviating the identified crisis. The third phase is the identification of appropriate authorities that will engineer the process of policy formulation. The concerned authorities will appoint/design a committee to investigate the problem and establish the magnitude.

It will also be expected to offer a refined list of recommendations for addressing the crisis. The authorities play a central role in determining the progress of the process because they can choose to take the proposals or decline to act. In order to keep the process moving, the advocates continue with the popularization process to gain a wider support from the members of the public. The public mood has been found to be a great determinant of the success in any major public reforms (Denhardt, 2008).

The process of advocacy usually encounters opposition of almost equal magnitude and hence defining another force. The model acknowledges the role of opposition since it plays a significant role in the entire process of policy formation and implementation (Cockrel, 2004). The opposition camp may emerge at any particular stage and the sequence parallels that of the policy advocates.

In most cases, the stages are similar since the opponents may emerge right at the first phase of problem identification, then proposals to counter those of the advocates are made and served to the appropriate authorities. After submitting their alternatives, the opponents will seek to expand their support base to rally against the advocates for policy formation.

The fifth phase is composed of three sections; decision by the authority, implementation, and evaluation. The concerned government authority and the policy makers engage in extensive deliberations with an aim of weighing the situation at hand (Cockrel, 2004). It is at this sub-stage that conflicts/oppositions and dilemmas emerge resulting in shifts in balance between major stakeholders like powerful people and activist groups in the society.

According to Ben-Peretz, these encounters may lead to either the implementation or decline of the proposed policy (2008). With successful negotiations and compromise among the concerned parties, the line authority issues a final decision on the policy. It is important to note that the sequences listed above provide just a general trend but it does not outline a strict step by step format to be followed (Denhardt, 2008).

Once the new policy is enacted it becomes publicly binding and the next stage is its implementation. It will be the responsibility of the authorities to monitor the implementation of the policy. There are two methods through which the policy can be implemented. The first is the revolutionary method where there is immediate transformation of an organization or institution following a top-down format (Ben-Peretz, 2008).

This approach is common in cases where the problem is identified by the authorities themselves. The other method is the evolutionary mode which normally results in a slow bottom-up transformation of the institution’s working pattern. The effectiveness of any policy is in its interpretations. Since all policies are developed to address specific problems, they ought to be evaluated for efficiency and relevance. This is done in the last stage of evaluating the implemented policy.

The evaluation process is usually done by the stakeholders; the advocates, opponents, or other interest groups. Formal methods of evaluation which include the collection of data and their analysis are usually employed. Alternatively, informal approaches like the subjective evaluation of citizens’ opinions about the new policy may be used (Schmidt et al., 2009). The findings from the evaluation stage will be used in gauging the general performance of the policy and the necessary changes effected accordingly.

As evidenced by the preceding discussion, the process of formulating and implementing any public policy involves several parties who may either be in agreement or holding different opinions about a given policy. In the formulation and implementation of an educational policy, a number of parties are usually at the center of the deliberations (Ben-Peretz, 2008).

Some of the stakeholders may include; the legislative bodies, the leadership, the justice system, and the bureaucracy (Dye, 2002). Other influential parties are the interest/activist groups, political parties, and the media.

It is clear that education takes many different forms for varying intentions and in many institutions. There is the early childhood education, first to twelfth grade studies, between two to four year college or university education, postgraduate and professional studies, pedagogical education as well as training for a specific job. This implies that education policies affect people across all ages and sectors related to education (Cockrel, 2004).

In the process of formulating educational policies for schools, issues such as the size of the school, student-teacher ratio, school control-either private or public, teacher training and certification, teaching approaches, nature of curricular and the content, qualifications for graduation, investment in infrastructural development, and the ethical values that schools are expected to observe(Dye, 2002).

The different parties have quite a significant difference when it comes to influencing the policy formulation and implementation process. The power of the legislative bodies like the members of government such as presidents or the Ministers of Education really play a central role in determining the fate of proposed educational policies (Ben-Peretz, 2008).

They are expected to ensure the formulation and enactment of good policies that will ensure both economic and social progress among the people. The legislature may be regarded as one of the most influential in the formulation of educational policies as well as their implementation and evaluation (Silver, 1990).

The legislative bodies are responsible for the enactment of rules and regulations that monitor educational practices at virtually all levels of government authorities. The legislature provides educational guidelines that are implemented in a top-down sequence since the policies are formulated by highly trained and skilled people. Normally, the legislative branches include the city councils, state legislature, or the Congress. In some situations, the legislative may be an executive agency or a court.

