A shattered organisational culture or the effects of temporality within the school context

Leonor Lima Torres, Teacher and Researcher, University of Minho, Institute of Education, Department of Educational Social Sciences, Braga, Portugal.

Logo of the Educação & Sociedade journalThe growing complexity of present-day societies requires a systemic and multidimensional look at educational processes. The expansion of New Public Management, associated with the in-depth digitalisation of education, has introduced significant changes in the most diverse domains of social life, particularly in the culture of school organisations. Based on several theoretical signals, a discussion is undertaken on the process involving the internalisation process of an accelerated time, space and action, made possible through the massive spread of new information and communication technologies, with visible effects on the fragmentation of organisational culture.

Certain questions served as a guiding thread for this approach: to what extent did computerisation accentuate the techno-bureaucratic rationality of management and teaching work? Is digital culture creating new forms of competition, based on comparative logics? Which reconfigurations have occurred within the culture of the institution?

The article New educational temporalities in the construction of the culture of school organization, published in the journal Educação & Sociedade (Education and Society vol. 44), presents a multidimensional analytical model focused on three constitutive pillars of culture – time, space and action – which have been strongly conditioned by digitalization, performativity imperatives and new forms of power created by managerialism. Whenever possible, the results of several research studies carried out in the portuguese school context are utilised in order to illustrate and clarify this theoretical development.

An hourglass with falling sand (most of the sand is at the bottom). In the background is a blurred photo of a classroom. You can see the room clearly through the glass of the hourglass.

Image: Leonor Lima Torres (2023).

Figure 1. School put to the test of time.

The spread of the principles associated with managerialism has shifted the priorities of school organisations towards the production of results. This trend, common to a number of European countries, has led to significant changes at various levels of the education system. At the macro-political level, the emphasis is on the rationalisation of the school network, with the establishment of school clusters (LIMA; TORRES, 2020); on the expansion of external and internal assessment programmes; on the implementation of one-person management models; on the intensification of results-focused control and accountability mechanisms; on the delegation of powers to local authorities, among other policies.

Framed by these performative pressures, at the meso level (school organisation), schools adhere to a meritocratic ideology, driven by certain transnational regulative instruments (e.g. PISA) (CARVALHO, 2016), through governance centred on one-person leaderships and reinforced by digital technologies that constrain them and delimit their action. The classroom (micro level) constitutes the space-time conversion of a complex game of forces which mirrors the way in which new technologies influence the course of pedagogical action. These two rationalising fronts (managerialism and technological domination) have led to variations in the culture of organisations by destabilising their conditions for production (action, space and time) and the ways in which they manifest (integration, differentiation and fragmentation).

The existence of conditions conducive to the manifestation of fragmented forms of culture challenges the democratising mission of the state school, in the sense that the weakening of bonds to the institution, the dilution of identities and the reinforcement of individualism generate patterns of behaviour alienated from participation in schools. Converted into spectators of itineraries proposed by platforms, actors are silently led by democratic time, even if the rhetoric of democratic time persists as a symbolic referent, which insists on blurring how reality is read. However, this nebulous vision will tend to become clearer in the years to come, as the perverse effects of individualistic and performative logics become more pronounced and it is discovered that, after all, democratic time is the essence of humanist education.

In next, watch the video of Leonor L. Torres expanding the discussion about the culture of school organisations today, in Portuguese language.


CARVALHO, L.M. Intensificação e sofisticação dos processos da regulação transnacional em educação: o caso do programa internacional de avaliação de estudantes. Educ. Soc. [online] 2016. vol. 37, no. 136, pp. 669-683. [viewed 28 April 2023]. https://doi.org/10.1590/ES0101-73302016166669. Available from: https://www.scielo.br/j/es/a/ms5Rh69wtSB5k6m3pxP9hxp/

LIMA, L.C.; TORRES, L.L. Políticas, dinâmicas e perfis dos agrupamentos de escolas em Portugal. Análise Social [online] 2020. vol. 55, no. 237, pp. 748-774 [viewed 28 April 2023]. https://doi.org/10.31447/as00032573.2020237.03. Available from: https://revistas.rcaap.pt/analisesocial/article/view/23452

To read the article, access

TORRES, L.L. New educational temporalities in the construction of the culture of school organization. Educ. Soc. [online]. 2023, vol. 44, e260427 [viewed 28 April 2023]. https://doi.org/10.1590/ES.260427. Available from: https://www.scielo.br/j/es/a/5wm6Jx7smmbMhzkPPWHh79r/

External links

Educação & Sociedade – ES: www.scielo.br/es

Educação & Sociedade – Redes sociais: Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn

Leonor Lima Torres: CienciaVitae | ResearchGate | Orcid ID


Como citar este post [ISO 690/2010]:

TORRES, L.L. A shattered organisational culture or the effects of temporality within the school context [online]. SciELO in Perspective: Humanities, 2023 [viewed ]. Available from: https://humanas.blog.scielo.org/en/2023/04/28/a-shattered-organisational-culture-or-the-effects-of-temporality-within-the-school-context/


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