Let’s talk about this:
The Canadian provincial government pays millions of taxpayers’ dollars every year on research on education (Côté & Allahar, 2011). This research holds consequences for the way people are educated. This means the way they see world, the jobs they work, the lives they lead, and the hills they climb. Translation? It is some of the most important research that can be conducted and it must be taken seriously.
I woud argue that more focus needs to be placed on the who, what, where, when, and why of this research, and what kind of impact it is having on policy.
Some of the issues at hand…
HEQCO is an arms-length agency of the Ontario government whose mission is to bring evidence based research to policymakers (HEQCO, 2013). An external report, published on the HEQCO website claims that “HEQCO is performing at the top level of international excellence” and that “the quality of the research and the quality of its communication are in a word, superb” (Whitehead, 2011). Research contracts are awarded to the team proposing the best value – which means cost of the research becomes at least part of the decision process. Might it be true that one gets what one pays for? It’s also not clear to what extent the research HEQCO conducts has any impact on policy being implemented. In the United Kingdom, for example, Gorard (2002) found that educational research is not translating into policy-making. If these claims are correct then an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money is evident.
Gorard (2002) also claims that many people that receive contracts for educational research experience pressure to produce results that will support a predetermined plan. These ‘shadow research communities’ (Côté & Allahar, 2011, p.53) “show signs of biases in producing research that supports the policies of those hiring them.”
I believe that educational research, all research, has to be utterly independent from the needs of policy makers and/or other political pressure groups. Without this independence the results of the research are undermined.
There’s got to be a way.
I agree with Côté and Allahar (2011) that a new journal devoted to public policy issues should be launched in Canada. It should be financed with government money to ensure tax dollars are being well spent and it should be independent of government influence to help avoid bias.
There also needs to be a tighter relationship between research, policy, and practice (Lubienski, 2013). I cannot think of more important subject matter for a country than policy in education. This policy is the steering mechanism for the direction the country will head into future storms and calm waters. Good research has to be conducted and it needs to underpin policy.
From there practice needs to follow.
Côté, J. E., & Allahar, A.L. (2011). Lowering higher education: The rise of corporate universities and the fall of liberal education. Toronto: The University of Toronto Press.
Gorard, S. (2002). Political control: A way forward for educational research? British Journal of Educational Studies, 50(3), 378-389.
HEQCO. (2013) About us. Retrieved from http://www.heqco.ca/en-CA/About%20Us/Pages/Home.aspx
Scott, J., Lubienski, C. & DeBray-Pelot E. (2009) The politics of advocacy in education. Educational Policy, 23(3), 3-14.
Whitehead, Lorne A. (2011, September). Review of the higher education quality council of Ontario. Retrieved from http://www.heqco.ca/SiteCollectionDocuments/Whitehead%20Review.pdf