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Ensaio: Avaliação e Políticas Públicas em Educação

Print version ISSN 0104-4036On-line version ISSN 1809-4465

Ensaio: aval.pol.públ.Educ. vol.24 no.93 Rio de Janeiro Oct./Dec. 2016 

Original Article

Governance: concepts and emergence in Brazilian education1

Governança: Conceitos e Emergência na Educação Brasileira

Gobernanza: Conceptos y Emergencia en la Educación Brasileña

Aline Veiga dos Santosa 

Isabela Cristina Marins Bragab 

Ranilce Guimarães-Iosifc 

Sinara Pollom Zardod 

a Universidade Católica de Brasília (UCB). Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brasil.

b Universidade Católica de Brasília (UCB). Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brasil.

c Universidade Católica de Brasília (UCB). Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brasil.

d Universidade Católica de Brasília (UCB). Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brasil.


The text discusses the polysemy of the term governance in different fields of knowledge, with a particular emphasis on the field of Education. Then, it discusses the state-of-the-art of governance in the education area, from an analytical-descriptive literature review based on content analysis. This paper analyzes governance in specialized literature by conducting a survey of the papers found in the databases of the Scientific Electronic Library Online and the Brazilian Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations during the period 2004–2015. The results indicate that the term governance has been increasingly used in discussions about changes in the state’s role and the phases of educational public policies, by force of the public-private partnerships. However, there is also a need to broaden the debate on educational governance in Brazilian academic circles, in view of the limited number of studies identified.

Key words: Governance; Educational governance; Education research


O texto problematiza a polissemia das concepções do termo governança em diferentes áreas do conhecimento, com destaque para a Educação. Em seguida, discorre sobre o estado da arte da governança na área de Educação, a partir de uma revisão bibliográfica analítico-descritiva fundamentada na análise de conteúdo. O artigo analisa a governança na literatura especializada, a partir do levantamento das produções acadêmicas e científicas registradas nas bases Scientific Electronic Library Online e Biblioteca Digital Brasileira de Teses e Dissertações, no período compreendido entre 2004 a 2015. Os resultados apontam que o termo governança tem sido cada vez mais usado nas discussões acerca das mudanças no papel do Estado e nas fases das políticas públicas educacionais, por força das parcerias público-privadas. Todavia, evidencia-se a necessidade de ampliar o debate sobre a governança educacional na academia brasileira, tendo em vista o número reduzido de pesquisas identificadas.

Palavras-Chave: Governança; Governança educacional; Pesquisa em educação


El texto analiza la polisemia de los conceptos del término gobernanza en diferentes áreas del conocimiento, con énfasis en el área de educación. En seguida, analiza el estado del arte de la gobernanza en el área de la educación, desde una revisión descriptiva y analítica de la literatura, basada en el análisis de contenido. El artículo analiza la gobernanza en la literatura especializada, basándose en producciones académicas y científicas registradas en las bases de datos de la Scientific Electronic Library Online y la Biblioteca Digital Brasileña de Tesis y Disertaciones en el período 2004–2015. Los resultados indican que el término gobernanza ha sido cada vez más utilizado en las discusiones sobre los cambios ocurridos en el estado en función de sus colaboraciones público-privadas y de las fases de políticas públicas educativas. Sin embargo, la investigación identificó la necesidad de ampliar el debate sobre la gestión educativa en la academia brasileña, teniendo en cuenta el número limitado de investigaciones encontradas.

Palabras-clave: Gobernanza; Gobernanza Educativa; Investigación en Educación

1 Introduction

In the last two decades, the term governance has been at the core of the discussions of studies about State, Society and Public Policy, as well as of the agenda of governments and corporations. A review of national and international literature points to the fact that the term is polysemic and is used in a wide variety of forms and contexts. Theorists in this field of study contend that there is no consensus on the definition of governance (GUIMARÃES-IOSIF, 2012; HOYLER et al., 2014; LESSARD; BRASSARD, 2009;RHODES, 1996; SANTOS, 2010; STOKER, 1998).

The concept has been applied in several fields of knowledge. Political Science, Business Administration, Economics, and Sociology are all examples of fields in which the term is increasingly employed, and its use stems from new and interrelated economic, political, and social dynamics (REIS, 2013). In the Brazilian context, we observe that, in the area of Education, the studies on the topic are still incipient, which points to the fact that it needs to be further explored.

In this sense, this article presents the main concepts of governance that are being used in the specialized literature, aiming to synthesize which constitutes Brazil’s state-of-the-art in the area of Education, i.e., we will map how the classical and contemporary literature has respectively dealt with the topic. For this purpose, we made a survey of studies that were published on the Scientific Electronic Library Online (SciELO) and the Brazilian Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (Biblioteca Digital Brasileira de Teses e Dissertações – BDTD) databases. It is worth noting that we used the works found in those electronic databases because they are considered national references in the field2. We chose a decade (2004–2015) as a timeframe because the studies on governance in the area of Education, especially those published in Portuguese, are very recent.

In this sense, the discussion is formulated on the basis of three fundamental questions. In which context does the terminology governance emerge? What do the studies say about the topic? How has the term been investigated in the research in the area of Education in Brazil? The article is structured in two parts. First, we discuss the concept of governance in different fields of knowledge. Then, we seek to assess its theoretical foundations in the area of Education, pinpointing its emergence as well as its implications for this field. In the second part, will discuss what is considered as the state-of-the-art in terms of governance studies in the field of Education. In this part, we will use quantitative and qualitative tools to conduct our analysis.

Methodologically, this is an analytical-descriptive literature review based on content analysis (BARDIN, 2010), that is an examination of studies that have been conducted in the field of Education. According to Romanowski and Ens (2006), surveys and reviews of the knowledge that has been produced on a certain topic are an essential step to trigger a qualitative analysis process that helps trace all of the studies that were produced. Studies that pinpoint what the state-of-the-art is on a certain topic bring an overview of what is being produced in the area and place the articles in chronological order so that those who are interested in the subject understand the evolution of the research in the field, its characteristics and focus, as well as identify possible existing gaps in the literature.

