Fear of censorship in education research strategy

January 12, 2001

Proposals that will lead to the creation of the first national strategy for research in education are contested by academics, who fear they are a mechanism for censorship.

The National Educational Research Forum has outlined the strategy that it says will influence not just research priorities but also how research questions are formulated. The proposals will affect the way research projects are funded and the way results are analysed and interpreted.

Nerf says the strategy is intended to offer a "sound, more comprehensive basis for high-quality decision-making at national, local and classroom level". It hopes the strategy will lead to improvements in the recruitment and retention of schoolteachers.

But some academics are concerned that the forum, established by the government, could be a threat to academic freedom.

Phil Hodkinson, professor of lifelong learning at Leeds University, said:

"These proposals could close sources for independent thinking. Indeed, they amount to a mechanism for censorship."

Academics at the Institute of Education in London said in a joint response:

"This glosses over the diverse and contested nature of education research and ignores the political and professional imperatives that can militate against policy-makers and practitioners applying research findings to their practices."

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