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School autonomy and the new “accountabilities” of European education leaders: case studies in England, France, Italy and Portugal

TitleSchool autonomy and the new “accountabilities” of European education leaders: case studies in England, France, Italy and Portugal
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsBarzanò G
Date Published10/2011
PublisherPadova University Press
Place PublishedPadova, IT
ISSN Number2035-4983
Keywordseducation leaders, educational systems, governance, school autonomy

In most European countries in the last decades school autonomy became an object of significant normative intervention to reshape education systems within a global scenario of decentralization. The aim of this article is to provide a comparative reflection on how school leaders in different countries relate and feel “accountable” to local authorities in a variety of ways. Studying the introduction of autonomy in various national contexts offers interesting avenues of reflection on the the relationship between the local and the global and in particular on how a global trend enters local contexts and comes to be “vernacularized” (Appadurai, 1996) in diverse ways according to the history and culture of the context. This contribution refers in part to data collected in a larger study regarding the relationship between leadership and accountability in different European and non-European countries. The research was undertaken with a qualitative methodology that included documentary analyses and field work, in particular direct observations of school contexts, semi-structured interviews elaborated with key informants within the selected countries. Analysing diverse education systems this way can be quite productive and useful when addressing a theme such as educational accountability, which represents a global trend. The research tackles education policies through critical analyses of experience, focusing on what happens in reality as well as on actors‟ perceptions of that reality.