Educational Policy Change and Historical Institutional Analysis: Concept and Theory

  • Maxwell A. Aziabah
Part of the Critical Studies of Education book series (CSOE, volume 7)


The relevance of a theoretical and conceptual bases of any empirical research cannot be overemphasized. The current study has been situated within the framework of historical institutionalism. A path dependence approach – a key theoretical model in historical institutionalism – augmented by a partisan thesis has been vetted appropriate for accomplishing the task at hand. In applying the foregoing joint theoretical approach, educational policy has been clarified to mean a bureaucratic instrument with which to administer the expectations the public has of education. A review of literature reveals changes in educational policy are driven by a constellation of factors not limited only to the educational sphere but as well extending into the domains of social, political and economic spheres. In conceptualizing educational policy change, the governmental system shaped by the left-right divide has been a useful analytic approach. The approach supports the existence of an eclectic mix of social democracy and political liberalism in African countries. Party programmes, interest groups and policy transfer processes all shape national policies on education. Structural persistence in institutional patterns thus lends itself to analytic treatment by theoretical approaches capable of capturing both institutional and dynamic processes of change.


  1. Adams, P. (2014). Policy and education. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Agyeman, D. K. (1974). Erziehung und Nationwerdung in Ghana: IFO-Forschungsberichte der Afrika-Studienstelle. Munich: Weltforum Verlag.Google Scholar
  3. Alagidede, P., Baah-Boateng, W., & Nketiah-Amponsah, E. (2013). The Ghanaian economy: An overview. Ghanaian Journal of Economics, 1, 4–34.Google Scholar
  4. Arthur, B. W. (1994). Increasing returns and path dependence in the economy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Ayee, J. R. A. (2011). Manifestos and elections in Ghana’s fourth republic. South African Journal of International Affairs, 18(3), 367–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baah-Boateng, W. (2004). Employment policies for sustainable development: The experience of Ghana. Paper presented at the An Employment Framework for Ghana’s Poverty Reduction Strategy, Accra.Google Scholar
  7. Ball, S. J. (1994). Education reform: A critical and post-structural approach. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Basedau, M. (2007). Do party systems matter for democracy? A comparative study of 28 Sub-Saharan countries. In M. Basedau, G. Erdmann, & A. Mehler (Eds.), Votes, money and violence. Political parties and elections in Sub-Saharan Africa (pp. 105–144). Sweden: Elanderas Gotab.Google Scholar
  9. Basedau, M., & Stroh, A. (2008). Measuring party institutionalisation in developing countries: A new research instrument applied to 28 African political parties. GiGA Working Papers (69), pp. 1–27.Google Scholar
  10. Bennett, C. J. (1991). What is policy convergence and what causes it? British Journal of Political Science, 21(2), 215–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bobbio, N. (1996). Left and right: The significance of a political distinction. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  12. Bogaards, M. (2004). Counting parties and identifying dominant party systems in Africa. European Journal of Political Research, 43, 173–197.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bosetti, L. (1998). Canada’s charter schools: Initial report. Kelowna: Society for the Advancement of Excellence in Education.Google Scholar
  14. Bosetti, L. (2004). Determinants of school choice: Understanding how parents choose elementary schools in Alberta. Journal of Education Policy, 19(4), 387–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Bossuroy, T. (2007). Voting in an African democracy: Does only ethnicity rule? Oxford: EHESS, Paris School of Economics.Google Scholar
  16. Bratton, M., Mattes, R., & Gyimah-Boadi, E. (2004). Public opinion, democracy and market reform in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Caplan, B. (2007). The myth of the rational voter: Why democracies choose bad policies. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Capoccia, G. (2015). Tools for temporal analysis: Critical junctures and institutional change. In J. Mahoney & K. Thelen (Eds.), Advances in comparative-historical analysis (pp. 147–179). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Capoccia, G., & Kelemen, R. D. (2007). The study of critical junctures: Theory, narrative, and counterfactuals in historical institutionalism. World Politics, 59(3), 341–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Carmines, E. G., Ensley, M. J., & Wagner, M. W. (2012). Who fits the left-right divide? Partisan polarisation in the American electorate. American Behavioral Scientist, 56(12), 1631–1653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Carothers, T. (2006). Confronting the weakest link. Aiding political parties in new democracies. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.Google Scholar
  22. Chitty, C. (2004). Education policy in Britain. New York: Palgrave McMillan.Google Scholar
