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Magister 2016;28:102-11 - DOI: 10.1016/j.magis.2016.10.002
Theoretical review
A literature review about Argentinian educational management in times of change
Una revisión bibliográfica sobre la gestión educativa argentina en tiempos de cambio
María Eugenia Vicente
National University of La Plata (UNLP) and National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET), Calle 9 No. 586, (1900) La Plata, Argentina
Recibido 07 junio 2016, Aceptado 28 octubre 2016

The aim of this article is to collect appropriate information on the characteristics of educational management in times of reforms or changes in its institutional structures.

This review adopts a descriptive qualitative methodology and applies documentary analysis as a technique to identify, describe and represent the content of the documents in a way other than the originals’, in order to enable its diffusion and use for other research studies and documents on educational management.

The findings are intended to participate in a discussion about the set of routines, habits and institutional practices that form educational management in times of reform.


Este artículo tiene el objetivo de recopilar la información relevante sobre las características que presenta la gestión educativa en momentos de reformas o cambios en sus estructuras institucionales.

La metodología responde a un diseño de tipo cualitativo descriptivo y la técnica utilizada es el análisis documental; está dirigida a identificar, describir y representar el contenido de los documentos de forma distinta a la original, con el propósito de posibilitar su difusión y uso para otras investigaciones y documentos sobre gestión educativa.

Las conclusiones están destinadas a participar en un debate sobre el conjunto de rutinas, hábitos y prácticas institucionales que configuran la gestión educativa en tiempos de reforma.

Educational management, Education reform, Social inclusion, Secondary education, Argentina
Palabras clave
Gestión educativa, Reforma educativa, Inclusión social, Educación secundaria, Argentina

In Argentina, the first attempts to achieve social inclusion at secondary school through national education policies date back to the 1990s. The educational context of the time was characterized by increased enrollment rates and the incorporation of middle-class and popular sectors to secondary school. The criteria for democratization, participation, equity and transformation, as set forth by Section 51 of Federal Education Law No. 24195 enacted in 1993 (Ministerio de Educación de la Nación, 1993), would provide the institutional framework to promote equal educational opportunities and possibilities.

Thus, the aim of the education policy was to change the traditional administrative structures, characterized as vertical and repetitive of certain social orders, to become a model that could represent the interests of broad sectors of the population through institutional decentralization. Institutions would presumably be able to define their modes of operation and objectives autonomously, according to their needs.

However, in reality, the geographical location, the socio-economic characteristics of the population, the quality of learning and the perceived requirement level formed a secondary education defined in terms of categorization of schools whose diplomas did not have the same value in society (Tenti Fanfani, 2003; Tiramonti, 1989).

In this regard, some educational research contributions (Dussel, 2005; Gimeno Sacristán, 2005; Jacinto, 2009; Terigi, 2008) noted that the differential system showed that equality was only theoretical and not real. Contrary to expectations, institutional uniformity proved to be an element of inequality given the wide variety of cultural, geographical, social and economic factors. Furthermore, these studies also showed that educational institutions continued to operate under a traditional mechanism (Tedesco, 1986), more suited to organize inequality among school children than to make room for the coexistence of a plethora of skills, levels, pace of learning, and varied motivations of youths and adolescents.

Later in the 2000s, social inclusion became the center of national education policies again, this time through the implementation of a new inclusion strategy that made secondary education compulsory throughout the Argentinian territory and acknowledged different types of educational management (state-run, private, cooperative and civil society managed schools) and institutional formats capable of organizing the diversity of demands, profiles and trajectories of the level. This education reform began in 2006, through the enactment of the National Education Law (LEN) No. 26206 (Ministerio de Educación de la Nación, 2006), which gave special importance to the recovery of students who have dropped out of school (Feldfeber & Gluz, 2011).

As regards the features of secondary school students, Tenti Fanfani (2009), and Briscioli and Toscano (2012) pointed out that compulsory secondary education was accompanied by a significant change in the social morphology of students since it entailed not only an increase in schooling rates but also the incorporation of a different set of students traditionally excluded from the level that bring their own class and culture to school.