2 Unveiling the concept – from government to governance

The theoretical roots of governance are multiple: “institutional economics, international relations, organizational studies, development studies, political science, public administration and Foucauldian-inspired theorists” (STOKER, 1998, p. 18). For Stoker, the works of these field’s precursors are largely based on corporatism, political community and the range of economic analyses that deal with the evolution of economic systems.

According to Reis (2013), Ronald Coase in 1937, was the first scholar – in an article entitled The nature of the firm – to refer to the term governance as a tool used by companies to reduce transaction costs that would result in better economic coordination. In 1975, almost four decades later, the term was formalized by Oliver Eaton Williamson’s work – Markets and Hierarchies: Analysis and Antitrust Implications. Since then, the concept has spread across disciplines. Its meaning, however, is wide-ranging “insofar as it refers to the analysis of patterns of articulation and cooperation between actors and the institutional arrangements that coordinate social systems” (REIS, 2013, p. 104).

Until 1975, as stated by Santos (2010), the library of the British Museum had catalogued 47 titles containing the word governance. Since then, the term showed a rapid dissemination across all disciplines in Social Sciences. This vertiginous proliferation is only matched, during this period, by the diffusion of the term globalization. The convergence of their paths is not the byproduct of chance. In the mid 1990’s, governance became the political motto of neoliberal globalization. Neoliberal theorists sought new modes of political regulation, which exceeded the previous paradigm, based on social conflict and on the privileged role of the Nation-State as a sovereign entity. In this context, governance is the basic structure of a nurturing environment of the network of pragmatic cooperative ideas and patterns of behavior shared by a select group of actors having distinct interests.

According to Lima (2007), the new ways of doing politics were inspired by concepts that would refer to ideas like “less State, better State”, where the processes of privatization, State deregulation and decentralization were considerably promoted. This new dynamics and the resulting loss of the State’s legitimacy reached its pinnacle in the governments of Margaret Thatcher (UK) and Ronald Reagan (USA). Both of them were driven by an ideology called the “New Right”, which aimed to decrease the role played by the State in favor of the private sector, introducing: a business philosophy in the management of public affairs; and a reduction of costs that would lead to a more efficient operation of government. This ideology spread in different national contexts and on transnational scales. As reinforced by the author, “with these developments, the interdependence between governments and numerous social actors became apparent and the concept of governance gained an increasing relevance” (LIMA, 2007, p. 165).

In Latin America, those precepts were brought about by the Washington Consensus (1989), which is considered as the pinnacle of neoliberalism. The goal was to promote a set of reforms that would include: concentration of public expenditures on priority activities (Education, Healthcare, Infrastructure); tax reform; financial liberalization; removal of legal restrictions on foreign capital; privatization of State enterprises; deregulation of labor and legislation; among others. In this sense, Santos (2012) highlights that the post-Washington Consensus neoliberal globalization promoted the current model of public administration, also known as governance.

Hence, it is in this manner that the concept of public governance emerged, gaining particular notoriety in the Governance and Development (WORLD BANK, 1992) and Governance in Transition (OECD, 1995) reports. “When the Washington Consensus seemed to be unable to propitiate what it had intended to do – probably due to its own rigidity – the World Bank appeared with a new alternative, this time based on the so-called “good governance” (DALE, 2006, p. 66). In this perspective, governance is “the measure by which power is exercised in the management of the country’s economic and social resources, particularly when considering its own development” (WORLD BANK, 1992, p. 1). The World Bank recommended a model of good governance that was based on four principles; a public administration system based on the principles of: efficiency, legal structures, accountability and transparency. Thus, the goal is to establish a new path for global development by means of governmental reforms and the instrumentality of services. “From there, several academic studies emerged trying to better understand this new terminology, which wound up integrating the educational dictionary of countries across the globe” (GUIMARÃES-IOSIF, 2012, p. 17).

The emerging model of administration defended a focus on results and on the reduction of costs, superimposing itself on the traditional structures of public management. This concept of governance, based on the neoliberal discourse, made the Brazilian State rely on new service-providing agents, stimulating the privatization of the public sector as well as the liberalization and deregulation of the market. Public/private partnerships contributed and enabled the transfer of public resources to private institutions, which made it possible for many policies that were following that logic to be created. “A central element in the concept of governance is the idea that governments no longer have the monopoly on legitimate power: other bodies may contribute to the maintenance of order within the state and may take part in its economic and social regulation” (LESSARD; BRASSARD, 2009, p. 256).

In Brazil, particularly in the post-constitutional context (1988), the concept of governance emerged in the discussions of what the role of the State should be. The new public governance materialized itself through the Administrative Reform, directed towards the managerial capacity of the State, which aimed to be more efficient in offering services to the citizen. The Master Plan for State Apparatus Reform (BRASIL, 1995) was orchestrated in President Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s government (1995–2002), where Luiz Carlos Bresser Pereira and Paulo Renato de Souza were, respectively, the Ministers of Administration and Education (TAVARES, 2009). It is from this State reform conducted in 1995 that researchers began to be interested in the topic (HOYLER et al., 2014).

Jessop (1999) shows that the emergence of governance happened in the midst of changes in the State’s conception of social welfare. The Fordist period represented a wide set of hierarchical structures whose model was widened by the social and economic roles played by the State. A new network model that emphasizes partnership, self-regulation, self-organization, informal sector, and decentralization is challenging this paradigm. “Overall this involves a tendential shift from imperative coordination by the sovereign state to an emphasis on interdependence, divisions of knowledge, reflexive negotiation, and mutual learning. In short, there is a shift from government to governance in the narrow sense” (JESSOP, 1999, p. 355).

Changes in the role of the State, as pointed by Rizvi and Lingard (2010), lead to a change from government to governance.

Government is usually taken to refer to the political party, parties or political coalitions that control structures state (the public service) and state practices (e.g., introducing legislation, law making, policymaking, creating regulations and appointments to the judiciary) within any give nation at any given time. Government in this sense could be seen to function within a nation-state and within the bureaucratic structures of the public sector. Governance signifies changes in this form of government linked to the effects of globalization (RIZVI; LINGARD, 2010, p. 118).

