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Article

Quality revolution in post-Soviet education in Russia: From control to assurance?

Journal of Education Policy. 2017. Vol. 32. No. 2. P. 176-197.

Employing the analytical framework of a discourse-driven social change, this paper unpacks the neoliberal concept of ‘educational quality’ in the course of Russian education modernisation reform from 1991 to 2013. Since the early 1990s, the global neoliberal discourse has served as the backbone for post-Soviet educational ideology. Alongside other major reform initiatives, the ‘quality revolution,’ proclaimed by the Russian Government in the early 1990s, signified a rhetoric shift away from the Soviet-era quality control towards a neoliberal quality assurance paradigm. Through fine-grained textual analysis of policy documents and political statements by key educational stakeholders, the analysis unpacks the discursive underbelly of the new quality paradigm, in an attempt to determine whether a paradigmatic transformation has taken place. The paper argues that despite the nominally proclaimed shift towards a quality assurance model of educational governance, the representation of educational stakeholders and responsibilities within the new quality paradigm continues to correspond to the Soviet-era command-and-control authoritarian model. The study challenges the popular claim of a neoliberal turn in Russian education and suggests that a neoconservative authoritarian approach to education governance has been smuggled in under the disguise of ‘quality assurance.’