Empowered Administrators or Policy Subjects? Discursive Practices Among Staff in Inner-city Chilean Schools

Conference: The European Conference on Education (ECE2022)
Title: Empowered Administrators or Policy Subjects? Discursive Practices Among Staff in Inner-city Chilean Schools
Stream: Educational Policy, Leadership, Management & Administration
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Andrew Webb, Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, Chile
Sandra Becerra, Universidad Catolica de Temuco, Chile
Macarena Sepulveda, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Chile


Reforms to school conviviality policies in Chile have led to a marked shift away from punitive approaches for dealing with bullying behaviours, toward more educationally formative processes and school autonomy. This involves schools becoming responsible for designing local practices relevant to their own educational communities. Based on in-depth qualitative interviews with staff members in six inner-city schools in the Chilean capital we ask whether they are empowered by these changes. We argue that these reforms correspond closely to Foucauldian notions of governance in an era of new public management. We suggest that staff become self-regulated subjects in the pressures to meet national standards of conviviality in under-funded and under-resourced schools in socially deprived areas. That is, while issues of school bullying and victimisation occur in all schools regardless of their social prestige or educational status, the art of governance that can be identified in the Chilean neoliberal education system is that it conditions staff to celebrate the empowerment of being responsible for adapting these policies, but without the means to meet the standards set by more privileged school environments. When called to account, staff exercise discursive power by emitting normative judgements about schoolchildren and their families, rather than critiquing or questioning the socio-political and educational contexts of structural inequality in the country.

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