Neoliberal policy in education as racism in England and Germany

Aims and objectives

This paper compares neoliberal education policy in England and Germany with a focus on secondary schooling.  While there has been an explicit focus in academic research on neoliberal education policy and its racial impact in the US, there has been less of an explicit focus on this topic in Europe, where work has focussed mostly on either the inequitable outcomes of neoliberal education policies in general, or the reproduction of race inequality, but rarely explicitly connected and theorised the two and the way they interact.  In this paper we consider the changing neoliberal education policies in England and Germany over the last 25 years, focussing on issues such as school choice, school autonomy, standardised examinations, academisation and a policy focus on individual aspiration. Specifically, the aims are:

-to identify and compare the different national policy approaches to neoliberalism in England and Germany with specific reference to secondary education;

-to investigate and compare the impact on race inequality of these policies;

-to contribute to an enhanced understanding of how different forms of neoliberalism and racism are linked in an education context.

Methodology and theoretical framework

In this study we conduct a Critical Policy Analysis of changing education policy in England and Germany. We compare and analyse the different national policy approaches to neoliberalism using Hall and Soskice’s (2001) model of ‘varieties of capitalism’, the UK being theorised as a centralised liberal market economy and Germany as a federal coordinated market economy. We then draw on insights from Critical Race Theory and Goldberg’s (2008) work on racial neoliberalism to analyse the ways in which the different and changing national approaches impact on race (in)equality.

Findings and conclusion

The analysis finds that despite government claims that neoliberal approaches are colour blind or even increase equity, in fact they tend to reproduce race inequality. Despite considerable differences in education policies in the two countries, the ways in which neoliberalism is manifested in education, and the different racialised contexts, existing privilege is fuelled, and racialised minorities are disadvantaged and ‘othered’.