The trajectory of a global education reform: The case of new public management in the catalan education system

Antoni Verger, Marta Curran, Lluís Parcerisa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


© 2015, Centro de Estudos Educacao e Sociedade - CEDES. All rights reserved. New public management (NPM) is a public sector reform programme that has inspired numerous education reform processes internationally. In the education sector, NPM has crystallized in policies such as school autonomy, professionalization of school principals, standardized evaluation and teachers’ accountability. This article analyses the way NPM has been adopted and re-contextualized in a Southern European context such as Catalonia. This article shows that the reasons for embracing NPM there 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 historically initiated by conservative forces, in Catalonia, as previously happened in other Central and Northern European countries, NPM has been adopted and regulated within social democratic governments. In all these places, 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, the NPM reforms have been enacted and regulated unevenly in Catalonia. A combination of political, institutional and economic reasons, together with the multiple representations and re-interpretations of NPM policies by local education stakeholders, explain why these policies have followed an uneven and at points paradoxical trajectory in the analyzed context. 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. The process-tracing method has guided us in the systematization of the data obtained through empirical observation, and has enabled us to link the key events in the policy process with the resulting impact it has had on the education system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-697
JournalEducacao e Sociedade
Issue number132
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015


  • Education reform
  • New public management
  • Policy trajectories
  • School autonomy
  • School leadership

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