In contemporary times, governance also refers to a form of organization and public action. Social scientists, especially those who do research on local governments and public administration, believe that the organizations of public actions were moved away from bureaucratic hierarchies to networks and markets. Governance, therefore, emerges from two distinct analytical waves of public sector reform. The first consisted of reforms that were associated with the concept of economic rationality – neoliberalism, outsourcing and the new public management. The second consisted of reforms associated with sociological concepts of rationality – the third way, networks, partnerships, and joined-up governance (BEVIR, 2011).

Governance expresses a change in the meaning of government, which refers to a new process of ruling, and also to changes in the conditions of established rules, i.e., to a new method by which society is governed (RHODES, 1996). The change from government to governance (BALL, 2013; DALE, 2010; JESSOP, 1999; 2013; RHODES, 1996; RIZVI; LINGARD, 2010; ROSENAU, 2000) denotes that traditional forms of intervention are having less importance in current social/economic policies, “with the exception of moments of crisis and emergencies, when it is expected that the State should act as a helper of last resort, mobilizing its tools for conventional intervention or creating new ones” (JESSOP, 2013, p. 272-273). In this context, social and economic supervisions intend to be developed through lighter and reflexive regulations, institutional intelligence, and the sharing of ideas. The element that moves the concept of government to governance is the new scalar politics of globalization (DALE, 2010).

Governance is regularly presented through a polycentric (RIZVI; LINGARD, 2010) form of coordination (JESSOP, 1999; LESSARD; BRASSARD, 2009; REIS, 2013; RHODES, 1996; SANTOS, 2010). According to Dale (2010, p. 1111), the State has assumed the role of “coordinator of coordination”. Therefore, governance has to do with the capacity to coordinate interdependent activities and/or to affect changes when there is no single legal authority to coordinate it (LESSARD; BRASSARD, 2009). This is the exercise of multispacial (JESSOP, 2013) metagovernance (BALL, 2013).

Due to metamorphoses in the role played by the government and the emergence of new public policy decision-making actors, the term governance has become popular, even though its use in national and international academic literature has been differentiated. Two decades ago, Rhodes (1996) had already identified six uses of the term in literature: minimal State; corporate governance; new public management; good governance; socio-cybernetic systems; and networks of self-organization. In this author’s point of view, governance refers to the self-organization of inter-organization networks. These networks have the capacity to complement markets and hierarchies and also manage structures that allocate resources with an authority that exerts control and coordination.

Ball (2013) draws our attention to a new type of governance that is experimental and strategic and which is based on a network of relationships within and through new political communities, aimed to generate a new capacity to govern and increase legitimacy. These new political networks bring new actors to the political process, legitimate new discourses of policy and allow new forms of influence and ways of experiencing policies. In some respects, they disable, disenfranchise or deceive some of the already established actors and politicians. It must be highlighted that the idea that networks are interconnected with the concept of governance is also reinforced by Stoker (1998), Jessop (1999; 2013), Lima (2007), Bevir (2011) and Ball (2013). The Table 1 presents the prevalent uses of the term.

Table 1 Governance: different uses and conceptions. 

Uses Concepts
Minimal State This is a general term that redefines the extent and form of public intervention in public service-providing markets and quasi-markets.
Corporate Governance Despite the restricted use of the word, corporate governance concerns are echoed when the accountability of new public management and governance are discussed. It highlights that the management practices of the private sector have an important influence on the public sector.
New Public Management It has two meanings: managerialism that refers to the introduction of private sector management methods in the public sector; and the new institutional economics that relates to incentive structures (such as market competition) within the provision of a public service. Therefore, such use is relevant for discussions relating to competition, markets, clients and results.
Good governance This use emphasizes the formal processes of governments and private enterprises, in a way that guarantees transparency and the dissemination of information. Government reform is a global trend. Therefore, good governance is a World Bank management reference that shapes loan policies with respect to third world countries.
Social-cybernetic system The socio-cybernetic approach highlights: the limits of ruling by a central actor, claiming that there is no longer a sovereign authority, since there is a multiplicity of actors for each policy area; the interdependence between these socio-political-administrative actors; the murky borders between the public, private and cooperative sectors; and new forms of action, intervention and control.
Networks of self-organization This use conceives governance as a term that is broader than government, with services provided through bargains between the government, private and cooperative sectors. Inter-organizational agreements are defining characteristics of service provisions.

Source: Rhodes (1996); Authors’ compilation (2016).

Although there are different concepts, Rhodes lists a set of common characteristics of the term:

  1. Interdependence between organizations. Governance is broader than government, covering non-state actors. Changing boundaries of the state meant the boundaries between public, private and voluntary sectors became shifting and opaque.

  2. Continuous interactions between network members, caused by the need to exchange resources and negotiate shared purposes.

  3. Game-like interactions, rooted in trust and regulated by rules of the game negotiated and agreed by network participants.

  4. A significant degree of autonomy from the State. Networks are not accountable to the state; they are self-organizing. Although the state does not occupy a privileged, sovereign position, it cans indirectly and imperfectly steer networks (RHODES, 1996, p. 660).

In this sense, governance deals with the attempt to manage, by governmental and non-governmental paths, a globalization that extends to other sectors of the entire system. Therefore, the perception of “governance without government” does not require the suppression of national governments. But it implies an investigation that presumes the absence of some internationally supreme governmental authority. In other words, the concept of governance without government leads to the study of global politics, in the sense that, in this arena, the absence of a central authority is rather conspicuous, although it is also obvious that there is a minimal and normal order in the conduct of the world’s life (ROSENAU, 2000).

Santos (2010, p. 407) points to the fact that States are not absent from this dynamic. “They are, effectively, absent from the principles of sovereignty and coercive power associated with them. The State is, therefore, a legitimate partner of governance, as long as it participates in a non-sovereign State capacity”. The author goes further and adds that the passage from legitimacy to governmentality emerged from the fragility of the State as a social regulator. However, the State is not devoid of its role as a “meta-regulator”, that is, as an entity responsible of generating spaces for legitimate non-State regulators. Governance is related to changes in the modus operandi and structures of the government (ROSENEAU, 2000; TAVARES, 2011). Thus, networks of governance involve not only the political influence of the government, but assume negotiations with it (STOKER, 1998). Governance must be understood as a form of public management of complex inter-organizational networks that substitute the traditional public service units that frequently cross the boundaries of public, private and cooperative sectors, as highlighted by Lima (2007).

