Accountability for Equity? A retrospective look at how new-liberal models of accountability have impacted Irish Education

Gerry Mac Ruairc, School of Education, University College Dublin, Ireland





There is now a considerable body of schol- arship on the impact neo-liberal models of ac- countability have had on education systems. While very pervasive, neo-liberal models of accountability are not monolithic and encoun- ter different systems at different stages of de- velopment and varying degrees of readiness or receptiveness to reform imperatives of this na- ture. This paper seeks to examine how the dif- ferent stakeholders have mediated these newer forms of accountability in the Irish context. It seeks to look specifically at the impact of forms of accountability, including those with neolib- eral origins, on the achievement of more equita- ble student outcomes. Generally speaking Irish education reform has come late to neo-liberal policy platform so the current inequitable out- comes of the Irish system cannot be the result of neo-liberal reforms alone. What is examined here is how the main manifestations of account- ability that are established in the Irish system have contributed to the differences in outcomes for different social groups. The analysis sug- gests that even without neoliberal type reforms the Irish system was not doing well with re- spect to equitable student outcomes. Therefore,

as a system, from an equity point of view, it is not well positioned to incorporate neo-liber- al discourses that have failed to deliver equity elsewhere. It becomes clear than unless equality outcomes and the more politically challenging equity-derived policy imperatives are explic- itly built into the pedagogical core of schools there is little hope that education systems will contribute to the achievement of equity.

Keywords: neo-liberal reform, equitable out- comes, forms of accountability, pedagogical core