Discovering democracy : an analysis of curriculum policy for citizenship education

[No Value] Criddle. E., Lesley Vidovich, Marnie O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Citizenship education has become the focus of renewed interest internationally as governments are struggling with issues of national identity in an era of globalisation where there is much 'talk' of threats to the legitimacy of nation states. Within this context, the Australian Commonwealth Government took another step in an accelerating trend of becoming involved in curriculum policy with the introduction of its citizenship education curriculum package, Discovering Democracy, in the late 1990s. Legally, education in Australia is a State government responsibility. However, over the last half century, the Commonwealth Government has increasingly set education agendas, justified in terms of 'the national interest' and has achieved them using financial levers which result from the vertical fiscal imbalance between the Commonwealth and the States. This article examines citizenship curriculum policy processes and practices associated with the enactment of the Commonwealth's Discovering Democracy curriculum package in the State of Western Australia (WA). The study employed a framework of a policy trajectory extending from the Commonwealth Government (macro level) through State (WA) policy enactment (meso level) to individual classrooms (micro level). Documents and interviews with key players, including the Commonwealth Minister for Education, were the main data sources. Analysis of the policy process revealed the emergence of power struggles as a result of the provision of a national curriculum on citizenship education by the Commonwealth Government, and these struggles occurred at national, State and local levels. These power struggles resulted in extensive transformation of Commonwealth and State level policy intent as the policy enactment proceeded at the classroom level. The study demonstrates the need for better alignment of conceptualisations and discourses in the processes of curriculum development if a greater congruence is to be achieved between expectations and realities in curriculum renewal. Meta-level issues to emerge from the data, in particular the nature of policy consultative processes and the construction of teacher professional identity, have broader implications for education policy processes in other domains and in other countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-41
JournalInternational Journal of Research and Method in Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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