Likewise, changes in social and family structure, and the instances of production and dissemination of meaning (culture) affect subjectivity construction processes. In this sense, the characteristics of access, permanence and graduation constitute a complex process that interweaves with other social and personal processes, such as the need to work, the poverty conditions of youths and their families, the will to continue studying or not, the freedom to decide on one's own future, as well as the expectations that certified completion of secondary studies generates. In fact, until 2011, Argentina kept a low secondary graduation rate in the poorest segment of the population (40% of quintile 1), whereas the richest segment of the population showed a high graduation rate (87% of quintile 5) (IDB, 2011). Thus, the enactment of the law proves to be insufficient to resolve the complex youths and adolescents’ educational processes.

Institutions (DiNIECE, 2009), understood as a set of rules and resources that structure social and educational practices, changed their shape and meaning. As regards organizational structures that support social inclusion, there are two different perspectives. On the one hand, it is believed that social inclusion is achieved when everybody takes part in the same school (homogeneous structures in organizational and curricular terms). Some authors (Arroyo & Nobile, 2015; Montes & Ziegler, 2012; Tenti Fanfani, 2009; Tiramonti, 2012) argue that social justice in education implies that those social sectors that were expelled or never accessed secondary school must remain in and graduate from those very same schools.

On the other hand, there is a second perspective which acknowledges that educational offers must adapt to each socio-economic group so that they could find some meaning in attending and remaining at school. Along this line, the importance of the availability of a plethora of organizational structures is stressed in order to achieve true social inclusion, i.e. each school involves not only a general mandate or predetermined sense at a macro-educational system level, but also its own mandate, on the basis of which it was founded at a set time and place to address specific local needs. Hence, school variety is vital in order to cater for social and cultural diversity (Duschatzky & Aguirre, 2013; Duschatzky, Farrán, & Aguirre, 2010). According to this line of analysis, and considering Argentina's low scores in international tests (mainly PISA), evaluations are seen just as specific learning slices that do not reflect actual variety of situations within the classrooms. At the same time, social and economic regional contexts prompt necessarily different forms of knowledge construction (Leal & Pérez Centeno, 2014).

In this scenario, not only do education reforms, understood as innovations in organizational and curricular forms and dynamics, affect factors directly related to the configuration and running of the school, but also the non-pedagogical bonds between school and society. These bonds, which are foundational and constitutive of institution-specific cultures, define their sense and practices, and it is in those cultures where education reforms are meant to be introduced (Ezpeleta, 2004).

Likewise, for Aguerrondo (2013) the problem lies not in the content but in the management of the policies, partly because promises are not (completely) fulfilled and partly because during the implementation processes, unexpected elements (beyond control) emerge and frustrate the results.

The term “educational management” refers to an action discipline that closely links educational theory to practice, thus setting itself up as a professional field (Vicente, 2012, 2014), whose core lies in the coordination of the pedagogical action. The latter entails the creation of favorable conditions and situations for the development of the potential of all actors to participate in the production of knowledge, and in the interpretation and transformation of cultural codes, socially and historically produced (Chaves, 2006; Duschatzky & Birgin, 2001).

Thus, educational management studies focus on the analysis of multiple strategies and ways of solving everyday contingencies at educational institutions according to different institutional, group or personal realities, as well as specific problems and needs (Garcia, Manzione, & Zelaya, 2015).

In this context, this article aims to organize the contributions about the characteristics assumed by educational management in times of reforms or changes in its institutional and policy matrices on the subject of Argentina's education reform. Therefore, the next section describes the selected methodological strategy, which applies the literature review as a technique to find out the production of knowledge on the subject for further reflections on the processes of educational management at schools in times of change.


This study features a descriptive qualitative design whose purpose is to identify the characteristics, properties, dimensions and regularities of institutional performance and school management in a context of education reform. Documentary analysis is the technique applied to identify, describe and represent the content of the documents in a way other than the originals’, in order to ensure its selective and timely recovery, and facilitate its exchange, diffusion and use. The databases consulted were the following: (1) FLACSO's online catalogs (BIB and REVIS); (2) Memoria Académica: digital repository of magazines, newsletters, theses and audiovisual presentations; (3) e-BIBLIOTECA: access to bibliographic and documentary production in Social Sciences on the Andean region and Latin America in general; (4) EBSCO research databases; mainly: SocINDEX, Professional Development Collection and Education Resource Information Center (ERIC), Portail de revues en sciences humaines et sociales (PERSEE) and Academic Search; (5) JSTOR, SCIelo, Dialnet, Latindex databases; (6) Minutes of conferences on education policies and school management.