  23. Clinchy, E. (1997). Transforming public education: A new course for America’s future. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  24. Dalton, R. J., & Klingemann, H.-D. (Eds.). (2009). Overview of political behaviour: Political behaviour and citizen politics (Vol. 3). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Dalton, R. J., & Wattenberg, M. (2000). Parties without partisans: Political change in advanced industrial democracies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Dobbins, M., & Busemeyer, M. (2014). Socio-economic institutions, organised interests and partisan politics: The development of vocational education in Denmark and Sweden. Socio-Economic Review, 2014, 1–32.Google Scholar
  27. Dolmage, W. R. (1992). Interest groups, the courts and the development of educational policy in Canada. Journal of Education Policy, 7(3), 313–335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Dolowitz, D., & Marsh, D. (1996). Who learns what from whom? A review of the policy transfer literature. Political Studies, 44, 343–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Dolowitz, D. P., & Marsh, D. (2000). Learning from abroad: The role of policy transfer in contemporary policy-making. Governance, 13(1), 5–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of political action in a democracy. Journal of Political Economy, 65(2), 135–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Dye, T. R. (1992). Understanding public policy (7th ed.). Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  32. Ebbinghaus, B. (2009). Can path dependence explain institutional change? Two approaches applied to welfare state reform. In L. Magnusson & J. Ottosson (Eds.), The evolution of path dependence (pp. 191–212). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  33. Edelstein, B., & Nikolai, R. (2013). Structural determinants in Germany’s secondary school system: Determinants of school reform policy in Saxony and Hamburg. Paper presented at the 1st International Conference on Public Policy, Grenoble (June 26–28).Google Scholar
  34. Elischer, S. (2012). Measuring and comparing party ideology in nonindustrialised societies: Taking party manifesto research to Africa. Democratisation, 19(4), 642–667.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Elkins, Z., & Simmons, B. (2005). On waves, clusters, and diffusion: A conceptual framework. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598, 33–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Erdmann, G. (2004). Party research: Western European bias and the ‘African Labyrinth’. Democratisation, 11(3), 63–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Falleti, T. G., & Lynch, J. F. (2009). Context and causal mechanisms in political analysis. Comparative Political Studies, 42(9), 1143–1166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Falleti, T. G., & Mahoney, J. (2015). The comparative sequential method. In J. Mahoney & K. Thelen (Eds.), Advances in comparative-historical analysis (pp. 147–179). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Fioretos, O. (2011). Historical institutionalism in international relations. International Organisation, 65, 367–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Fioretos, O., Falleti, T., & Sheingate, A. (2016). Historical institutionalism in political science. In O. Fioretos, T. Falleti, & A. Sheingate (Eds.), Oxford handbook of historical institutionalism (1st ed., pp. 1–37). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Foster, P. J. (1965). The vocational school fallacy in development planning. In A. A. Anderson & M. J. Bowman (Eds.), Education and economic development. Chicago: Aldine.Google Scholar
  42. Fosu, A., & Aryeetey, E. (2008). Ghana’s post-independence economic growth: 1960–2000. In E. Aryeetey & R. Kanbur (Eds.), The economy of Ghana: Analytical perspectives on stability, growth and poverty (pp. 36–77). Accra: James Curry and Woeli Publishing Services.Google Scholar
  43. Franklin, M., Mackie, T., & Valen, H. (Eds.). (1992). Electoral change: Responses to evolving social and attitudinal structures in western countries. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  44. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. (2011). The structure of the Ghanaian state. Accra: Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.Google Scholar
  45. Gerring, J. (2007). Case study research: Principles and practices. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Gibbs, G. R. (2007). Analysing qualitative data. In U. Flick (Ed.), The Sage qualitative research kit. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. Gilardi, F. (2005). The institutional foundations of regulatory capitalism: The diffusion of independent regulatory agencies in Western Europe. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 598, 84–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Gockel, A. F., & Vormawor, D. (2004). Friedrich Ebert Stiftung trade union country reports: The case of Ghana. Retrieved from Accra.Google Scholar
  49. GoG (Government of Ghana). (1967). Report of the education review committee. Accra/Tema: Ministry of Information.Google Scholar
  50. GoG. (2000). Handbook on the educational system in Ghana. Accra: High Street Journal.Google Scholar
  51. GoG. (2002). Meeting the challenges of education in the twenty first century: Report of the President’s committee on review of education reforms in Ghana. Accra: Adwinsa Publications.Google Scholar
  52. Goldring, E., & Rowley, K. J. (2006). Parent preferences and parent choices: The public-private decision about school choice. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association San Francisco, California (April 8).Google Scholar
  53. Goldthorpe, J. (1996). Class analysis and the reorientation of class theory: The case of persisting differentials in educational attainment. British Journal of Sociology, 47(3), 481–505.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Gyampo, R. E. (2012). The youth and political ideology in Ghanaian politics: The case of the fourth republic. Africa Development, 37(2), 137–165.Google Scholar
