Schooling and enterprise culture in Australia: pause for a critical policy analysis

Year: 1998

Author: Smyth, John, Shacklock, Geoff

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper argues that the recent emergence of enterprise education as a category in Australia (a notion that has been around for some considerable time elsewhere) has taken on all of the characteristics in the Australian context of what Stronach & Morris (1994) call "policy hysteria". It is argued that enterprise education in this particular reincarnation is more symbolic than substantive, and as an example of school reform and innovation in teaching, it is positioned as a rhetorical manoeuvre designed to relocate 'the problem' of the youth labour market in schools.

The alleged benefits of enterprise teaching and learning are much extolled by policy entrepreneurs, but remain still largely untested at the level of the school and beyond. While much has been written on this topic in the UK over the past decade (see Keat & Abercrombie, 1991), it may be sanguine to stop and ask "what has been learned?" as another country goes down the policy borrowing track. As Australia increasingly gears up to follow the UK experiment of the "youth enterprise years of the 1980s" (MacDonald, 1991, p. 267) it makes some sense to take careful stock of what has been achieved in a context that has been characterised by a lack of "critical assessment of outcomes of all this endeavour" (MacDonald, 1991, p. 267).