The Never-Ending Megaproject

Year: 2018

Author: Norman, Pat

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

It has been well noted that the development of Australian education policy reflects the trend towards ‘glocalisation’ – taking global policy measures and implementing them in local ways. These local versions of global policy rationalities are articulated in government documents, such as the recent Gonski 2.0 review. The ‘education project’ that unfolds in these documents is a vast, expensive, and complex venture, affecting millions of Australians, and developed over many years by successive governments. This qualifies it for analysis as a ‘megaproject’ (Flyvbjerg, 2014). While projects might generally be thought of as ‘bounded’, there are remarkable theoretical synergies between Flyvbjerg’s analysis of giant public infrastructure projects and education research. Megaproject literature notes that ‘four sublimes’ tend to drive the scale and nature of these policies: the technological, political, economic and aesthetic sublimes (Flyvbjerg, 2014). This paper explores the recent Gonski 2.0 report by positioning education as a ‘never-ending megaproject’. Considering the ‘four sublimes’ through the lens of an analytics of power (Flyvbjerg, 2002; Foucault, 2010), I argue that the Gonski 2.0 report demonstrates a range of rationalities that are similar to those seen in megaproject development. In particular, the report reflects the tendency of policy makers to reify these sublimes, which can often lead to cost overruns, time delays, and outcomes that are less than ideal. While there are valuable suggestions in the Gonski 2.0 report, the logic that underpins it – like that of megaprojects – is the product of a ‘rationality of power’. Analysing Gonski 2.0 using the metaphor of megaprojects can help us to understand these logics, and potentially to identify associated risks with its recommendations.