In the field of governance, relationships are asymmetric and complex. “The value of the governance perspective rests in its capacity to provide a framework to understanding changing processes of governing” (STOKER, 1998, p. 18). It is also related to the issue of coordination. More specifically, governance reflects the ways in which different types of institutional arrangements in a social system of production – markets, hierarchies, State, networks, associations and communities – are coordinated (REIS, 2013). It reflects the relational orders – distinctive and/or partial – that make up a given dominant institutional or prevailing form.

3 The dawn of educational governance: from the global to the local

The term governance is established as a new and compelling concept that refers, generically, to the idea of a mode of coordination, to the plurality of relationships constituted among a range of social actors (REIS, 2013). The conceptualization and practice of governance in education occurred later than its emergence in socioeconomic arenas and, only recently, were introduced in the Brazilian education policy and management scenario. In the 1980’s, in the English-speaking world, even before the coinage of the word governance in the field of Education, governance minded actions in the educational system were already present on the public policy agenda (ALVES, 2012). The author adds that, in the United States, the work –Educational Governance and Administration, by Sergiovanni et al. (2009) 3– signals, in the literature, a clear perspective that relates to the understanding of the conceptual and operational aspects of governance in the American Education system.

The term governance has received significant attention since it was first introduced under the name of new public management strategies in the 1980’s. “The aim of new public management strategies was not only to optimize the performance quality, but also to positively influence the cost-benefit relations. Efficiency and efficacy of the performance based on evidence became the orienting key terms” (AMOS, 2010, p. 15).

In Brazil, the practices of governance were introduced in the realm of education with the State Reforms that were operated by the Master Plan for State Apparatus Reform (BRASIL, 1995) and with the enactment of the Law of Directives and Bases of National Education, Law no. 9.394 (BRASIL, 1996). The law mentioned above promoted the expansion of for-profit institutions and allowed the occurrence of mergers, Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) on the Stock Market, as well as Foreign Direct Investments. The sponsors of educational institutions, aiming to consolidate themselves in the market, have adopted different models of governance4, which directly impact the administration of institutions, the relationships among students, teachers and other employees.

By making use of a metaphor, Alves (2012) affirms that implanting a system of educational governance is comparable to reforming a school and involves some fundamental elements: planning (goals and objectives); budget (capital); architects (specialists and external consultants); and workers (education managers and teachers). In this author’s perspective, governance is nothing more than a new fad in education and is based on the future viability of public and private educational institutions. Hence, the immediate implementation of governance in education institutions is essential for their promotion of sustainable cultural, social and economic development. In Alves’ conception of educational governance, while specialists and consultants think and elaborate the new model of education and management to be implemented, the only role played by local administrators and educators is to follow the rules and to put into practice what was idealized by actors outside the educational institutions.

The changes in the States’ structures, political guidelines and rules of production, are connected with the change from government to governance. “This transition is taken to pick up on the now more polycentric state with private-sector involvements and principles, for example markets, operating inside the state structures and framing its policies and policy practices. There is also a global layer to this transition” (RIZVI; LINGARD, 2010, p. 136). A great number of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations are now promoting political changes in the nations and national Education systems. This new scalar politics is central to the new arrangements of educational governance.

In this sense, Dale (2006) highlights two aspects of changes in the nature, role, and place of the State that are occurring concomitantly. In the first, the role of the State in what relates to educational governance has changed, in general terms, from a State that “does it all” to a State that is a “coordinator of coordination”. In the second, one must consider that the national level is not the only level at which educational governance is settled.

According to Dale (2006), one must pay attention to four key aspects of this reality:

a)The analysis of governance requires an appropriate examination of the State itself. Many of the features considered inherent to – essentially functions – the State, are not necessarily its features anymore. Therefore, to maintain the importance of the State, it is not necessary that it has complete control over the areas to which it regularly maintained its authority and responsibility;

b)It is necessary to recognize that governance is not a neutral activity. It benefits some interests at the expense of others;

c)In the last decades, the new governance model (and it seems probable that it should remain to be) has been the main way to reform the education;

d)When considering the reconfiguration and re-escalation of educational governance, one can expect significant changes in the functional, scalar and sectoral divisions of labor. This involves a new, significant and extensive allocation of activities, institutions, and results.

In a field marked by disputes, contradictions and conflicting interests, “of course there are still governments within nations, which putatively control policy agendas. The extent of this autonomy or sovereignty is affected by the amount of national capital possessed by a given nation” (RIZVI; LINGARD, 2010, p. 137). One notes that the effects – arising from the new scalar politics that derives from the participation of new political actors of the private sector – result in a State, as described above, that is more polycentric or emptied at the national level. Governance imputes values through complex processes and interrelationships that include a range of actors that are neither above nor below the Nation-State (RIZVI; LINGARD, 2010).

Thus, in order to have a better understanding of Education policies, it is important that the scholar has a global perspective. It is possible to note, also, that educational governance is multi-scalar in its nature. Therefore, Education policies are no longer characterized as the exclusive preserve of individual Nation-States. Hence, what is commonly understood as governance, in this case, is a substitution of the assumption that the State always and necessarily governs education through the control of all government activities, which we could call the coordination of coordination, with the State possibly playing the role of coordinator or regulator of last resort (DALE, 2010).

Governance has become an important term in policy and managerial education research, due to the profound changes that have occurred in the area of education and their relationships with other fields of knowledge, such as: economics, business administration, political science, technology and sociology of education. Those changes involve new tools and instruments, which include new modes of offering and organizing educational services and the inclusion of new actors in education policy (AMOS, 2010). Hoyler et al. (2014) contend that the establishment of a conceptual framework of governance in the field of Education can help us understand the modus operandi of public policy, as well as the relationships that are formed between the government and other actors in the competing arena for interests and resources. The analysis of modes of interaction among actors in their formulation and implementation of public education policies is a topic that demands more systematic research.

