This paper examines characteristics of three main education sub‐systems: the policy formation system, the management or control system and the implementation system. In the policy formation system the main features are: intangibility of some education goals; lack of means‐ends continuum; inconsistency of goals; external dominance; the role of management and of teachers in education policy formation; value judgements; lack of feedback; heuristic processes; and incrementalism. Characteristics of the management system include: internal and external constraints; flat hierarchy; bases of authority; conflicting role demands; lack of colleague control; bureaucratic rules; size of staff; feminization; and management self‐image. Implementation system features are: organization of small symmetric sub‐units; organizational implications of goal conflict; compulsory attendance of clients; cognitive vs. emotive functions; resulting tensions and conflicts; sub‐cultures; clients' vulnerability; differential treatment of clients; obstacles to output measurement; and implication of measurement difficulties. The last section points out some implications of the analysis which seem to indicate similar and increasingly important developments in other public service bureaucracies. These include: diffuse and intangible goals; value sensitivity; high cost and external dominance; client service and client dependence; obstacles to output measurements; professionalization and feminization.
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