Understanding how the legislative bodies work in the formulation and implementation of educational policies is very important. The members are responsible for the identification of a given problem or condition that need to be addressed. A committee of experts is constituted and charged with the responsibility of investigating the problem and to make appropriate recommendations (Denhardt, 2008). The investigators collect different people’s opinions and analyze them before arriving at the recommendations.

Within a specified period of time, the committee avails its findings to the legislative bodies for consideration. It is at this stage that the legislature may opt to adopt the recommendations or decline to act on them. The final decision is then declared to the public for implementation. The new policies have clear steps for their implementation. The process of effecting the changes may be either long term (evolutionary mode) or within a short period of time which is also referred to as the revolutionary mode of implementation (Ben-Peretz, 2008).

In most cases, policies released to the public as legislative decrees or by executive orders are normally expected to be implemented with minimal resistance. Another influence of the legislature is in the fact that they are also the ones who receive the proposals from the advocates for change in the educational sector. However, given the numerous number of stakeholders in the education sector, some educational policies may be rejected and hence hampering with the implementation stage.

Moreover, legislative bodies are in direct control of government’s educational resources and may influence their distribution. Availing the resources may hasten the policy implementation process (Wilson, 2008). The legislative bodies at different levels of the society exert proportionate power on the formulation and implementation of educational policies.

The role of state legislature, for instance, is to review the policies in educational institutions and agencies and may issue orders for policy improvement. Any issues and problems arising from the educational sector are part of the agenda for the legislative bodies (Ben-Peretz, 2008). It is also evident that the legislatures respond to natural disasters, research findings, and other crises in education and trigger the formulation of appropriate policies.

The other source of influence of the legislative bodies is the fact that they are acknowledged as public decision-making organs (Wilson, 2008). They are therefore responsible for making the final decisions or policy choice with reference to the alternatives proposed by other stakeholders in the educational sector. They have to harmonize the often competing interests and opinions from the different actors in education.

Once they have formulated a given educational policy, the legislative bodies forward the new policy to the executive agencies which will facilitate their implementation (Wilson, 2008). When the legislators are forced to determine policies by voting, they would always be guided by the wishes of their constituents. The legislature holds a central role since they can assign duties, even to the executive by legislation.

Although the legislative bodies have been demonstrated to wield a lot of power in the policy formulation process, they do not have direct influence when it comes to the implementation of the new policies/laws (Schmidt et al., 2009). Other government agencies will be monitoring the implementation of the prescribed educational policies. The legislative bodies are therefore very effective in influencing educational policy formation, particularly during the formulation stage.

The second party that has influence on educational policy formulation and implementation process is the society’s leadership. The work of a leader is to have a vision of the future together with its associated challenges and to define and lead the way towards a brighter course.

In this respect, leaders of organizations, educational institutions, and political parties, among others must be in a position to identify issues and problems in the societal sectors (Wilson, 2008). They also propose alternative ways of addressing the problems and forwarding them to the legislative bodies for consideration.

The president as the leader of the states or a country has inherent discretionary powers to influence the policy formulation and implementation process. Most national leaders in the world have been known to influence the policies affecting education, and mostly through executive orders. They champion the legislation of appropriate policies that will bring meaningful transformation to the education sector (Silver, 1990).

Furthermore, governors, city managers, and mayors in most states and cities have overwhelming discretionary policy-making power. These leadership positions are elective and hence carry with it some public good will necessary to identify issues and problems as well as recommend solutions on their behalf (Wilson, 2008). This implies that the leaders will strive to ensure the enactment of universal access to basic education policy, subsidized higher education, guidelines for proper teacher training, as well as policies for adult education.

Leaders seeking elective positions usually have well written manifestos of how they will address societal problems, educational challenges included (Silver, 1990). Once they are elected, they are faced with the challenge of fulfilling the promises and hence they formulate policies for legislation purposes.

During the advocacy for a given transformation in the education sector, there is usually a leader who motivates people to agitate for the formation and implementation of policies. In order to give the necessary support to express the seriousness of their call, the leader recruits more people from the society so as to overcome any opposition forces that may emerge (Ben-Peretz, 2008).

Moreover, the leaders are usually in charge of committees and other decision-making groups and they will determine the general course of action in the policy formulation and implementation process. Depending on the nature of the new educational policy, leadership greatly influences the implementation process since they command respect from the people (Dye, 2002). In situations where unpopular policies are enacted, the same leaders will curtail the implementation process.

