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Making Policies and Producing Plans: Who Benefits?

Tue, April 16, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Hyatt Regency, Floor: Atrium (Level 2), Waterfront D


I will examine Adams’ observations that policy agenda planning and policies may be seen as important to policymakers irrespective of results. Making policies and producing plans offer the appearance of governmental competence and commitment. Policymakers may well support inequities and foster inefficiencies to protect the status quo power structure, secure political longevity, and so on. Adams’ idea is that developing or choosing a strategy for planning represents implicit or explicit choices among labels, theories, or ideologies, and that these choices in turn have very practical implications and will determine who will be involved in the process, the methods of analysis, outcomes expected, and definitions of success. I will illustrate the continuing relevance of the methods that Adams advocated for PACE’s analysis of education in California. Adams defended certain traditions in the social sciences, such as qualitative research, for their contribution to comparative education, while others equated policy analysis with "statistically testing hypothesized relationships" (e.g. Psacharopoulos 1990, CER Vol. 34, No. 3 p. 369). Current practices show how correct Adams was when he argued that a major reason for the colossal failure of educational planning as promoted by international agencies lies in the inability of these agencies to understand planning efforts as human interactive processes of decision making and choice – an understanding that cannot be achieved exclusively through traditional quantitative analyses.

When implementing a strategy, planning decisions no longer can be limited to technical exercises conducted in ministries of finance and ministries of education. Polite debates over choice of indicators become irrelevant, and measures of costs and benefits may be politicized as the consequences of proposed changes become apparent to interest groups. Effective planning (depending on what is being planned) is forced not only to deal with objectives and plans but also with uncertainty and opposing values, suggesting that negotiations and power struggles, rather than analysis may become the major concern.