INTRODUCTION The Australian government is addressing the growing concern over youth radicalisation by equipping schools and teachers to identify and report young people who are at risk of religious and political extremism. In response to a ‘climate of fear’ purported by the previous Abbott Government, schools are increasingly being put on the front line for addressing Australia’s national security issues (Kenny, 2015, Peterson & Bentley, 2016). In its report, Gen-Y Jihadhists (Jennings, 2015), the Australian Strategic Policy Institute has recommended that “as jihadists get younger, our attention must turn to what schools teach and how they manage at-risk students” (Jennings, 2015). In response, the Committee for Australian Governments (COAG) has made a commitment to tackling youth radicalisation, and in February 2016 released a ‘New Schools Strategy’ which will provide support for school staff to “recognise the warning signs of radicalisation”, provide classroom resources and to strengthen engagement in the wider school community (DET, 2016).
Youth radicalisation was noted as a “growing threat” by the Abbott Government, and the federal government was widely criticised for linking Islam, citizenship and refugee policies with issues of national security, a move which had marginalised communities (Peterson & Bentley, 2016; Kenny, 2015; Akbarzadeh, 2013). The current Australian Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) strategy was developed in 2011 during the Rudd Government as a response to the growing incidence of violent extremism and ‘home-grown’ terrorism following the 2005 London Bombings. Under the CVE strategy, community groups became the largest recipient of funds as a part of the ‘Building Resilient Communities’ which has now been replaced by the ‘Living Safe Together’ program which essentially covers the same principles although, over the past few years, has increasingly included public schools. (Barker, 2015). The focus on de-radicalisation is often promoted as a national security issue although policies are creeping into the education space mirroring the United Kingdom’s ‘Prevent Program’ for schools. While the federal government is aiming to “significantly boost” funding of the CVE program, community leaders have called it “misguided” as it further marginalises at-risk youth (Donoughue & Fahey, 2015). Associate Professor Anne Aly, Founding Chair of People Against Violent Extremism, suggests that the government’s view of radicalisation “is only ever seen as a national security issue, and the response is only ever going to be a national security response” (Donoughue & Farley, 2015).
Discourse surrounding youth radicalisation comes from two different view points, the first in terms of national security and the second in terms of national identity (Peterson &Bentley, 2016). In linking youth radicalisation strategies in schools with national security, the government may marginalise vulnerable young people and exacerbate the problem as evidenced in the UK’s Prevent program which is evidently seen as “counterproductive” (Shaki, 2016). The Australia government’s current approach appears to be following many Prevent strategies and the Abbott Government has done itself no favours by exacerbating alienation with language such as “Team Australia” suggesting that “if you are not with us, you are against us”, or you are one of ‘them’ (Peterson & Bentley, 2016).
Community leaders have for more than a decade been warning the government about the growing sense of exclusion, particularly of young Muslims, from wider Australian society. In a Four Corners report, Dangerous Ground, school boys interviewed felt alienated from society, the reporter revealing “when they refer to ‘Aussies’, they don’t mean themselves” (Neighbour, 2008). However, the current governments approach to radicalisation appears to be ignoring the root causes, and in the case of the Abbott Government further inflaming them.
Although this paper attempts to go beyond addressing the root causes of radicalisation, as these have been well documented (Zammit, 2015; Akbarzadeh, 2013; Kamp & Mansouri, 2009; Neighbour, 2008). The paper intends to get a sense of how blind policy borrowing combined with policies supporting conflicting interests in national security and education values, could play out. The paper will address two main problems, firstly that increased security powers to teachers could result in an over-referral of students to counter radicalisation programs, and secondly, that issues of national security go well beyond the goals of education.
The argument draws from much of the discourse surrounding recent measures to tackle youth radicalisation in schools. It argues that the policy response to issues of national security is becoming ‘entangled’ in education goals, which as problems associated with the UK’s Prevent program has demonstrated, does more harm than good. The paper will examine in what ways the government’s national security agenda impacts on Australian schools, and discusses what lessons can be learned.
Completed as a part of coursework for Education Policy and Reform in Australia, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne.
Critical discourse analysis identifies how schooling and teachers are represented in the media, and how education policy shapes, or is shaped by media discourse.
Although the book, focuses on the Queensland Curriculum Review, known as the Whiltshire Review (1992-1994), Thomas highlights several national issues regarding the influence of media in education discourse and it is easy to see its current relevance.
Thomas’s investigation adopts the Fairclough approach to Critical Discourse Analysis, analysing the linguistic characteristics of media texts as well as discussing the more complex relationship between governments as producers of education policy, media as distributers and the public as consumers.
Education policy is becoming heavily “mediatised”, as governments have increasingly utilised the media to shape the education debate in the public, to gain support for their policies for education reform. Blackmore and Thorpe (2003) found that in the 1990s it became popular for “governments to manufacture consent for change by mobilising popular opinion about education in ways which support radical reform toward more conservative structures”, therefore much of the media discourse was highly critical of the current education structures.
The media, in the process of these debates, fed into popular (mis)understandings about public and private education (Blackmore & Thorpe, 2003, p.582). Some of the popular misconceptions promoted by the media on the Australian education system are:
Blackmore J. & S. Thorpe (2003) Media/ting Change: the print media’s role in mediating education policy in a period of radical reform in Victoria, Australia, Journal of Education Policy, 18: 6, 577-595.
Thomas, S. (2011) Teachers and public engagement: an argument for rethinking teacher professionalism to challenge deficit discourses in the public sphere, Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 32:3, 371-382.
Thomas, S. (2005) Education Policy in the Media: public discourses on education, Post Pressed.
The Asia literacy policy problem is like a snowball, has developed through successive governments and has became more entangled over time.
The Asia Literacy policy has been supported by both sides of the government since the 1970s, however it has had marginal success in creating an ‘Asia literate’ population. While the “policy does not produce the outcomes it seeks to achieve”, Halse (2015) refers to ‘Asia literacy’ as a ‘wicked policy problem’, where the “policy problem is so entangled that is impossible to find an easy solution or resolution”.
Halse’s approach in the article was descriptive in nature, and drew on discourse analysis is describing the social realities over time. There are three main “eras” in the development of Asia literacy policies from ‘Advocacy’ (1970-1991), the ‘Golden Age’ of funding (1992-2005), to ‘Consolidation’ (2006-present). The past decade seems to be the most interesting era, as political parties each try to redefine policies to appear different to the last. Asia literacy policies have an inconsistent vision and an inconsistent funding despite support from both sides.
Halse acknowledges that while policies were created as a solution to a problem, the solution then makes implementation of Asia literacy even messier.
"By defining Asia literacy as a deficit languages and cultural knowledge that can be solved by injecting additional resources..." (Halse, 2015, p.26)
She highlights that policies don’t define ‘Asia literacy’ or what the perceived problems are and specifically how their ‘solutions’ will be implemented and their intended outcomes.
"...some fundamental matters have been sidelined: the epistemological and ontological meaning of Asia literacy schooling; the manipulation of school curriculum by political and economic conditions and agendas; the problems that federalism creates for schooling agendas deemed in the national interest."
Halse, C. (2015) What makes Asia literacy a ‘wicked policy problem’?, Asia Literate Schooling in the Asian Century, 13-29.
Master of Education Policy (International), The University of Melbourne.