Stepping back into line: Scottish education policy discourse and global trends

Donald Gillies

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


This paper reports on an analysis of recent developments in Scottish education policy, aiming to trace any alignment with current global education policy trends.
The research uses critical discourse analysis (Foucault, 2002; Jäger & Meier, 2009) to probe a selection of Scottish education policy texts i the light of current trends i global education (Rizvi & Lingard, 2010; Sahlberg, 2016). In particular, the textual data set is analysed for evidence of the influence of neoliberalism, new public management, total quality management, human capital theory, and GERM (the global education reform movement).
Main findings
Gillies (2013) suggested that Scottish education's policy stances on testing, the role of local authorities, and on tuition fees, then represented by default a rejection of international trends in education. This paper suggests that recent changes, however, such as the National Improvement Framework, represent a significant shift in policy discourse which amounts to realignment with current global trends (around GERM, for example). Current educational debate in Scotland rarely focuses on these strategic issues - some philosophical, some political - but instead concentrates on operational concerns and on performance data. This would suggest considerable, if implicit, political consensus around this significant re-positioning.
This paper argues that these changes have been introduced on an ad hoc basis, often in response to crisis political narratives (around SSLN and PISA, for example) and that there is an absence of a guiding, principled political position in relation to the framing of Scottish education within current ideological debate.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Nov 2017
EventScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference : Educational Futures in a Changing Landscape: Bridging Boundaries or "Mind the Gap"? - University of the West of Scotland, Ayr, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Nov 201724 Nov 2017


ConferenceScottish Educational Research Association Annual Conference
Abbreviated titleSERA Conference 2017
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • discourse
  • globalisation
  • policy
  • GERM


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