Recent decades have witnessed the rise in popularity of a handful of related yet distinct approaches to governance and decision-making in many different contexts that either relocate the level and location at which decisions are made or how they are made, or both. True for developing as well as developed countries, and for both the public and private spheres, this article explicates four of these trends (decentralization, democratic decentralization, deliberative democracy, and empowered participatory governance) in terms of their theory and definition, goals, and implementation - with particular attention to their application in education. Furthermore, the article invokes a framework for analysis that permits an assessment of the extent to which each approach to decision-making facilitates participation along four dimensions: breadth, depth, range, and control. Lastly, this article discusses weaknesses in theory and practice across all four decision-making variations and proposes areas for further research. The results of this inquiry are relevant for theorists and practitioners given the fact that many policies and reforms - often incorrectly - are lumped under the term decentralization.
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