New public management as a global education policy: its adoption and re-contextualization in a Southern European setting

Antoni Verger, Marta Curran

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69 Citations (Scopus)


© 2014, © 2014 Taylor & Francis. This article analyses the way NPM has been constructed as a global education policy, and its adoption and re-contextualization into the Spanish education context. This article shows that the reasons for adopting NPM are not so different from those prevailing in other countries where these policies have been implemented before. Counter-intuitively, although NPM is a reform programme traditionally initiated by conservative governments, in the Spanish education field, as also happened in other Central and Northern European countries, it has been adopted and regulated with social democratic governments. In all these countries, social democrats have tended to embrace NPM as an attempt to address the legitimacy crisis of the welfare state and of public services in particular.Nonetheless, in Spain, the NPM reforms have been re-contextualized and regulated in very uneven and paradoxical ways. For a combination of political, institutional and economic reasons, the final form adopted by the NPM approach is far from the model advocated by the international community and is deeply contradictory.Our arguments are based on intensive fieldwork that include, on the one hand, interviews with key education policy-makers and stakeholders and, on the other, document analysis of policy briefings, press releases and legal documents.In the education sector, new public management (NPM) has crystallized in policies such as school autonomy, professionalization of school principals, standardized evaluation and teachers’ accountability, and it has been widely disseminated by international organizations, such as the OECD, which enjoy a great prestige when it comes to frame education reforms in European countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)253-271
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


  • comparative and international education
  • discourse analysis/semiotics
  • educational leadership and management
  • educational policy
  • globalization and internationalization


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