IEF Seminar: Neoliberalism and education policy in Japan

Precarity as Freedom? Youth, Neoliberalism and the Dissolution of ‘Japan, Inc.’Precarity as Freedom? Youth, Neoliberalism and the Dissolution of ‘Japan, Inc.’Details of our next seminar are appended below. All welcome!

The implications of a 21st century example to neoliberal education policy

Date and time: Thursday 15 March 2018, 1.00pm – 2.00pm
Location: De Montfort University, Hugh Aston 2.41
Presenter: Sam Bamkin (visiting from Japan)
Registration: All welcome, no registration required

Neoliberalism in education policy is pervasive, as are its mechanisms of accountability by measurement that drive performativity in practice. Though embracing the Great Education Reform slightly later, Japan has similarly developed sets of performativity tools underpinned by neoliberalism. However, education reform in Japan is developing along two tracks – one unmistakable in its search for standards, accountability as measurement, and competitive enterprise; the other significant track is reliant on local actors to design and implement, and is presented – even in policy documents – as inherently unmeasurable and cooperative. (That is, comparing against the four convergent themes of neoliberalism identified by Michael Apple, the latter set of reforms are not promoting measurability, enterprising individuals, privatisation or marketisation). I briefly present an analysis of two such examples from Japan: ‘relaxed education’ policy (1990s-2000s) based on secondary research; and the strengthening of moral education (2015-2019) based on primary research. Both were driven at cabinet level, through the Ministry of Education, to achieve change without measurement.

Rather than focus on the context or practice specific to Japan, I am interested here in considering how this counter example might contribute to the broader debate on neoliberalism. When is it possible in the 21st century for ideology – whether underpinned by conservatism, social welfare, etc – to take precedence over measurability? What, if any, is the importance of these developments to education practice?

See also: Precarity as freedom? Youth, neoliberalism and the dissolution of ‘Japan, Inc.’

Researching with marginalised communities ethically: Contradictions in ‘doing’ feminist research

This month’s seminar was delivered by Sana Rizvi, who explored the contradictions of ‘doing’ feminist research, and how the materiality of engaging in fieldwork magnifies the gap between ‘ideal’ versus ‘actual’ feminist ways of conducting research. Drawing on her doctoral research with British-Pakistani mothers of children with special educational needs and/or disabilities, she explored the ethical, and methodological challenges of engaging with feminist methodology and how this contributes value to the research process when working with marginalised groups. In the talk, she examined feminist principles for engaging in research and showed that traditional feminist methods may not always be more ethical, and that as feminist researchers we must be willing to adopt a holistic view of feminist values, where vulnerability of researcher and participants are both respected and where methodology is adjusted accordingly.

A recording of Sana’s talk is available via Panopto, here.

The accompanying paper is at:

Rizvi, S. (2017) Exploring British Pakistani mothers’ perception of their child with disability: insights from a UK context. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 17: 87–97. doi:10.1111/1471-3802.12111

Evidence-informed practice – much talk and little action

Professor Sarah Younie, Professor of Educational Innovation at De Montfort University, writes about evidence-informed practice in education contexts.

This blog was first published as a BERA Blog in October 2017.

Note: MESH is an international education sector owned and managed initiative, developed by volunteers, with MESHGuide research summaries quality assured as are academic journal articles. For updates register to receive the newsletter and follow the Tweets (@meshguides). To ensure sustainability, MESH is a voluntary education sector led initiative funded by contributions of time from a wide range of members and supporters.

Evidence-informed practice in classrooms (EPiC practice) is a growing issue for teachers in schools and interestingly a Google search on the topic gives a million and a half returns.

Over recent years as those of us in the MESH (Mapping Education Specialist knowHow)network have canvassed colleagues about practice in other countries, we find there is little action beyond expressions of concern by policy makers and the recurrent commissioning of reports which yield nothing new (DFE, 2017).

As a co-author of the major textbooks used for secondary teacher training in the UK, I am only too aware of the extensive professional knowledge base that authors need to draw on in writing the textbooks.

