Which Way Towards the Year 2000? Contrastive Rhetoric in the Policy Documents of Two Education Systems.

Year: 1991

Author: Grundy, Shirley

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Modern Western societies are keen to mark the passing of time and the construction of history through the designation and celebration of significant dates. The year 2000 is looming as just such an occasion. It is portrayed as a door into an unknown future: the 21st century. Visions of what this 21st century will be like have for some time been permeating, not just the science fiction literature, but Government policy documents as well. As we enter the final decade of the 20th century a sense of urgency is growing about whether we are prepared for the new tomorrow. And since, as the clichŽ reminds us, it is the children born today who will inherit that tomorrow, education has become a particular target for policy development as we look to the year 2000. Moreover, an examination of the 'towards 2000' policy rhetoric reveals a preoccupation, not with continuity, but with change. There appears to be almost universal acceptance that, if education systems are to do their job into the 21st century, then radical reshaping and reform are necessary. However, while 'towards 2000' rhetoric is a rhetoric of change, there is by no means universal agreement about the nature or direction of that change. In this paper I examine two sets of education reform documents: the NSW document Excellence and Equity and the document Year 2000: A Framework for Learning from British Columbia in Canada. I shall argue that these documents represent fundamentally contrasting approaches to the question of what is to count as a worthwhile state provision of education into the next century.