The organizational structure of the education system in Northern Ireland : a sociological and comparative analysis

  • Mervyn Matier

    Student thesis: Masters ThesisMaster of Philosophy


    The sociological analysis of education, which has hitherto been developed mainly around the socializing and selective functions of academic institutions, can be revitalized to the extent that one begins to view the school as a complex organization and study the school within the framework of theories of organization. This perspective is central to the theme of this paper. Remaining within the same perspective, but at another level at which an educational institution is set within a larger context, there arises the problem of understanding how it falls back upon "external" pressures to secure for itself the power and authority requisite to its internal functioning. In this respect we will lay bare the structural aspects of the school system in Northern Ireland, concentrating only on those features of the system which are relevant to compulsory education.

    The school system in Northern Ireland is a complex of school units, both elementary and secondary, each with its own subadministrator (head teacher) and teaching staff, overlaid within a system-wide administrative cadre. Since the school system is not only client serving, but is also an agent of public welfare, it must be responsible to the apparatus of Government and to a public constituency. The state function of education in Northern Ireland has been delegated to local Education and Library Boards, with lay executive Boards vested with authority for system policies and operation. The constraining force of public constituencies is enhanced by the responsibility of the school system to use efficiently the Government funds from which it is supported. These are seen in this paper to be powerful constraints towards rationalization of the school system, and thus towards bureaucratization.

    The purpose of this paper is to try to abstract the elements of the bureaucratic model and to translate these in terms of the organizational structure of the education system in Northern Ireland. Bureaucracy, in the Weberian sense utilized here, is characterized by centralization of control, differentiation of functions, specified qualifications for office, objectivity, administrative routines and discretion. The formal structure of the school, the Education and Library Board, and the Department of Education will be examined and the prevalence or incidence of bureaucratic components noted.

    One main aspect of the education system, its formal structure, is separated, and control, with communication as an important component, emerges as a central organizational process. The paper concludes with an overview of control in the education system in Northern Ireland, and, to highlight the relationships between the participants in the Northern Ireland system, a brief study is made of the education system in Ontario, Canada.
    Date of Award1981
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorAlec McEwan (Supervisor)

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