High quality teaching requires a high degree of pedagogic knowledge as well as up-to-date subject content knowledge. However, we find that in many areas, the research underpinning practice is either not available or not easily accessible to teachers. Academic papers, are, after all, written as conversations between academics. Arguably, they are not and never will be designed to meet the needs of practitioners.

As reported at the BERA conference, in the ‘Educational Research and Policy Making’ SIG discussion on the UNESCO Sustainable Development Goals about improving the quality of teaching, the MESHGuide research summaries provide one answer to the need for translational research ie translating theory to practice in education.

MESH supports the use of scalable and low cost technologies to enable educators to engage in research collaborations and publications around topics they consider will make a difference to student’s learning. We are at the beginning of a long journey pooling, sharing and testing our collective research-based knowledge including knowledge about how to diagnose problems learners face and interventions that help them overcome barriers to learning. We estimate thousands of concepts need to be included in the MESHGuide list. This is a challenging task.

We define evidence-informed practice as requiring both research/evidence and teacher professional judgement about the context and learners ie explicit knowledge + tacit knowledge. In our view, all teachers can be EPiC practitioners if they are given the tools – as a minimum, this means access to research based knowledge translated to relate to practice.

You are invited to Get Involved in what ever way suits your knowledge, expertise, experience and interests. Join the MESHConnect Open Door group on to read more and set the email alerts to be kept up to date or email to volunteer.


IEF Seminar: Teacher’s Digital Literacy Development: a grounded theory investigation

We have a forthcoming seminar being led by Lucy Atkins, a PhD student, on 21st November from 1-2pm,

For more information about Lucy’s work see her website: Or follow the hashtag #digilitPhD

The seminar will be held in Edith Murphy House, 4.01.

Teacher’s Digital Literacy Development: a grounded theory investigation


In response to the increasing drive for the effective use of technology to support teaching and learning in compulsory education, my thesis presents a ground-up investigation of professional development for digital literacy that highlights the impact of four spheres of concern on individual teacher development. These four spheres are linked to the literature surrounding technology acceptance and engagement and are used to reframe a popular model of technology acceptance from a predictive model, to a supportive framework. This work is grounded in teacher professionalism within a neoliberal society, the state of professional development in the UK following the bonfire of the quangos and the role of digital literacy for the teaching professional.


Film screening of Tested

On Thursday 9 November we are presenting a screening of a documentary about the selective schooling process in New York. It is a powerful commentary on class and race inequality in the USA state schooling system. The LA-based director Curtis Chin is visiting especially, and will do a Q&A session after the screening.

This is a collaboration with the DMU Media School and the Documentary Media Centre, who have secured a venue for the screening in the City Centre. As places are limited, attendance will be on a ‘first come first served’ basis via email, so please let Professor Sarah Younie (address below) if you would like to book a place. We look forward to seeing you there.

DMU, Institute for Education Futures and the Leicester Media School present:

‘Tested’ – Film screening and Q&A with Writer/Director Curtis Chin

Date and time: Thursday 9th November 2017 – 6pm-8.30pm

Location: Documentary Media Centre, 1st Floor, 10 Bishop Street, Leicester LE1 6AF

Presenter: LA-based Director – Curtis Chin

Registration: booking required, please email to confirm attendance

Key contact details: Prof Sarah Younie


Curtis Chin is an LA-based independent documentary film maker, whose film explores students experiences of selective schooling in New York. Curtis states, ‘nabbing a spot in one of New York City’s best public high schools can change kids lives…but who gets in?’ This documentary, which follows a diverse group of students and explores critical issues of equal access, stereotypes, affirmative action and the model minority myth. For more information –

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Curtis has won awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the San Diego Asian American Film Foundation. He has spoken at over 400 universities and non-profits in the US and internationally, with guest appearances on MSNBC, CNN and NPR, and in the publication Newsweek. He is currently a Visiting Scholar at NYU.

Screening in partnership with DMU Institute for Education Futures and Leicester Media School. For further information please see