  55. Hall, P. A., & Taylor, R. C. (1996). Political science and the three new institutionalisms. Political Studies, 44, 936–957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Harris, A. (2009). Big change question: Does politics help or hinder education change? Journal of Educational Change, 10, 63–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Hibbs, D. A. (1992). Partisan theory after fifteen years. European Journal of Political Economy, 8, 361–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Hoberg, G. (2001). Globalisation and policy convergence. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, 3(2), 127–132.Google Scholar
  59. Holzinger, K., & Knill, C. (2005). Causes and conditions of cross-national policy convergence. Journal of European Public Policy, 12(5), 775–796.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Horn, R. A. (2002). Understanding educational reform: A reference handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC – Clio.Google Scholar
  61. Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance –IDEAS. (2014). Voter turnout data for Ghana. Retrieved September 19, 2014, from IDEAS
  62. Jahn, D. (2010). Conceptualizing left and right in comparative politics: Towards a deductive approach. Party Politics, 17(6), 745–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Jockers, H., Kohnert, D., & Nugent, P. (2009). The successful Ghana election of 2008 – A convenient myth? Ethnicity in Ghana’s elections revisited. GiGA Working Papers(109), pp. 1–22.Google Scholar
  64. Karakhanyan, S. Y., van Veen, K., & Bergen, T. C. (2012). What do leaders think? Reflections on the implementation of higher education reforms in Armenia. Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 40(6), 752–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Kerr, C. (1983). The future of industrial societies: Convergence or continuing diversity? Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Knight, J. (1992). Institutions and social conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Knill, C. (2005). Introduction: Cross-national policy convergence: Concepts, approaches and explanatory factors. Journal of European Public Policy Studies Journal, 12(5), 764–774.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Knutsen, O. (1995). Value orientations, political conflicts and left-right identification: A comparative study. European Journal of Political Research, 28, 63–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Kogan, M. (1975). Educational policy-making: A study of interest groups and parliament. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.Google Scholar
  70. Lamping, W., & Rueb, F. (2008). Introduction: Moving bulky goods. How new ideas and Partisan politics are transforming the German welfare state. German Policy Studies, 4(2), 1–18.Google Scholar
  71. Laver, M., & Budge, I. (1992). Measuring policy distances and modelling coalition formation. In M. Laver & I. Budge (Eds.), Party policy and government coalitions. New York: St. Martin’s Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Levi, M. (1997). A model, a method, and a map: Rational choice in comparative and historical analysis. In M. I. Lichbach & A. S. Zuckerman (Eds.), Comparative politics: Rationality, culture, and structure (pp. 19–41). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Levitsky, S., & Way, A. L. (2015). Agenda setting work: Not just what, but when (and how): Comparative historical approaches to authoritarian durability. In J. Mahoney & K. Thelen (Eds.), Advances in comparative-historical analysis (pp. 97–120). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Lipset, S. M., & Rokkan, S. (1967). Cleavage structures, party systems and voter alignments: An introduction. In S. M. Lipset & S. Rokkan (Eds.), In party systems and voter alignments (pp. 1–64). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  75. Maeda, K., & Nishikawa, M. (2006). Duration of party control in parliamentary and presidential governments: A study of 65 democracies, 1950 to 1998. Comparative Political Studies, 39(3), 352–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Mahoney, J. (2000). Path dependence in historical sociology. Theory and Society, 29(4), 507–548.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Mahoney, J. (2001). The legacies of liberalism: Path dependence and political regimes in Central America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  78. Mahoney, J., & Schensul, D. (2006). Historical context and path dependence. In R. E. Goodin & C. Tilly (Eds.), Oxford handbook of contextual political analysis (pp. 454–471). Oxford: Oxford Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Mahoney, J., & Thelen, K. (2010). A theory of gradual institutional change. In J. Mahoney & K. Thelen (Eds.), Explaining institutional change: Ambiguity, agency and power (pp. 1–37). New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  80. Meyer, H.-D. (2011). Path dependence in German and American public education: The persistence of institutional difference in a globalizing world. In D. E. Mitchell, R. L. Crowson, & S. Dorothy (Eds.), Shaping education policy: Power and process (pp. 189–211). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  81. Nietzsche, F. (1973). Beyond good and evil. Harmondsworth: Penguin.Google Scholar