3.1 Emergence of governance in education research in Brazil

Due to the strengthening of the market and the decentralization of the State, governance is being diffused with the ideas of neoliberal globalization and is being hailed as a panacea for the ills of public and private management of educational institutions in local and global contexts. Educational governance emerges from the promise to help Education managers and entrepreneurs find more efficient answers to the challenges of reducing costs and strengthening partnerships that democratize access to quality education, both at the Elementary and Higher Education levels. In this context, two questions emerge. What do the studies in the field of education say about governance? How has the field positioned itself in the face of changes in educational policies promoted on behalf of “good governance” initiatives?

In order to identify and analyze the academic and scientific works on the topic of “Educational Governance”, this article presents a survey conducted through the use of SciELO and BDTD databases. As a guiding reference, we utilized the time frame of a decade (2004-2015). The survey was based on key descriptors – governance, governance of education and educational governance. The results were organized on the basis of: the mapping of the works that were analyzed; the year of publication; the State of the Federation in which it was published; the institution to which the work was linked; and the area of knowledge to which it belonged. In order to also understand the theoretical and methodological guidelines of production, we opted for the content analysis (BARDIN, 2010) of articles, theses and dissertations abstracts.

3.2 Academic literature on educational governance

Academic literature on the governance of education in Brazil has revealed that it is a current issue that has only been specifically researched since 2010. However, data show that the topic is, in general, only partially discussed.

The search conducted in the SciELO database revealed the existence of 358 works. The main areas of concentration were on the fields of Business Administration (124 works), Sociology (33 works), Economy (27 works), Accounting (24 works), and Political Science (19 works). Thus, in the larger field of Social Sciences, 227 studies on governance were produced during the period of a decade. In the field of Education, only 7 articles were identified. The Table 2 shows a succinct description of the works that were identified:

Table 2 Academic educational governance production on the SciELO database during the period of 2004 to 2015. 

Year Author Title Journal
2004 Roger Dale Globalization and Education: demonstrating the existence of a “common global educational culture” or tracking a “globally structured agenda for education?” Education & Society
2010 Roger Dale A post-global Sociology of Education and the State Education & Society
2010 Karin Amos Governance and governmentality: relevance and relationship of two prominent socio-scientific concepts in comparative education Education and Research
2012 Susan Robertson and Antoni Verger The origins of public/private partnerships in the global governance of education Education & Society
2012 Janet Newman and John Clarke Managerialism Real Education
2013 Susan Robertson The social justice implications of privatization on the modes of educational governance: a relational story Education & Society
2014 Elaine Fernandes Mateus A critical sketch of “partnerships” on the training of teachers Education in Review

Source: Authors’ compilation (2016).

SciELO: Scientific Electronic Library Online.

According to the data, the publication of studies on educational governance is still very recent. Only one study was published in 2004. The others are mainly concentrated in the years 2010 and 2012 (only two articles were published per year), 2013 and 2014 (one for each year). In regards to the keywords, the emphasis falls strongly on the terms governance, educational governance, education policies, globalization, and State.

In terms of geographical location, the Southeast and Southern regions concentrate the largest amount of publications, with six and one, respectively. The state of São Paulo has the largest amount of works, especially when taking into account two journals that are considered a reference in the field – Education & Society and Education and Research. The journals are kept under the tutelage of: Education & Society, from the Education and Society Studies Centre [Cedes] at the University of Campinas, with 4 published articles. Considering the other journals – Real Education, Education in Review and Education and Research – only one article was found in each, respectively.

The search in the SciELO database revealed that the academic production on the governance of education is predominantly international. Despite the fact that the studies are published in national journals, the majority of authors are foreigners and are linked to universities in the United Kingdom (DALE, 2004; 2010; NEWMAN; CLARKE, 2012; ROBERTSON, 2013; ROBERTSON; VERGER, 2012) and Germany (AMOS, 2010). There is only one work with Brazilian authorship (MATEUS, 2014).

The survey conducted on the BDTD database confirms how research on the governance of education is still incipient in Brazil. The scientific production of dissertations and theses began in 2012. In total, in what relates to the area of education that deals with this subject, 8 dissertations and 5 theses were identified. The Southeast region had the most considerable share of production, with 6 studies overall, followed by the Midwest, with 5, and the South, with 2. Just as with the SciELO database, the North and Northeast regions had no studies whatsoever. The Table 3 illustrates these data:

Table 3 Academic educational governance production on the BDTD database during the period 2004 to 2015. 

Year Type of Work Author Title HEI
2012 Dissertation Aline Veiga dos Santos The governance of private higher education: over-implications of oligopoly formation in the teaching profession UCB
2012 Dissertation Sonia de Pontes Leandro Education ombudsman: the daily construction of conflict mediation spaces in a school of Nova Iguaçu UERJ
2013 Dissertation Sandra Paula da Silva Batistão Inclusive education or education for all? Contributions from historical/cultural theory for a critical analysis of reality at school USP
2013 Dissertation João Ferreira de Araújo Júnior The education worker and the accumulation of flexible capital: a study on the positioning of Sintego in the educational policy of Goiás UFG
2013 Thesis Taís Schmitz Reconfiguration of management in education: a case study on the Regional Coordinator for Education in São Leopoldo/RS UCRS
2013 Thesis Isabel C. A. Lima e Silva National child education policy: the participation of non-state actors in the elaboration of public policies UEC
2013 Dissertation Maria da Glória dos Santos Laia The Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology (Federal Institute) as a new Professional and Technological education institute: an analysis under the perspective of public policies network UNB
2014 Thesis Jorge Luis Inzunza Higueras The Chilean education reform in Latin America (1900–2000): circulation and policy regulations through knowledge UEC
2014 Dissertation Adelmo Germano Etges The manager and the newbie educator as supporters of the Marist educational proposal in RS: from the efforts of its original founder, Marcelino Champagnat, to the challenges of the 21st century UCRS
2014 Thesis Maria do Rosário F. Tripodi The institution of contractual agenda in the education of Minas Gerais: the arquitecture of a reform USP
2014 Dissertation Xavier Carvalho de Sousa Neto National Education Plan – PNE 2001–2010: an analysis of the factors that influence its implementation in the realm of the Union UNB
2014 Dissertation Cleber Sardinha Ribeiro Governance and teacher training: the presence of the World Bank in the Gestar program UCB
2015 Thesis Guilherme Andolfatto Libanori Better policies for better lives: a critical study of conceptions that underlie the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) during the period 1997 to 2012 UFSC

Source: BDTD. Authors’ compilation (2016).

