Introduction to Issue
This issue of the Journal is devoted to selected papers and commentary regarding educational finance problems in several countries. The materials presented are primarily taken from the proceedings of the Oxford International Round Table on Education Policy which was convened at St. Peter's College, University of Oxford, during the summer of 1989. The Round Table was an invitational meeting of a small group of influential governmental leaders and educators who devoted one full week to intensive discussion and study of educational problems of the world. Some of the papers published in this issue of the Journal were not presented at the meeting but were judged worthy of inclusion by the Editors.
The Round Table was sponsored by the Norham Centre for Leadership Studies (NCLS) of the University of Oxford jointly with Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, hosted by St. Peter's College, Oxford. The Round Table was co-directed by Kern Alexander, Virginia Tech and Dr. Vivian Williams, of the Norham Center, University of Oxford. The agenda focused on four main themes.
- the degree of influence of education/training programmes on social and economic development;
- current public policy issues in the financing of education;
- the educational needs of particular student populations;
- the perception of inter-active relationships between educational and other social programme policies.
Although the primary thrust of the meeting concerned education policy developments in the United States and the United Kingdom, additional and complementary perspectives were given from Canada, China and selected European and African countries. The Round Table was staffed by prominent scholars whose expertise was available to members of the conference.
Another Round Table is tentatively scheduled for 1991 and will be primarily devoted to discussion of the emerging educational issues facing Eastern Europe, the continuing problems of financing education in underdeveloped regions of the World and the interrelationships with the United States and the United Kingdom.
Vivian Williams is Professor, Department of Educational Studies, Director of the Norham Center for Leadership Studies and Fellow, St. Peter's College, University of Oxford.
JOURNAL OF EDUCATION FINANCE 15(SPRING, 1990), 443-444
Observations on Conclusion of the
Oxford Round Table
"Education" does make a difference in the development of individual talent, collective effort and national economic growth. We are agreed that access to education and training is the inalienable right of every individual. The central difficulty with which we are faced is to ensure the adequacy of resources to achieve those essential objectives. Never more than today does the imperative of education as investment appear to be not only necessary but crucial to all those in public service at this conference, and in many other nations. Without equivocation, we are all convinced of the central role of education provision for personal fulfillment, social and economic development at local, regional, national and international scales. Equally, in the creation of education policies we espouse the wish to ensure that ends and means to achieve desirable education investment goals—equity, justice, financial effectiveness and economic efficiency—are prioritized, matched and synchronized. We also appear to be of one mind that through our disparate but collective experience we are prepared to assist each other in the shared development of a variety of new networks for communication and data exchange at formal and informal levels.
Realism suggests that we should collaborate and work together to identify a series of mutual issues and problems, together with their possible resolution, with which we are faced in the political processes of policy making—invariably influenced by potent noneducational factors—to ensure that education systems are not deflected from their basic functions. Examples are: the continuity and development of indigenous cultures, the process of social selection, the thrust towards educated and democratic societies capable of adapting to change on global scales through political, economic, technical and cultural innovation. En passant, I might add that we have yet to consider issues in policy planning for curriculum objectives and their social and economic relevance; aesthetic education and, even more urgently, dynamic relationships between education and other overlapping social pressures.
Further, it appears that we are all agreed on moving beyond the disjointed incremental model in policy making as delineated by Lindbloom and others. We seem to believe that radical solutions are required to replace traditional pushes in educational salients under pressures for immediate educational reform when public disquiet about educational deficiencies are identified. We have heard during the week of recent major policy thrusts in the UK and North America which arise from educational deficiency models and societal perceptions sometimes expressed in terms such as `dysfunctional,"discontinuous,"demotivation,' and even `despair.' At the opening session of the conference, I used Handy's metaphor of the doomed frog and those circumstances in which the only certainty is uncertainty. We must, therefore, seek to develop educational policies to enable those who follow us to meet with confidence and uncertain future in our societies experiencing rapid and unpredictable change.
In the search for an understanding of the ways in which overarching policies, programmes and solutions to common problems on an international scale might be taken forward from this conference, it would perhaps be appropriate for the Round Table in future meetings to consider a more focused approach within a limited range of agreed specific themes which need to be addressed. If this proposal were acceptable, then it might also be appropriate (on an agreed basis for action) to exchange perceptions, information and data on problems, solutions and outcomes of specific activities within our separate systems which would make a positive contribution to the collective knowledge and understanding of all members of the Round Table. Through networking arrangements of this kind, National or State projects could offer possibilities of greater cost-benefit advantages to members than if such studies were available only on restricted geographical scales.