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community groups became the largest recipient of funds as a part of the ‘Building Resilient Communities’ which has now been replaced by the ‘Living Safe Together’ program which essentially covers the same principles although, over the past few years, has increasingly included public schools.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 government has 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.
“Education Policy Not Adding Up, OECD asks What’s Wrong with Australia’s Schools?” PISA discourse and impact on Schools
INTRODUCTION The recent article, Education policy not adding up: OECD asks what’s wrong with Australia’s schools? (Bagshaw & Smith, 2010), published in the Sydney Morning Herald, announced that Australia was slipping in the global education league tables with the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development (OECD) Education Chief, Andreas Schleicher, blaming the education system. Schneider suggested teacher creativity is restricted in the ‘policy-packed’ education system and that we need to rethink the role of the teacher. Schleicher’s key message seemed to be lost in the article which ‘slammed’ poor teacher quality as the main takeaway message, misusing his quotes to support an unsubstantiated perception of the problems in Australia’s education system.
The article is one that perpetuates a consistently negative message of Australia’s “failing schools” (Thomas, 2005). According to Thomas (2005), the media often “characterises wild assertions” and claims of a failing system with unqualified or unsubstantiated commentary, usually from a government minister. The relationship between the influence of media discourse and the intent of government agenda is most evident in the radical reform of educational policies by a conservative government during the 1990s. Throughout this era, the media has increasingly played a key role in the public discourse on education policy which cannot be downplayed (Blackmore & Thorpe, 2003). Often serving the needs of national agendas, the media mobilises public support for ‘solutions’ to perceived ‘problems’.
Recently, coverage of Australia’s academic decline in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) has been increasing in the media, mobilising public and government debate to ask “what’s wrong with Australia’s schools?”. PISA is often referred to in the global education community as the “international league tables” with and increasing importance on countries rankings, making the process more competitive, and more high stakes internationally. Initially Australia’s high performance in the first PISA test in 2000 was noted in the Australian media with “pride” although discourse has gradually moved towards an “Our Failing Schools” rhetoric which creates a policy epidemic needed to ‘fix’ the ‘education problem’ while also supporting neoliberal, pro-market economic reform introduced in the 1990s.
This paper aims to highlight the problem tin public discourse of education, taking PISA results and Australia’s ranking out of context to create news. The increasingly negative media representation of Australia’s public education system gives the government the opportunity to provide a ‘solution’ to the perceived “crisis in education” using pro-market reform.
To understand the problem, the paper will first look at the development of educational policies over the past two decades during a period of rapid policy reform and how the establishment of PISA impacted on the education policy discourse in Australia. In addition, the paper will determine to what extent Australian schools were impacted. As Blackmore and Thorpe (2003) have pointed out, the importance of mass media in educational discourse can no longer be ignored and media have become central to understanding the discourse surrounding PISA at the time. In addressing the key questions, the research will use print media to give anecdotal evidence from schools and policy makers, on how PISA was used in the discussion around education policy and how PISA impacted on schools.
Although the paper will acknowledge a number of benefits of PISA to Australia’s education reform, the paper will also recognise the growing of the OECD in public policy and with new changes to PISA, bringing a greater impact on Australian schools.
Completed as a part of coursework for Education Policy and Reform in Australia, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne.
INTRODUCTION Over the past decade Australia has experienced a shift in the way that it relates to Asia as rising transnational mobility, escalating interconnectivity as well as economic, political and cultural transformations has given rise to the ideal that ‘all Australians are to be Asia literate’. The policy agenda has been centred around the education system, in order to meet future Asia-Australia engagement opportunities. A nationally agreed agenda, the Melbourne Declaration on Education Goals for Young Australians (2008), has identified Asia as a key learning area for schools over the next decade.
Global integration and international mobility have increased rapidly in the past decade. As a consequence, new and exciting opportunities for Australians are emerging… Australians need to become ‘Asia literate’, engaging and building strong relationships with Asia (MCEETYA, 2008; cited in AEF, 2011).
Asia literacy has become a buzzword in political and education policy circles but how should it be defined? The rapidly altering definitions, measurements and chronology of Asia literacy seemed to be interrelated to the changing discourses on globalisation. As difficult as it is to define globalisation, it is equally as difficult to define Asia literacy. As positions on the causes and effects of globalisation has changed, in turn has altered the way in which Asia literacy is perceived. Halse (2015) suggests this as the root of Asia literacy as a "wicked policy problem", referring to policies that were created in the years prior to the implementation, do not align with the the expected outcomes.
Further, philosophical debate in terms of its definition, its scope and how it can be measured keeps policies from being widely accepted. Firstly, there seems to be no clear idea of the concept of ‘Asia’. Halse (2015) questions whether Asia refers to a region, or “an ethnic, cultural or linguistic identity?” (p.1). Fitzgerald (1997) asks a poignant question, “Is Australia an Asian Country?” in his book of the same title. What then, is Asia literacy? The term was first published in the National Strategy for the Study of Asia in Australia (1988) referring an “understanding of Asian history, culture, geography and economies” combined with a knowledge of an Asian language (cited in Halse, 2015, p.2). The Australian Education Foundation (2015) has taken the definition further by referring to it as an Asia capability, meaning an “understanding of the histories, geographies, arts and literature of the diverse countries of Asia, strengthened by learning an Asian language”.
Studies of Asia including a focus on languages has been a component of the education policy setting agenda for almost 40 years. Since the 1970s, Australia has successfully introduced a number of policies aimed at expanding language learning and studies of Asia in schools. In this time, Japanese replaced French and foreign languages were being studied by 40% of high school students (Lindsey, 2010). When global discourses changes so did the policies which were redefined in terms of it potential economic benefits to Australia as a trading partner, a highly criticised element of the education policy discourses. Even in schools today, we talk about the “opportunities” of engaging with Asia rather than the the wider societal and cultural benefits. With each successive political election, there are promises to revive the focus on studies of Asia, only to fail, evident in the decline in the number of students studying a foreign language at 12%, with just 5% studying an Asian language (Lindsey, 2010). Education policy commentators threaten that Australia will be left behind in the rise of Asia.
This paper looks back at the discourses on Asia Literacy policies in the context of a globalising Australia and the focus on engagement with it’s regional neighbours. Highlighting the more significant period of the Asia-Australia engagement, the past 40 years has seen successive governments, each attempting to redefine itself from a previous government, have redefined the Asia-Australia relationship and its impacts on Asia Literacy policies in schools. There are two main parts to the paper, the first addresses the extent to which Australian policies, particularly related to the Asia region, were an expression of and response to globalisation; the second examines the extent to which Australian discourses on Asia changed the implementation of Asia literacy policies. The paper argues that throughout the past 40 years the resulting inconsistencies in Asia-related policy and program funding is as a result of a poor clear, long term view of an Asia-Australia relationship.
Completed as a part of coursework for Globalization and Leadership, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne.
Recent research completed as part of a Masters of Education Policy (International) with the University of Melbourne.