BDTD: Biblioteca Digital Brasileira de Teses e Dissertações.

Regarding the institutional origins of these studies, the Catholic University of Brasília (UCB), the University of São Paulo (USP), the Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (UCRS), the State University of Campinas (UEC), and the University of Brasília (UNB) concentrated the largest amount of studies on educational governance, being that at least two of the studies were concluded at each of those institutions during the period 2012 to 2014. The remaining studies were productions of the Federal University of Goiás (UFG), the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSC), and the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ).

In terms of geographical region, the majority of theses and dissertations were concentrated in the Southeast and Midwest, where 5 studies were concluded in each region, respectively. The other studies were conducted in the Southern region of the country. The keywords analysis confirmed that the studies were concerned with knowing and exploring the impacts of neoliberal globalization on educational public policies, especially when it relates to the phenomenon of governance. In a general sense, the main elements explored in those studies – according to the recurrence of keywords used and the reading of abstracts – were: Education; State Policy; Educational Governance; Education Policy; Evaluation; Public Policies and Reform.

The analysis5 of works abstracts on the BDTD database and the full reading of articles on the SciELO database, both in accordance with content analysis (BARDIN, 2010), contributed to the construction of two categories of analysis: educational policy and reconfiguration of the State. The criteria for the definition of those categories took the central goals of each study and the occurrence of keywords into consideration. Therefore, the categories that were described served as a basis for the analysis of research on the two targeted databases.

3.3 What do the articles of SciELO reveal?

The academic production found in the SciELO database allowed us to verify the complexity of the governance phenomenon, especially when it is applied to the field of Education. In the studies that were analyzed, governance was identified as a natural product of globalization and neoliberal ideologies, which sparked great interest among the researchers that seemed to be imbued by the purpose of analyzing the dynamics of the State and its transformations in the political, economic, and social fields, as a consequence of its new relationships with the market.

Some expressions that were utilized in those articles, such as neoliberal constitutionalization, merger of regulation and emancipation (DALE, 2010), artificial displacements (MATEUS, 2014), volatility and governmentality (AMOS, 2010), globally structured agenda for Education (DALE, 2004), privatization (ROBERTSON, 2013), and new public administration (NEWMAN; CLARKE, 2012), demonstrate the fragility of public education policies as a result of the constant decentralizing role of the State. One must note, also, that Dale (2010) and Robertson’s (2013) studies bring a strong reflection to the social field and reinforce the importance of Sociology of Education and Political Science for a better analysis of the term governance and its impacts in society and education.

The studies that were found were analyzed based on the categories described above, and had the aim of better understanding the arguments raised by the authors. One notes from this analysis that the educational policies and reconfiguration of the State categories are intertwined, because, initially, the studies seek to decipher and contextualize policies in the field of Education and, consequently, to understand and analyze the decision-making processes of the State. The discourses in vogue are scaffolded in self-organization and partnerships – policy networks that involve the public, private, and cooperative sectors –, whose relationship with power manifests themselves in different ways (BALL, 2013).

With respect to Education Policies, the majority of articles point to the existence of different actors in the field of educational public policies. One notes that, in what relates to educational policies, the main keywords described in those studies are reconfiguration and regulation, with the intent of promoting a common standardized educational project that would contribute to the survival of capitalism (AMOS, 201; DALE, 2010; ROBERTSON, 2013). For working with the concept of governance, the studies describe two fundamental instruments of educational reform – privatization and globalization (DALE, 2004; ROBERTSON, 2013). However, it can be verified that the concept of governance is still very polysemic, which makes its definition and analysis in the field of Education even harder to apprehend. In what relates to privatization, Robertson and Verger (2012) analyze public-private partnerships in education, aiming to understand the reconstruction of public education as a market provider. The authors highlight that there is a distortion of education as a public good and as a responsibility of the State, which now serves the necessities of the market.

The analysis of the Reconfiguration of the State category confirms this situation and makes it evident that the influence of globalization extrapolates the limits of the State, producing the State’s withdrawal from the exercise of its role and promoting advancements in its relationships with the market. Mateus’ (2014) study exemplifies this phenomenon while addressing current teacher training processes, anchored in social, cultural and productive restructuring projects. The author analyzes teacher training under the perspective of the Institutional Program for Teacher Initiation Scholarships (PIBID), highlighting the partnerships between Institutions of Higher and Basic Education. Mateus (2014) emphasizes the presence of governance in this complex network of partnerships, involving other market-based actors that are justified by the flexible and dynamic teacher training processes in which the demand for teachers with Higher Education degrees and lower wages is increasing. In this case, governance produces a great impact, not only in terms of training, which is evermore hybrid and artificial, but mainly on the teacher’s work and the quality of the education offered.

In order to handle the volatile relationship between the State and the educational system, Amos (2010) puts the term governmentality into play, weaving this concept through a Foucauldian conception. For the author, governability goes beyond the technical aspects that define governance, especially considering that there is an intense relationship between power and knowledge. A critical outlook on this issue allows us to identify the binomial of knowledge/power in all of the analyzed studies, since the concepts and effects of educational governance discussed by the authors confirm the domination of the market over the State, which justifies the new ways in which the latter has been acting.

According to Dale (2010), the reconfiguration of the State attributed to the change from government to governance is based on a neoliberal constitutionality and is justified by the merger between “regulation and emancipation”. There is a growing call for a quantitative assessment focused on the product, and not necessarily on the process. The studies we are addressing deal not only with the concept of governance and its relationships with education, but also, and mainly, with its implications on a managerial form that traces back to a strong economic relations appeal.

