Curriculum contestation: analysis of contemporary curriculum policy and practices in government and non-government education sectors in Western Australia

Joanne Griffiths

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Abstract

[Truncated abstract] The aim of this study was to analyse the changing dynamics within and between government and non-government education sectors in relation to the Curriculum Framework (CF) policy in Western Australia (WA) from 1995 to 2004. The Curriculum Council was established by an act of State Parliament in 1997 to oversee the development and enactment of the CF, which was released in 1998. A stated aim of the CF policy was to unify the education sectors through a shared curriculum. The WA State government mandated that all schools, both government and non-government, demonstrate compliance by 2004. This was the first time that curriculum was mandated for non-government schools, therefore the dynamics within and between the education sectors were in an accelerated state of transformation in the period of study. The timeframe for the research represented the period from policy inception (1995) to the deadline for policy enactment for Kindergarten to Year 10 (2004). However, given the continually evolving and increasingly politicised nature of curriculum policy processes in WA, this thesis also provides an extended analysis of policy changes to the time of thesis submission in 2007 when the abolition of the Curriculum Council was formally announced - a decade after it was established. ... The research reported in this thesis draws on both critical theory and post-structuralist approaches to policy analysis within a broader framework of policy network theory. Policy network theory is used to bring the macro focus of critical theory and the micro focus of post-structuralism together in order to highlight power issues at all levels of the policy trajectory. Power dynamics within a policy network are fluid and multidimensional, and power struggles are characteristic at all levels. This study revealed significant power differentials between government and non-government education sectors caused by structural and cultural differences. Differences in autonomy between the education sectors meant that those policy actors within the non-government sector were more empowered to navigate the competing and conflicting forms of accountabilities that emerged from the changes to WA curriculum policy. Despite both generalised discourses of blurring public/private boundaries within the context of neoliberal globalisation and specific CF goals of bringing the sectors together, the boundaries continue to exist. Further, there is much strategising about how to remain distinct within the context of increased market choice. This study makes a unique and significant contribution to the understanding of policy processes surrounding the development and enactment of the CF in WA and the implications for the changing dynamics within and between the education sectors. Emergent themes and findings may potentially be used as a basis for contrast and comparison in other contexts. The research contributes to policy theory by arguing for closer attention to be paid to power dynamics between localised agency in particular policy spaces and the state-imposed constraints.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2007

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