In the aforementioned databases, a search of articles and books containing the keywords: “institutional structure,” “educational management,” “education policy,” and “institutional changes” was conducted.

Studies about education policy or specific programs on education policy which did not refer explicitly to the administrative dimension or educational management were discarded.

The body of the sample comprises 29 works (17 books and 12 magazine articles) on educational management and institutional changes (education reforms, curricular and institutional improvements and educational innovations). All of them address the topic from a qualitative methodological perspective. This group of works cover different time periods and belong to authors from a variety of countries. In this sense, the empirical body was organized around keywords and place and time of contribution for analysis enrichment purposes. Thus, this literature review on educational management is presented considering the place and time in which each work of reference was produced (Table 1).

Table 1.

Contributions on educational management and institutional change.

Year  Author  Place  Contribution 
1989  Bates  English-speaking country  Gradual social differentiation between institutions that question traditional management 
1989  Ball  English-speaking country  School administrators’ profiles and institutional change 
1992  Frigerio, Poggi y Tiramonti  Spanish-speaking country  Tension between bureaucratization and institutional changes 
1993  Fullan  English-speaking country  Gradual social differentiation between institutions that question traditional management 
1999  Apple y Beane  English-speaking country  Tension between policy required changes and institutional needs 
2001  Poggi  Spanish-speaking country  Tension between bureaucratization and institutional changes 
2001  Braslavsky y Acosta  Spanish-speaking country  Tension between bureaucratization and institutional changes 
2001  Tyack y Cuban  English-speaking country  System changes are marginal and management operates traditionally 
2002, 2008  Escolano  Spanish-speaking country  School culture persistence despite education reforms 
2003  Waters, Marzano y McNulty  English-speaking country  Institutional changes do not hold the same priority for everyone at school 
2003, 2005  Dussel  Spanish-speaking country  Coexistence of innovative structures along with the bureaucratic structure 
2005  Viñao  Spanish-speaking country  School culture persistence despite education reforms 
2005  Domingo Segovia  Spanish-speaking country  Coexistence of innovative structures along with the bureaucratic structure 
2006  Sverdlick  Spanish-speaking country  Series of breaks within institutions as a result of changes 
2007  Volonté, Longobucco y Ponce de León  Spanish-speaking country  The inspector as the main character of school culture 
2008, 2009  Fullan  English-speaking country  School administrators’ profiles and institutional change 
2008  Sander  Spanish-speaking country  Coexistence of innovative structures along with the bureaucratic structures 
2008  Guillén  Spanish-speaking country  School functions as school culture products 
2009  Acosta  Spanish-speaking country  Reforms toward inclusion 
2009  Gvirtz y Podestá  Spanish-speaking country  Reforms toward inclusion 
2009  Santos Guerra  Spanish-speaking country  Educational management characteristics in times of change 
2009  Bardisa Ruiz  Spanish-speaking country  Strategies developed by school administrators as a result of changes 
2010  Tedesco  Spanish-speaking country  Coexistence of a variety of institutions and education bureaucreacy 
2011  Tiramonti  Spanish-speaking country  Coexistence of a variety of institutions and education bureaucreacy 
2011  Southwell y Manzione  Spanish-speaking country  The inspector as the main character of school culture 
2013  Aguerrondo  Spanish-speaking country  Coexistence of innovative structures along with the bureaucratic structures 
2013  Duschatzky y Aguirre  Spanish-speaking country  Reforms toward inclusion 

For data processing purposes, content analysis was carried out through the categorization, fragmentation and encryption of data according to the following general variables: (I) institutional functioning; (II) characteristics of school management; each of which varies in terms of: (a) time (classic and contemporary contributions), (b) place (Anglophone and Latin American countries).


The classic contributions of Australian, Canadian, British and American authors see conflict as an inherent feature of any education reform. As regards the institutional functioning, Bates (1989) and Fullan (1993) note that, in times of change, institutions develop in an atmosphere of great tension between control and chaos; while trying to adapt to local social, cultural, economic and political circumstances, which are increasingly different from each other. It is in this social differentiation that most traditional educational management problems lie because they threaten the bureaucratic principle of standardization (whose application results in objectives that are irrelevant or disagree with a progressively larger population) and of the organization into hierarchies (which cannot dominate the multiple and indeterminate processes fast enough to control them).