Newman and Clarke (2012) also contribute to a reflection on the issues of education policies and reconfiguration of the State, particularly when dealing with new political arrangements that are proper to governance and appear as something innovative, on the grounds of making the management of organizations (including the State) freer and with greater managerial authority. Evaluation, therefore, is the State’s main managerial instrument, largely adopted in the educational sphere (DALE, 2004; 2010).

In a general sense, academic production on the governance of education – based mainly on the SciELO database – although limited in terms of number of publications, is fundamental in understanding the large regulatory and coordinating focus of the State. The theoretical/methodological richness of the analyzed studies is easily perceived throughout the texts, which seek to work out the origins of the concept and the governance implications for the field of Education, keeping a strong link with studies on the Sociology of Education.

3.4 What do the dissertations and theses found in the BDTD database reveal?

The research derived from the BDTD database revealed that empiricism is a considerable epistemological framework, since most of the studies investigated the diverse situations experienced by the researchers themselves, who seek to discuss the practical effects of the model of governance created in the educational context. The object of this emerging field of study has turned, primarily, to issues pertaining to the quality of education, public/private relationships and teaching and the teaching profession, either at the Elementary or Higher Education levels. One could confirm that there was a unanimous choice for the qualitative approach, most of them opting for case studies. The studies seek to understand the political contexts involved by the governance of education.

The dissertations and theses address, mostly, public education at the Elementary level. Only Santos’ (2012) research analyzes educational governance under the perspective of private Higher Education. It must be said that all studies made references to the World Bank, to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and to the network of local and global non-State actors who are all precursors and disseminators of governance.

In what relates to the Education Policy category, studies showed an impact of governance on the training of teachers, having as an immediate consequence the quality of education itself. An example of this was the Program Gestar II, in the Federal District (RIBEIRO, 2014) and the Pact for Education, in the state of Goiás (ARAÚJO JÚNIOR, 2013). Both questioned the interference of non-State actors in the elaboration and dissemination of those projects, with a particular emphasis on the World Bank. They also reinforced the argument that there is a limitation on the critical point of view of teachers on the influence of other actors in education policy. Araújo Júnior (2013) contends that projects of this nature are a mechanism of governance strategically created by international organizations. As a result, there is an expansion of privatization that occurs as a function of the flexible accumulation of capital, which directly affects the teaching profession.

As Santos (2012) clearly points out, when it relates to the private Higher Education, the effects of the transformation of the educational policy on the teaching profession are not any different. This study contemplates governance as a consequence of the formation of education oligopolies, highlighting the commoditization of private Higher Education and its consequences on the teacher’s work. The author, in analyzing an Institution of Higher Education in the Federal District, ascertains that it belongs to one of the largest educational groups in the World, making it clear that the formation of oligopolies intensifies teachers’ work, restricting their autonomy and compromising the quality of education. The global neoliberal guidelines that were imposed on national economies led to disputes between the private and public sectors. We are witnessing, thus, a departure from the State as a provider, to the expansion of the private sphere, which has occupied several arenas in a rapid manner. As a consequence, private initiative consolidated itself in the educational market and provoked substantive changes in the working relationships.

Leandro (2012) and Higueras’ (2014) works bring the fragility of the political system in Brazil and in Latin America into evidence, highlighting, by having education as a leitmotiv, the centrality of governance as a complete solution to all social issues. In this manner, there is an intense pull back in the role played by the State, which is beginning to act as a regulator and evaluator of educational policies. According to the research, the effects of those changes on teacher training are immediate (RIBEIRO, 2014; ARAÚJO JÚNIOR, 2013). For Santos (2012) and Araújo Júnior (2013), the redefinition of the political nature of teachers is fundamentally important for their ability to fight for their rights and, in this manner, secure the autonomy and valuation of their profession by seeking better labor conditions.

In the Reconfiguration of the State category, the results reinforce the fact that the State acts mainly as a public policies regulator, aiming, in this manner, to comply with economic and political agreements. The construction of new political networks formed by different actors, the creation of standardized learning instruments, such as the Programme For International Student Assessment (PISA), the incorporation of affirmative actions and the incentive to rank education institutions are reflections of the model of good governance highlighted by Higueras (2014), Libaroni (2015), Tripodi (2014), Sousa Neto (2014), and Silva (2013).

There is, in this respect, a profound change in the role of the State, which is a reflection of the main implications of neoliberal policies (HIGUERAS, 2014; TRIPODI, 2014). With the drawback and decentralization of the functions of the State, new spaces for managerial reform are opened, making the State lose its role as the main provider of social rights to its citizens, ensuring that its main focus should remain to be the implementation of agreements subscribed by the market. However, in Brazil’s case, we observe that the State still represents the central actor in the regulation of education, although its decision-making capabilities are increasingly limited and are prone to the interests of several forces making up this new scenario, mainly composed by national and international education entrepreneurs. The studies that we analyzed point to the fact that the current model of hegemonic governance suffers the interference of a wide range of actors who are promoting market interests at the expense of social welfare.

3.5 Conclusion: perspectives of research on governance in the field of Education

The concepts and perspectives of governance remain widely discussed, experienced, and are becoming increasingly debated in the literature of many fields of study. Currently, governance is also gaining ground in administration science publications and research. In Education Sciences, the process remains introverted. However, a state-of-the-art review shows some advances in the past five years. The data analysis signaled that, although it started mainly in 2012, postgraduate research in the area of governance of education only became apparent in 2014. As confirmed by our research, the concept of governance and its relationship with Education is still very recent, especially in the Brazilian literature. In this sense, exploring the theoretical field of the governance of education is a pressing need for the area of educational policies, especially when considering the context of the reconfiguration of the current neoliberal and globalized State. In Stoker’s words (1998, p. 26), “the world of governing is changing in ways which mark a substantial break from the past and that changing world is worthy of study”.

The fact that most of the literature on governance is still published in English might be one of the factors that are limiting research on the subject by most monolingual Brazilian researchers who study administration, policy, and the funding of education, but this hypothesis still needs to be investigated.

