Principals’ Views on Civic and Parental Participation in School Governance in Switzerland
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Abstract Purpose: The study is focused on the question of how principals in Swiss compulsory schools evaluate civic and parental participation in education governance. Public management reforms in Switzerland have led to the implementation of semiautonomous school administration and the encouragement of professional leadership. Thus, the traditional role of school boards has come under scrutiny. Research Methods/Approach: Using the theoretical framework of actor-centered institutionalism, the study compares patterns of education policies in Swiss cantons and analyzes data of a principals’ survey by structural equation modelling. Findings: The views of principals concerning lay participation in school governance reveal a multifaceted picture. Principals affirm lay participation on the levels of the right to be informed, the right to be heard, and the right to volunteer; they regard with skepticism the authority of lay participants to make decisions. Implications for Research and Practice: Principals tend to insist on professional discretion and opt against the blurring of boundaries between schools and their social environment. This implies the self-justification of professional leadership. That such self-justification does not derive from a neutral perspective, but is an expression of stakeholder interests, has to be taken into account.