As regards school management, research studies conducted by Ball (1989) recognize that the principal's work profiles are essential to generate the changes put forward by the reforms within the institution. Most leadership styles require a greater or lesser degree of mutual support between the leader and the staff and, as the process of joint action progresses, mutual adjustments, agreements and negotiations, all play a vital role in the development of social relationships. Thus, leadership styles are neither fixed nor immutable.

Finally, at curricular and teaching level, the findings of Apple and Beane's (1999) pieces of research point out that the creation of a democratic curriculum entails conflict and debate. There is a constant tension among teachers between providing a more meaningful education to youths and adolescents and living up to the expectations of certain educational groups, whose interests respond to a minority, in terms of knowledge and skills.

Some of the American authors’ contemporary contributions state that education reforms relate to each institution and within these, to each group of actors. Therefore, in some institutions, some reforms fail or achieve undesirable effects.

The contributions of Tyack and Cuban (2001) in terms of institutional functioning, recognize that system innovations1 were marginal, allowing schools’ traditional structure to persist so that teachers could perform their duties in a predictable way, carrying out the daily school tasks the school boards, principals and parents expected them to fulfill, i.e. controlling student behavior, instructing heterogeneous students and segregating people for their future roles in school and later in society.

At the same time, Waters, Marzano, and McNulty (2003) research reveals that during the last 20 years, the changes proposed in almost every education reform do not hold the same priority within the institutions; i.e. when the changes proposed are in line with those of the institution, and there is agreement on what changes are needed and how they should be implemented, the changes are prioritized, but when innovations come into conflict with prevailing values and standards, or the implementation plan is unclear, the proposed changes are pushed into the background.

At school management level, Fullan (2009) recognizes the emergence of a new paradigm of leadership to carry out reforms within each institution. Traditional management practices tried to reach agreement through alliances formed with common interest groups aimed at beating the opposition. Reality has shown that this strategy has only short-term results. By contrast, the new paradigm of educational management aims at meeting common points between opposing positions, thus reaching superior agreements for the parties involved. This requires that each institutional actor be included, respecting the differences, without trying to neutralize them.

Meanwhile, in Latin America, some classic contributions indicate that the practices and characteristics of educational institutions are resistant to change. This position is reinforced by a weak coordination between the different levels of educational management specification.

As regards the institutional functioning, Frigerio, Poggi, and Tiramonti (1992), Poggi (2001) and Braslavsky and Acosta (2001) indicate that schools have a dual problem when it comes to facing changes. On the one hand, they are bureaucratized, which means they have routine problems, resistance to change and lack of flexibility. On the other hand, education has itself a relatively slow rhythm of change since it is one of the aspects that participates in the preservation of culture, and transformations in such field take many years.

Besides, education reform proposals belong to a minority social sector and they cannot be improved neither by critical perspectives from sectors such as labor unions, employers or public opinion in general, nor by a fluid process of communication where teachers, principals, parents and students participate.

Finally, there are various levels of educational management specification in Latin America: the level of educational institutions, the municipal or district level, the departmental level, the state or provincial level and the national level. These levels tend to be defined decreasingly as hierarchical levels and increasingly as interconnected sets of concentric circles with territorial specificities, which are not recognized as such or which are not synergically coordinated. This comes on top of the inability to design devices to counteract the institutional weakness derived from education policies typical of the decades of tax adjustment on the education sector.

Regarding educational management in schools, the multiplicity and range of objectives present today in educational institutions, the variety of contexts in which they are developed; the increased workload, the greater diversification of its tasks; simultaneity, immediacy and indeterminacy; brevity, variety and discontinuity, are relevant features of management practices (Frigerio, Poggi, & Tiramonti, 1992).

Furthermore, educational management is conducted in isolation from management training, which takes place at university, while at the same time educational management produces information and knowledge in each institution. This fragmentation hinders the possibility of building a techno-scientific system that enables continuous innovation (Braslavsky & Acosta, 2001).

On the other hand, contemporary research on educational management in the Latin American region indicates the coexistence of innovative structures that attempt to strengthen social inclusion management processes, along with the persistence of the bureaucratic structure that shapes management practices reducing and conditioning reform efforts.

