Beyond responsiveness to community: Democratic voice and the creation of an>education alternative (New Zealand)
This thesis examines how, in a rural New Zealand ‘area school’, successful democratic parental and community voice was able to bring about the creation of an education alternative. While the parental initiative was in line with the rhetoric of Tomorrow' s Schools (1988) the contention in this thesis is that initiatives such as this were not intended by the legislation. Despite the fact that the initiative was stimulated by and explicitly invoked the rhetoric, the spirit of the legislation was philosophically opposed to this particular kind of innovation. The ‘Kiwi’ initiative emerged in 1993, five years after the legislation. The initiative centred around a request for an alternative education programme to be set up within ‘Takiwa School’. This alternative was modelled on Playcentre, a New Zealand Early Childhood Education model, which encompasses aspects of progressivism. Kiwi parents and Takiwa School personnel achieved a ‘school within the school’ for a segment of Takiwa community. Parents became fully involved in all aspects of their children's curriculum, from planning, through to delivery and assessment. This thesis examines the politics of the change process within Takiwa School. Three questions are central to this case study examination of change. These are: What were the parents asking for? How were the parents able to achieve what they were asking for? and What were the effects of the process on what it was that the initiative ultimately became? These three questions are examined in a sociological manner, from a critical realist approach. A range of theoretical tools are utilised; the central theoretical windows are a combination of Exit, Voice and Loyalty-which is provided by Hirschman (1970)-and the theories which are encompassed in the New Institutionalist approach. The central argument of the thesis is that it was a particular combination of conditions and motivations which made the Kiwi innovation possible. The possible replicability of the initiative is discussed. A key concern of the thesis as a whole is whether the set of circumstances in which the innovation transpired was unique.