Online ISSN : 2187-5278
Print ISSN : 0387-3161
ISSN-L : 0387-3161
The Promotion of Decentralization and the Transformation of the Concept of Public Education
Toshiyuki Omomo
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2000 Volume 67 Issue 3 Pages 291-301


The promotion of decentralization is one of the major reform issues, today. The purpose of this paper is to consider the decentralization of public administration and the transformation of the concept of public education from the following three viewpoints. First, recent reform toward decentralization requires not only a shift in power from central to local government but also a change in the mode of public administration. In modern states, public administration is not merely an agency which precisely implements a legislature's policies. Rather, It plays important roles in forming public policies and has broad discretion in implementing them, This means that public administration, itself, is deeply involved in selecting and grading values for public policies, and the recent reform requires the establishment of a more participatory system of the public administration at the local level. This has the potential of weakening the bureaucratic buffers, and forcing the teaching profession to be more accountable to parents and inhabitants, and more responsive to their demands. Second, decentralization is promoted in close relation to the trend toward reducing state function;that is, deregulation and privatization of public services.In the field of education, deregulation and privatization were first promoted in life-long learning, and then introduced into school education. Such changes would transform the concept of public education based mainly on the state to that of"public education"where a variety of sectors-such as the state, private enterprise and volunteer groups-are engaged in providing educational opportunities. When these two major reform trends, decentralization and reduction of the state funcion, intersect, the heavy responsibility of deciding what role, to what extent and in what way the public sector should play in education would be placed in the hands of the inhabitants of each municipality. Third, there are specific problems in the effort to decentralize education. It is evident that the decentralization of administrative and financial structure brings about diversity;however, stated another way, this means an inequality of public services among municipalities. One justification for this"diversity"is the theory of autonomy:those who make a decision should be responsible for its result. In the case of education, however, it is not a valid principle because decision-makers of public services(i.e.adults)are different from the recipients(i.e.children). Furthmore, the realization of participatory democracy among adults is not synonymous with the nurturing of future democratic citizenship. If the major role of school is to foster future citizens, decentralization, itself, cannot be the goal of educational reform. We ought to question what influence the reform of the participatory decisionmaking system at the local level could actually have on changes in the educational process. Praising participation without considering this point is risky. Historically speaking, the professionalization of educational administration and the state intervention to guarantee equal educational opportunity were required on the basis of limiting participatory, selfhelp local autonomy.

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