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Research project

Privatisation in ESOL: Four-nation comparison

Project overview

The study explores the shapers and impacts of privatisation in the area of English education for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and identifies ways to enhance the quality of education without compromising equity.
Many governments, including Hong Kong, have recently adopted a new line of privatisation through educational reforms, allowing for third parties’ participation in curriculum delivery in public schools funded by public monies, i.e., New Education Privatisation (NEP) in Burch’s (2009) definition.
In addition to general privatisation trends, within-country NEP and its cross-national development at the government/supranational level have rightly attracted scholarly attention. However, the conditions which enable its infiltration into individual schools in the complex nexus of global/local relations has not received due attention, particularly for ESOL. ESOL requires special attention as equity issues can be heightened in it, English being crucial, but not readily accessible, social capital to enhance life chances for marginal groups of students, and is an attractive area for NEP. Furthermore, previous research has aptly provided criticism of NEP-induced changes in teacher professionalism (e.g., fragmentation of the teaching force) and educational quality and equity; however, there is little discussion of how schools and teachers should be prepared for NEP.
The study aims to:
1. Identify ideas and material and structural conditions at the supra-governmental, national and local levels that enable and shape the trajectories and strategies of NEP in each national case and in individual schools, specifically in ESOL;
2. Investigate the impact of NEP in contemporary public schooling and on teachers’ practices, and their professionalism, particularly in ESOL;
3. Investigate ways to ensure the quality and equity of ESOL provision under NEP; and
4. Extend the theorisation of NEP in ESOL by investigating its appropriate use in public school systems to ensure quality education for all.

The sequential mixed-method study consists of analysis of supra-national/national/sub-national policies concerning ESOL NEP; case studies in ten schools; a survey with 330 schools; and synthesis of findings, including comparative analysis. It will extend the theorisation of NEP and debates about relevant policies, pedagogy and teacher education, in order to develop partnerships between public schools and third parties that will enhance quality education for all.


Lead researcher

Dr Tae-Hee Choi

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • Education policy and change
  • Teacher development
  • English for Speakers of Other Languages

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

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