A series of research studies have been carried out in this respect pointing out school culture persistence power in view of whichever attempt of reform. By school culture, Escolano (2002, 2008) refers to a set of rules that define knowledge to be taught and behaviors to be instilled, build upon the very heart of educational institutions over time, which allow for the transmission of discipline and the incorporation of behaviors in an individual's formation. School culture (Viñao, 2005), which is transmitted from generation to generation, provides strategies to: (a) fit into these schools and be able to interact within them; (b) carry out the expected daily activities, especially in the classroom, and be able to meet those tasks’ demands and limitations; and (c) survive consecutive reforms by their reinterpretation and tailoring to that culture-specific context and needs.

In this regard, a number of research studies have been conducted with the aim of analysing school culture through the study of school smocks (Dussel, 2003), the inspector figure (Southwell and Manzione, 2011; Volonté, Longobucco, & Ponce de León, 2007), school functions (Guillén, 2008) and school books (Escolano, 2002, 2008).

On the one hand, school smocks studies (Dussel, 2003) point out that analysing the culture form “school” implies studying the way in which it became a national and local experience. School smocks served as gateways to deploy those localization processes that formed the basis for expansion of the Argentinian school. The use of the school smock is understood here as the product of “minor” and “major” discursive practices, of expert discourses, moral discourses, institutional codes and regulations, body-related practices and political and social beliefs.

On the other hand, studies on the inspector figure (Southwell & Manzione, 2011; Volonté, Longobucco, & Ponce de León, 2007) showed that it acted as a control and discipline device with its own abilities and functions, that not only reproduces the rule but also prescribes correct practices on a teaching basis. Mediation between the rule (understood as a guide for teachers’ performance at school) and the custom that could be observed in relation to the system governance, turns into a strong confidence in the rule's quality, as a configuration tool of inspection practices.

As regards school functions studies, Guillén (2008) states that rituals pervade daily life holding a nodal position in culture and building themselves as crucial foundations of the institutional life of society and its bodies, among which the school is included. Traditional national holidays at school set themselves as the rule which turns them into common sense: daily routines and rituals are incorporated into an everyday school life that prescribes in a rigurous and articulate grammar the meaning of Homeland, Patriotism and Citizenship. Thus, a version of history is imposed, a love mandate to Homeland, national symbols and whatever the country produces.

Regarding the school book, research conducted by Escolano (2002, 2008) describe it as a space for memory that materialized the programs through which each school culture period, prevailing images and values were realized in the society that produces and uses the texts, as well as the communication and appropriation methods of the educational content. The school book survives as a constant corporeity belonging to the educational sphere and teachers’ ergological tools, although it adopts communication methods merged into certain technological formats, at the same time that influences some behavioral patterns of people who make up their texts through web browsed materials.

Sander's contributions (2008) recognize that, in the region, it is necessary to continue investing in the development of educational practices that are politically effective for the communities and their educational institutions, culturally relevant for the actors playing a role in everyday school practice, socially significant and ethically valid for the general public. In this sense, Aguerrondo (2013) argues that one of the causes of the decline in educational quality is that the complex bureaucratic organization of education systems has not allowed teaching customization to the unique needs of the different social groups.

In addition to these structural issues, a number of demands was imposed on schools (Dussel, 2005), namely: to teach more and more contents in an interesting and productive way; to provide support and care; to assist the families; to organize the community; to act as a charitable organization collecting and delivering food, health care and social assistance; to detect abuse; to protect the rights and expand social participation.

In this respect, Segovia (2005) notes that within the reform framework, the educational institutions are submitted to new challenges, responsibilities and demands that rather than stimulate their curricular and institutional autonomy, have become like a tough shield or veil that conceals and separates the law in contrived educational and curricular projects externally promoted. At the same time, the emerging anxieties and tensions of the teaching staff act as new elements of resistance or blur the social engagement of the educational task.

In this context, the structure, organization and functioning of secondary education were reformed in many countries of the region through the diversification of institutional forms, the creation of special workshops, the use of various concrete materials, changes in subjects’ passing methods and attendance flexibilization (Acosta, 2009; Aguerrondo, 2013; Duschatzky & Aguirre, 2013; Gvirtz & Podestá, 2009).

Particularly in Argentina, and in relation to the institutional functioning, Tiramonti (2011) recognizes that the diversity of institutions and curricular guidelines is a constitutive characteristic of secondary education. This diversity is associated with the construction of different alternatives or the forcing of traditional institutions to include the social groups newly incorporated into schools.