  82. North, D. C. (1990). Institutions, institutional change and economic performance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Omari, T. P. (2000). Kwame Nkrumah: The anatomy of an African dictator. Accra: Sankofa Educational Publishers.Google Scholar
  84. Pierson, P. (2000). Increasing returns, path dependence, and the study of politics. American Political Science Review, 94(2), 251–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Pierson, P. (2004). Politics in time: History, institutions and social analysis. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Pierson, P. (2015). Power and path dependence. In J. Mahoney & K. Thelen (Eds.), Advances in comparative-historical analysis (pp. 123–146). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  87. Przeworski, A. (2011). Democracy and the limits of self-government. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  88. Putnam, R. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  89. Quist, H. O. (1999). Secondary education in Ghana at the dawn of the twenty-first century: Profile, problems, prospects. Prospects, XXIX(3), 425–442.Google Scholar
  90. Republic of Ghana. (1992). Constitution of the Republic of Ghana. Accra: National Legislative Bodies.Google Scholar
  91. Rizvi, F., & Lingard, B. (2010). Globalizing education policy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  92. Rogers, E. M. (1995). Diffusion of innovations. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  93. Rousseau, J.-J. (1992). Discourse on the origin of inequality. Indianapolis: Hackett.Google Scholar
  94. Salih, M. (2003). African political parties. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar
  95. Salisbury, R. H. (1969). An exchange theory of interest groups. Midwest Journal of Political Science, 3(4), 1–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  96. Saxe, R. W. (1981). Interest groups in education: Introduction. Education and Urban Society, 13(2), 141–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  97. Scadding, H. (1989). Junior secondary schools – An educational initiative in Ghana. Compare, 19(1), 43–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  98. Schmidt, M. G. (1996). When parties matter: A review of the possibilities and limits of Partisan influence on public policy. European Journal of Political Research, 30, 155–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  99. Schneider, B. L., & Keesler, V. A. (2007). School reform 2007: Transforming education into a scientific enterprise. Annual Review of Sociology, 2, 279–298.Google Scholar
  100. Sewell, W. H. (1996). Three temporalities: Toward an eventful sociology. In T. J. McDonald (Ed.), The historic turn in the human sciences (pp. 245–280). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  101. Simmons, B. A., & Elkins, Z. (2004). The globalization of liberalization: Policy diffusion in the international political economy. American Political Science Review, 98(1), 171–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  102. Smrekar, C., & Goldring, E. (1999). School choice in urban America: Magnet schools and the pursuit of equity. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  103. Sroufe, G. E. (1981). Interest groups and public policy: A status report. Education and Urban Society, 13(2), 149–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. Stinchcombe, A. L. (1975). Social structure and politics. In F. I. Greenstein & N. W. Polsby (Eds.), Macropolitical theory: Handbook of political science (Vol. 3, pp. 557–622). Reading, MA: Addisson-Wesley.Google Scholar
  105. Streeck, W., & Thelen, K. (2005). Introduction: Institutional change in advanced political economies. In S. Wolfgang & K. Thelen (Eds.), Beyond continuity: Institutional change in advanced political economies (pp. 3–39). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  106. Taylor, S., Rizvi, F., Lingard, B., & Henry, M. (1997). Educational policy and the politics of change. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  107. Thelen, K. (2004). How institutions evolve: The political economy of skills in Germany, Britain, the United States and Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  108. Titmuss, R. M. (1974). Social Policy: An Introduction. In B. Abel-Smith & K. Titmuss (Eds.), Social policy: An introduction/Richard M. Titmuss. London: Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  109. Tonah, S. (2009). The unending cycle of education reform in Ghana. Journal of Educational Research in Africa, 1(1), 45–52.Google Scholar
  110. Truman, D. (1951). The governmental process: Political interests and public opinion. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.Google Scholar
  111. Welsh, H. A. (2001). Disentangling the reform gridlock: Higher education in Germany. Working Paper (02.7). Columbia International Affairs Online.Google Scholar
  112. Widner, J. (1997). Political parties and civil society in sub-Saharan Africa. In M. Ottaway (Ed.), Democracy in Africa. The hard road ahead (pp. 25–47). Boulder: Lynne Rienner.Google Scholar
  113. Wiesehomeier, N., & Doyle, D. (2012). Attitudes, ideological associations and the left–right divide in Latin America. Journal of Politics in Latin America, 4(1), 3–33.Google Scholar
  114. Wren, A., & McElwain, K. M. (2009). Voters and parties: Realignment or dealignment in the party-voter nexus. In R. J. Dalton & H.-D. Klingemann (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of political science (Vol. 3, pp. 365–391). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maxwell A. Aziabah
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Community DevelopmentUniversity for Development StudiesTamaleGhana

Personalised recommendations