351.2 The educational market/state dyad: The Chilean case

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 2:45 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Alejandra FALABELLA , Universidad Alberto Hurtado, Chile
Educational markets and the state are understood, by many scholars, to be separate entities. It is thought that while markets allow parents to choose schools freely, the state regulates minimum standards of quality and equality, in positive, neutral and transparent ways. Nonetheless, the author argues that, within the Chilean educational context, the market and state have an interdependent relationship. State discourses, technologies and devices (e.g. national tests, league tables, awards) are crucial for activating and intensifying competition, as they produce a symbolic capital that is disputed within the marketplace. Based on data from four case studies, the author shows diverse ways in which educational institutions mobilize resources, deliver multiple strategies and invest significant efforts in order to produce visible symbols of a ‘successful school’ according to state standards and classifications. 

It is expected that educational institutions dispute these state devised symbolic capitals for increasing school vouchers, motivated by economic interests. Nonetheless, the data evidences that these are not straightforward links; market practices involve a complex amalgamate of interests (economic, political, pedagogical, emotional) that go beyond an economic rationale. Moreover, competing practices for state-symbolic capital entangle institutions that participate within the marketplace, as well as other segments of the educational arena that are not expected to compete for student enrolments (e.g. parents, rural school, local Ministry). In other words, state technologies designed for regulating the marketplace trigger performative activities and a competing rationale that expands pervasively beyond the market boundaries. Overall, market competition exceeds the market itself. The effects of the interconnected state/market technologies are profound and extensive. The state is not just another actor within the Chilean educational market or the ‘regulator’ of minimum national standards, but a core producer of it.