According to Tedesco (2010), the diversification of structures within a framework of independent operation logics is taking place without the relevant strengthening of the central management's capacity to set goals, measure results and make up for differences. Thus, the ability of people in charge of educational management is eroded.

As regards school management, the contributions of Sverdlick (2006) point out that in times of change, the meanings, representations, and standards – the values that organize educational management – suffer a series of breaks. On the one hand, struggles to defend their own space are put up, rigidity and inflexibility being a clear sign of brittleness between bonds and agreements. Whereas respect for autonomy and attention to differences are recognized as needs in speech, in practice, there is no room for error, doubt or failure. Furthermore, many schools and teachers are still asking for prescriptions and recipes (typical of the ‘90s); though they also complain about it.

On the other hand, there is mutual distrust between each institution's educational management and “the system”. For technicians, the signs of distrust generally refer to the possibility of the changes taking place, the continuity and sustainability of the actions by the management of each institution. For principals, the proposals do not contemplate the reality of teachers and schools (which have their own daily and historical issues, their institutional dynamics).

Finally, some school devices aimed at improving management have lost their pedagogical power, such as the Institutional Education Project (PEI), which currently exists as a mere formality. Planning preparation, assessments and monitoring practices lost their pedagogical character in favor of evaluative and controlling criteria.

Meanwhile, Bardisa Ruiz (2009) states that in times of reform, the principal develops a series of strategies, such as “displacement,” “control of information,” “control of meetings,” “division and formulation of rules,” “allocation of resources,” “co-optation,” which are used as tradable goods for exchanges, where some groups struggle to maintain the status quo, and innovators to make a change.

The results of the studies carried out by Santos Guerra (2009) also warn that education reforms are faced with some key features of educational management: firstly, the high level of routinization, since institutional practices are perpetuated from one year to the next without any structural analysis or thorough reflection; secondly, the temporal aspect, given that innovations require more time to implement than routine mechanisms based on automatic processes; and finally, lack of interest, skepticism, lack of conviction regarding change effectiveness, bad experiences, lack of clarity in the rules of the game all banish individuals from participating in the proposed change.

The next table summarizes the contributions described above. The chart contains summary information for linking and synthesizing knowledge production on the subject (Table 2).

Table 2.

Literature review summary on institutional functioning and educational management during education reforms.

  Anglophone countries  Latin American countries  Anglophone countries  Latin American countries 
Institutional functioning  Institutional social differentiation threatens the bureaucratic principle of standardization.  System changes are marginal and the traditional organizational structure of the school persists.  Concretion levels interconnected with territorial specificities are not recognized as such or are not synergically coordinated.  The diversification of structures as a result of independent operation logics occurs without the relevant strengthening of the central management's capacity to set goals, measure results and make up for differences. 
School management  It is characterized by a tension between providing a more meaningful education and living up to the expectations of minority educational groups, in terms of knowledge and skills.  It is characterized by the workload, the greater diversification of its tasks; simultaneity, immediacy and indeterminacy; brevity, variety and discontinuity.  Traditional management practices aimed at reaching agreement through alliances formed with common interest groups have only short-term results.  It is characterized by rigidity and inflexibility; the proposals do not contemplate the reality of teachers and schools, giving priority to evaluative and controlling criteria. 
Source: Compiled by author based on literature review.

The contributions of this section are intended to discuss some positions and models related to key educational management issues that condition the application of education reforms, such as: the homogeneity or diversity of institutional structures, the models of institutional functioning, principals’ positions, and the rules that regulate school practices. The explicitation of these points can clarify the positions from which the educators and researchers engage in theoretical and practical approaches to the promotion of education reforms, and the set of routines, habits and institutional practices that they attempt to change or keep.

First, the literature review questions the idea of homogeneity of the institutional offer. On the one hand, some authors argue that social justice in education implies that those social sectors that were expelled or never accessed secondary school must remain in and graduate from those very same schools (Tiramonti, 2011). However, it should not be disregarded that expulsion was the result of offering the same to everyone, great principle of the modern school. On the other hand, there is a second theoretical position (Duschatzky & Aguirre, 2013; Duschatzky, Farrán, & Aguirre, 2010), which argues that educational institutions are in constant rebirth, not inhabited by the monotonous reiteration of its objectives, purposes, tasks, or rules; they are rather seen as something that happens in the occurrence of events.