Hence leadership plays a central role when it comes to the general process of educational policy formation and implementation (Cockrel, 2004). It is therefore apparent to note that leadership has such a significant degree of influence on the process of formulating and implementing educational policies.

Further analysis of the forces that shape and influence the formulation and implementation of educational policies reveals that the justice system has great impact on the process. The role of the courts is usually to solve conflicts that may arise among different members of the society.

It is not easy to acknowledge the contribution of the courts towards policy formulation and implementation in most sectors (Dye, 2002). During the initial phase of advocacy, opposition may emerge and depending on the extent of impact of the anticipated policy, those opposed may opt to move to court to halt the advocacy.

With the judge as the decision-maker, he or she may give new directions that would shape the course of the agitation process hence contributing indirectly to the policy formulation process. This is reinforced by the fact that there will always be competing formulations of policies forcing the participants to want to seek the intervention of the courts (Wilson, 2008). The decisions made by the judiciary have been found to have far reaching consequences on the educational policy formulation and implementation.

The most significant influences of the courts are mainly felt when it comes to the implementation of a given educational policy. This is because there are more conflicts at the implementation phase compared to the formulation stage (Denhardt, 2008).

Some of the well-known examples include the civil rights cases which are sponsored by the court, particular in cases related to racial discrimination and abuse of labor force. In such a situation, the accused and the complainant act as the participants in the policy formulation and implementation while the judge is the final decision-maker (Wilson, 2008).

In most instances, the court may rule against one proposal and approve a new set of policies hence participating in the implementation process. The courts have the authority to analyze any educational policy that has any unconstitutional clauses. They can also promulgate new sets of policies with adherence to the principles outlined in the constitution. This demonstrates the influence of the judicial system in the formulation of public policies, particularly educational policies.

Instances that lead people to the court include conflicts involving two institutions, individuals against organizations, individuals against associations/groups, and among individuals. The complainant will be seeking assistance from the court on the proper interpretation of the educational policy at hand (May, 2001). This implies that the role of the courts in the formulation and implementation process cannot be ignored.

The fourth significant influential party in the formulation and implementation of educational policies is the governmental bureaucracies. They comprise of the civil/government employees who work in the different levels of the society and help in the formulation and implementation of government policies (Silver, 1990). Most of them occupy leadership positions and are able to influence the process of policy development.

Since they handle issues that may arise from the educational sector, they can easily identify problems in education that need to be addressed by the development of a policy (Dye, 2002). They are also well placed to receive backing from the people because they are recognized as part of the authority.

The bureaucracies are such a strong force in policy formulation and implementation because they consist of experts. They assist the government in making informed policies by designing appropriate policy proposals (Wilson, 2008). The formulation phase, therefore, will be quite easier since it may take a bottom-up trend and hence increasing the chances of a strong support and subsequent implementation of the policy.

In some states, the senior most government workers can issue orders that take the form of policies and ensure that they are observed. The state/federal government may also take recommendations from the members of the bureaucracy and use them to create new education policies (Wilson, 2008). Some transformations in the education sector like the need to review the system requires the advice of experts who can evaluate the significance of the policies before they are implemented.

The most significant role of the bureaucracies comes in handy when it comes to the implementation phase of the educational policy. When top government authorities pass new policies, they expect that they will be effectively implemented by their subordinates (Ben-Peretz, 2008). The task of implementation, however, may prove to be really challenging especially when it extends down to the lowest level of the society. Since most policies are developed by top government officials, they become easier to implement since they are usually passed on in a top-down approach.

The bureaucracies facilitate representation of the government at all levels of the society. They monitor the enforcement of the new policies depending on the preferred mode of implementation. Within the educational sector, the implementation of policies is greatly influenced by other agencies in the society apart from the main implementing agency (Ben-Peretz, 2008). The bureaucracy therefore will have to coordinate this sensitive stage. In most cases, they do not force the people to obey the policies, instead, they put into consideration personal concerns, difficulties, the members of the society, as well as other interests (Denhardt, 2008).

Most government bureaucracies, therefore, hold crucial information in the formulation and implementation of educational policies. The authority bestowed upon them helps in overcoming the influence of political forces especially those who may object the new policies (Wilson, 2008). In some states, most of the government agents are elected giving them an upper hand over the implementation of new government policies on education.

The bureaucracies control and regulate other policy makers in their territories like members of school boards as well as of city councils and local governments (Silver, 1990). They are responsible for the analysis of problems, formulation of policies, and monitoring their implementation and evaluation. These depict the degree of influence that the bureaucracies have over the formulation and implementation of educational policies.

