Cross-national policy borrowing: understanding reception and translation

The article examines two key concepts in research on policy borrowing and lending that are often used to explain why and how educational reforms travel across national boundaries: reception and translation. The studies on reception analyse the political, economic, and cultural reasons that account for the attractiveness of a reform from elsewhere. Translation, in turn, captures the act of local adaptation, modification, or reframing of an imported reform. Strikingly, in most cases the act of policy borrowing is deterritorialized and draws on broadly defined international standards or "best practices". The exceptions are references to the league leaders in international student achievement tests such as, most recently, Singapore, Finland, and Shanghai. The article makes the argument that policy analysts in other countries only emulate the system features of league leaders if it fits their own domestic policy agenda. Furthermore, there is a new body of research emerging in comparative education that investigates the country-specific projections into the educational systems of the league leaders. Finally, the article points to the "yes, but ... " phenomenon in cases where there is resistance to learn, adopt or borrow from league leaders. It is in such moments of resistance to change that policy makers tend to highlight fundamental differences by insisting that the contexts are not sufficiently comparable to learn a useful lesson: Finland is too monocultural, Shanghai too urban, and Singapore relies too much on private tutoring to be relevant for lesson drawing.


Publication year:
2014
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In: Asia Pacific Journal of Education. - Vol. (2014), No. 2, p. 153-167
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