Second, the literature review specifies two general models that coexist in institutional functioning and management practices. On the one hand, the bureaucratic model, where schools ritualize their relations with the bureaucracy in an effort to adapt. Thus, processes are standardized resulting in irrelevant objectives for the institutions, and the excessive hierarchical levels cause multiple and indeterminate institutional processes that hinder the search for solutions that suit each institutional reality (Bates, 1989; Oszlak, 1977; Weber, 1991). On the other hand, the social and cultural diversity observed in subjectivities and institutional profiles point to resignification and democratization practices of the traditional institutional structure. This second model is conceptualized as “education democracy” (Bates, 1989) and is characterized by the recognition of the key role human action plays in triggering unique and creative responses to experience and the variety of local circumstances. Also, another key feature of this second model is that it advocates a re-politicization of the individual in order to achieve a domination-free autonomy.

Third, this review specifies different school management perspectives and their respective practical consequences. On the one hand, the principal's traditional figure oriented to monitor, control, supervise and ensure the implementation of the educational service is portrayed (Dussel, 1995; Müller, Ringler, & Simon, 1992; Southwell & Manzione, 2011). In this sense, the principal's powers and duties entail mainly monitoring activities-hierarchically and coercively understood- and reporting to higher-ranking authorities. On the other hand, a more democratic principal perspective is depicted, oriented to promote the autonomy of institutions. In this case, management tasks have a political sense, which gives centrality to projects with transformational content driven by more collective processes that translate into the constitution of teams in which shared responsibilities, solidarities and collaboration are expressed (DiNIECE, 2013; Gvirtz and Podestá, 2009).

Fourth, this literature review questions the role of rules as the central device of any educational management. On the one hand, in the education bureaucracy model, the rules are aimed at achieving uniform educational goals, linear school trajectories and institutional formats devoted to standardize processes and practices. On the other hand, rules can be used to make practices and decisions more flexible allowing particular educational institutions to assume a leading role. In this sense, institutional practices combine the recognition of central goals and guidelines, with particular interests, needs and moments specific to each institution.


Some conclusions with a methodological impact on education policies and school management can be drawn from this article.

Regarding its methodological impact, this literature review about school management in times of education reform allows to represent original research contributions comprehensively and synthetically. At the same time, it facilitates the recovery of the primary document and serves as reference for future state-of-the-art research on the subject.

Regarding the contribution of this article to education policies, on the one hand, it points out that education policies design and management are two complex processes that should provide each other feedback. Policy management realizes the guidelines set forth in the regulations while making these policies a source of information to improve or change these regulations. At the same time, acknowledging the actual power of management allows to discover those practices, strategies and negotiations that take place in each institution, showing that education policies are much more than a set of rules and standards to be implemented.

On the other hand, as shown in Table 2, in terms of educational management (i.e. the organization of the conditions conducive to each institutional actors’ appropriation or resignification of socio-educational knowledge), control-oriented practices, such as rule implementation supervision, are still in force coexisting with practices that aim to enhance the sense of cultural diversity within the institutions. In reality, these practices result in tensions between the micro-cultural scenarios and the macro-organizational conditions. These tensions settle between moving forward toward decisions that respect the common good in a particular context and time and complying with standard regulations defined by the central management. As a result, attitudes of distrust and lack of flexibility arise within institutions, where changes fail to make sense in their realities.

Finally, this article has implications for school management, understood as the set of practices and decisions that principals should make in order to generate and organize the conditions for all institutional actors to participate meaningfully in the construction of knowledge. Depending on the characteristics assumed by the institutions in times of change, it is important that principals build their agendas prioritizing the solutions for particular institutional problems, maximize the actions that most institutional actors find meaningful, and create projects that support the trajectories and histories of youths and adolescents. In this framework, central management guidelines and regulations should function as support tools applied as necessary, and not be an end in themselves.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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For example: the creation of schools not organized by grades (traditional schools are organized by ages); optimum use of time, space and number of students as flexible resources to diversify uniform class periods with same-size classrooms; class size standardization; courses unification in specialized subjects or around departmental specializations; team-work promotion among teachers vs. independent isolated work in separate classrooms.

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