Historical Trends in Educational Decentralization in the United States and Developing Countries: A Periodization and Comparison in the Post-WWII Context

D. Brent Edwards Jr., David DeMatthews


In the present work, we fill a gap in the writing on the decentralization of educational governance by periodizing and comparing trends that have fallen under this label in both the United States and developing countries in the post-WWII period (1945-present). The findings are informed by a review of 127 decentralization-related studies from seven leading, peer-reviewed journals in comparative and international education, in addition to the Journal of Education Policy, Journal of Educational Administration, and Harvard Education Review. We combine this review with works that address larger political and economic shifts and, in so doing, are able to delineate two pushes for decentralization in the United States. In developing countries, the term decentralization has emerged during three distinct periods. Beyond characterizing the nature of decentralization in general terms over time, we also compare key features of these trends and the forces that brought them about. One key finding is that the application of community-level decentralization in developing countries has not been as widespread as global rhetoric during the 1990s and 2000s would imply. A second key finding is that there has been a relatively recent shift away from decentralization towards other forms of accountability-based reforms in both the United States and developing countries.


Decentralization, School-Based Management, Education Governance, Community Control, United States, Developing Countries, Accountability, Neoliberalism

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v22n40.2014

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Copyright (c) 2019 D. Brent Edwards Jr., David DeMatthews


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