The above four major parties at the center of the formulation and implementation of educational policies seem to wield uniquely significant influence on the process. Since each of them have the discretion to agree with the others or to hold differing opinions, there is need to always reach a consensus when it comes to issues affecting a wider section of the society (Dye, 2002). Most of the actors may remain adamant when it comes to sticking to their perspectives but the process of formulating policies will exhibit success especially when the policy provides for new ways of improving the education sector.

Challenges of implementation may however be difficult to avoid but the opposition may also end up improving the quality of the policy through reviews (Cockrel, 2004). In this context, therefore, it is not easy to rate chronologically the influence of the different entities on the formulation and implementation of the various educational policies. Their varying degrees of influence are situational and may compliment each other in ensuring the successful formulation and implementation of policies.

There are a number of other significant stakeholders in the education sector who play important roles in determining the success of the educational policies. Interest groups such as teachers unions and parents’ associations may be complimentary when it comes to both the formulation and implementation of a given education policy (Schmidt et al., 2009).

These groups may greatly help the primary implementing agency in achieving its goals as well as the objectives of the policy. Some of the nongovernmental agencies may be affected by the new policies. Their conventional ways of operations may need to be changed as a result of the new policies. With these requirements, the interest groups may support the implementation or totally resist the policies especially if their opinions were not sought during the policy formulation stage.

Moreover, the government provisions affecting such a sensitive field in the society as the school system will always receive extensive scrutiny from the members of the public. Any failure to take this consideration may result in difficulty when it comes to the implementation process.

Significant resistance from these quarters will force the review of the policies before they are eventually re-implemented. This implies that organized groups of people can exert pressure on the implementing agency to make the necessary alterations to the policies (May, 2001).

The other important actors in the formulation and implementation of public policies are the political parties. Political parties are always at cross-roads when it comes to advocacy for the different policies. As they seek election into government, different parties present their manifesto/agenda for the people. They accomplish this task by highlighting all the reforms that they intend to bring in the various sectors of the society (Schmidt et al., 2009).

They may also resort to criticizing the existing educational policies. The number of registered political parties is usually large. For instance, two major ones (Republican and Democratic) in the US normally exchange the national leadership roles. This periodic alternation of leadership has influenced the formulation and implementation of educational policies in most states.

The public media also plays a central role in the formulation and implementation of most public policies. The media can help in popularizing a given policy among the members of the society and hence gaining the approval necessary for its implementation (Ben-Peretz, 2008). In some cases, the proposed educational policy may be perceived to have far reaching negative impacts if implemented.

The media will therefore influence people’s opinions of the same resulting in implementation difficulty. Given the non-interactive nature of the media, people may easily end up developing negative attitudes towards a given policy on education. Therefore, the media just like the other stakeholders can have such a significant influence on the entire process of formulating and implementing the educational policies (May, 2001).

The essay has focused on the complex concept of parties involved in the formulation and implementation of educational policies and how each influences the process. The four major actors identified are; the legislative bodies, the leadership, the judiciary, and the government bureaucracy.

Other stakeholders discussed include the media, political parties, and the various interest groups. The essay has also highlighted a general model that can be used to illustrate stages through which public policy formation may take. However, the format is not fixed or meant to be followed in a step by step manner. Instead, it captures the basic processes involved and may take any order.

For instance, formation may come after the evaluation of a given policy for purposes of improving the provisions of the policy. It can be concluded that the various parties and actors in the formulation and implementation of educational policy can influence the process in their own special way. However, it may not be easy to categorize all of them in the order of degree of influence, particularly the first four parties.

References

Ben-Peretz, M. (2008). Policy-making in education: a holistic approach in response to global changes. Rowman & Littlefield Plc.

Cockrel, J. (2004). Public Policy-making in America. University of Kentucky Press

Denhardt, R. B. (2008). Theories of public organization (5th ed.). Thomson Wadsworth

Dye, T. R. (2002). Understanding public policy. Upper Saddle River, Prentice Hall

May, P. (2001). “Reconsidering Policy Design: The Policies and Publics.” Journal of Public Policy Process, 4 (2), 186-209

Schmidt, S. W., Shelly, M. C. & Crain, E. (2009). American Government and Politics: a focus on public policy formation. Cengage Learning

Silver, H. (1990). Education, change, and the policy process. Taylor & Francis

Wilson, R. H. (2008). Public policy and community: activism and governance. University of Texas Press

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