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Cultural barriers to modernising secondary school education in teachers' and parents' communities

Priority areas of development: sociology
2017
The project has been carried out as part of the HSE Program of Fundamental Studies.

Research goals:

1) To trace the process of formation and cultural logics of public resistance to neoliberal reforms in education from 1991 to this day,

2) To describe mechanisms of the formation of public resistance as well as their trickling up to the official government discourse,

3) To formulate recommendation for supporting modernisation processes in Russia based on its specific culture code.

Methodology:

The research is based on in-depth analysis of cultural processes of public resistance to modernisation in the form of «thick description» (Geertz 1973). The qualitative research includes a triangulation of discourse analysis, focus groups and expert interviews. Discourse analysis was used to analyse contemporary public debate over education in the mass media. That includes such popular TV and radio talk shows as «Chto delat'?» on the «Kultura» TV channel and «Roditel'skoe Sobranie» on the «Echo Moskvy» radio, as well as popular teachers' and parents' discussion online platforms, for instance, the «Uchitelskaya gazeta» forum. Based on the preliminary textual analysis, a series of focus groups with teachers and parents was conducted in Moscow and one region of Russia. The focus groups served to initiate a broader discussion of tension points identified earlier in the textual stage of the analysis. Finally, a series of expert interviews with education stakeholders was conducted in order to identity points of conceptual contention between the prognosticated and the actual degree of cultural absorption.

Empirical database:

  • public discourse data regarding educational issues, including public online discussions and discussions on mass media platforms, such as the “Kultura” TV channel and “Echo Moskvy” radio station; as well as teachers’ and parental discussions on online platforms, such as “Uchitelskaya Gazeta” forum.
  • first-hand qualitative data, including transcripts of focus groups and expert interviews collected within the framework of the project.

Project findings and results:

1) the processes of public resistance formation and cultural logics to neoliberal reforms in education from 1991 up to now were analysed,

2) specific mechanisms for the formation of cultural barriers to educational modernisation were identified and described,

3) their inter-relation and interaction was determined from the perspective of policy transfer theories, theories of cultural convergence, cultural semiotics and theories of cultural determination of economic structures,

4) mechanisms of the formation of public support as well as the process of them trickling up into the official government discourse were identified,

5) a methodological approach to studying the resilience of educational structures and meanings was designed on the basis of real-life everyday language of public discourse.

Level of implementation, recommendations on implementation or outcomes of the implementation of the results

The results of the study have been utilised on both national and international levels. Some of the practical outcomes included public, professional and expert discussions as well as discussions between national educational experts and representatives of teachers’ and parental communities. The empirical analysis allowed formulating recommendations aimed at providing conceptual support for the modernisation process in the context of Russian culture code. The recommendations include a need for designing a culturally tailored information support of the education reforms. Such support will be realised through a series of policy notes, publications in popular mass media, as well as official government statements. They will, on the one hand, position traditional pedagogical values of moral upbringing and teacher service in the new educational paradigm, and, on the other hand, clarify, in an accessible manner, the government’s position as to the role and status of a nowadays’ school teacher.