Analysis of the production of Brazilian researchers in BDTD indicates the urgency to expand the knowledge of the academy on the subject, which needs to be consciously and critically investigated, from the perspective of social emancipation, and not from that of the defense of governance networks that work to maintain forms of colonization or exclusion. As demonstrated by the studies, the hegemonic model of governance adopted in global and local education contexts has promoted the intensification and precariousness of the teaching profession, the devaluation of the teacher, the influence of national and international non-State actors, the implementation of education policies and the reduction of the role of the State, which acts mainly as policy regulator. Governments have adopted the globalized practices of the “good governance” to justify the ongoing transformations. Educational governance has been drawn on a transnational agenda, generating the risk of separating formulators and implementers from the local and regional educational processes.

However, the studies that were analyzed showed that the term governance is designed with different uses and concepts, as is pointed out by Rhodes (1996). The uses related to governance as minimal State, good governance and networks of self-organization had larger recurrence in the analyzed research, since their conceptions relate, respectively: to public intervention in its cooperation with the market as a public service provider; to the new shapes of government, which must open the doors for the private sector and, thus, cooperate with the development of capitalism; and to the presence of other public administration actors, with services provided in the form of a bargain between the government, the private sector and volunteers.

The state-of-the-art on governance shows that the nation state ceases to be the dominant power holder and begins to share its legitimacy with several local, transnational, and international actors that are all mainly motivated by the rules of capitalism. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the governance screenplay that is being established, the level of influence (political and technical aspects, or both), and the standard of possible regularities that can be found (HOYLER et al., 2014). The creation of a research agenda on the topic would help elucidate the motivations, interests, priorities, and rationalities embraced in each of the partnerships, as well as the access to political and economic resources used by each of the actor networks in the establishment of arrangements and the systematization of main connections.

This article points to the latent necessity of more research on the phenomenon of governance, especially in the field of Education, which is the focus of our investigations. One notes an incipient number of studies whose purpose is to understand the implications of changes on public policies for education that are currently under the realm of the State. As most of the studies conducted in Brazil are focused on Elementary Education, it is evident, also, that there is a significant gap in research on networks of governance that bound the field of Higher Education.

The survey conducted on the SciELO and BDTD databases confirms how much the term governance is conflicting and polysemic, which makes its comprehension in the context of Education even more complex. Despite the fact that the analyzed academic and scientific production has elucidated the historical context, the concept, and the effects of governance on education, the studies also revealed that the debate on educational governance is still incipient. Therefore, it needs to gain more space in the field of education research, especially in the areas of Policy, Administration, and Funding of Education.

By promoting the need for more transparency and accountability in the management and funding of public investments, studies on governance have the potential of triggering reflection and debate on civil society. Furthermore, they can possibly deter some practices of fraud and corruption that seem to be so common in the field of education in Brazil. Moreover, they could enable ordinary citizens to visualize the networks of actors that decide the direction of education in Brazil and mobilize them to more actively participate in the education process. Faced with the contradictions that surround the field of governance, it is imperative that its networks and processes are analyzed in a critical perspective and with the intent to establish dialogical and emancipatory relations between educational institutions and their stakeholders. It is crucial to avoid the risks of the globalized neoliberal colonizing model of governance that has the tendency to reduce citizen participation in decision-making. We need to encourage and bolster the creation of a new emancipating and ethical governance model that empowers citizens to negotiate the stormy seas of the upcoming, inevitable, and sweeping economic and social changes brought by the growing automation and precarization of work.


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1 This paper is connected to the research entitled – Programa Ciência Sem Fronteiras: uma análise da parceria entre Brasil e Canadá na internacionalização da educação superior – funded by the National Council of Scientific and Technological Development – Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq-Brazil).

2 For further information on the database, access: and

3 The first edition of the book was published in 1980.

4 See concepts and approaches to public governance, corporate governance, governance in third sector institutions and university governance (TAVARES, 2011).

5 For a broader understanding of these works, we recommend the complete reading of the articles, theses, and dissertations mentioned in this article.

Received: February 24, 2016; Accepted: June 13, 2016

Aline Veiga dos Santos: Doutoranda em Educação pela Universidade Católica de Brasília (UCB-Brasil) com bolsa de estudo ofertada pelo governo do Canadá na University of Alberta (UofA-Canada) – Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program (ELAP). Investigadora do grupo de pesquisa cadastrado no CNPq – Educação superior: políticas, governança e cidadania (PPGE/UCB). Investigadora da Pesquisa – Programa Ciência Sem Fronteiras: uma análise da parceria entre Brasil e Canadá na internacionalização da educação superior – financiada pelo CNPq. Contato:

Isabela Cristina Marins Braga: Doutoranda em Educação pela Universidade Católica de Brasília (UCB-Brasil). Professora do ensino superior. Investigadora do grupo de pesquisa cadastrado no CNPq – Educação superior: políticas, governança e cidadania (PPGE/UCB). Investigadora da Pesquisa – Programa Ciência Sem Fronteiras: uma análise da parceria entre Brasil e Canadá na internacionalização da educação superior – financiada pelo CNPq. Contato:

Ranilce Guimarães-Iosif: Doutora em Política Social pela Universidade de Brasília (UnB-Brasil). Professora do Programa de Pós-graduação em Educação da Universidade Católica de Brasília (UCB-Brasil). Professora Assistente Adjunta do Departamento de Pesquisa e Estudo de Políticas Educacionais da Universidade de Alberta (Canadá). Coordenadora do grupo de pesquisa cadastrado no CNPq – Educação superior: políticas, governança e cidadania (PPGE/UCB). Coordenadora da Pesquisa – Programa Ciência Sem Fronteiras: uma análise da parceria entre Brasil e Canadá na internacionalização da educação superior – financiada pelo CNPq. Contato:

Sinara Pollom Zardo: Doutora em Educação pela Universidade de Brasília (UnB-Brasil). Professora do Programa de Pós-graduação em Educação da Universidade Católica de Brasília (UCB-Brasil). Investigadora da Pesquisa – Programa Ciência Sem Fronteiras: uma análise da parceria entre Brasil e Canadá na internacionalização da educação superior – financiada pelo CNPq. Contato:

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