Accessing the Knowledge of the Powerful: The Curriculum Hierarchy in (rural) NSW schools

Year: 2016

Author: Roberts, Philip

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper establishes the existence of a curriculum hierarchy in the NSW senior secondary curriculum and examines its socio-spatial distribution. Building on previous work in Victoria by Teese and colleagues (e.g 2000/2012) this paper extends the idea of the curriculum hierarchy to the NSW Senior secondary curriculum and then moves to explicitly examine the hierarchy in non-metropolitan areas. In doing so the ideas of powerful knowledge encoded in the school curriculum and the selection of this knowledge is examined in relation to the diversity of communities and the inclusion of rural knowledges. Important to the consideration here is the nature of powerful knowledge, knowledge of the powerful (Young & Muller, 2016), the epistemological characteristics of school subjects in the hierarchy, and their relationship to rural knowledges. This paper extends previous work in this area by introducing spatial thinking from the social sciences to look at how this knowledge is spatially distributed, its relationship to communities and place, and the spatial influences on its selection and enactment in schools. While the overall focus is on rural school access, the analysis necessarily positions this within state-wide distributions and trends, before moving to a spatial analysis. Specifically the paper illustrates that the curriculum hierarchy favours (powerful) high SES metropolitan communities and that access to the curriculum is determined by SES and location.