Managerialist discourses and the shaping of the English National Literacy Strategy

Year: 2002

Author: Soler, Janet

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A considerable body of literature argues that there has been a shift from a liberal humanist discourse in schooling towards a managerialist one in the United Kingdom. In England, this debate has had a profound impact, moving schools away from the liberal humanist understandings of the 1970s and early 1980s and towards stronger linkages between the curriculum, the labour market and national economic performance. Along with this managerial discourse comes a technicist/rationalist notion of learning and a view of the individual as a subject to govern and/or be governed.

Historically, literacy has long been a key site for such struggles. Following the early 1990s cries for 'a return to basics in education', literacy now occupies a central role in educational thinking. It has been key to the development of New Labour's electoral platforms in 1997 and 2001, and to the educational policy initiatives that have proliferated during the New Labour administration.

This paper traces examines the links between the changing narratives in public debate over literacy published in the press during the early 1990s. This public debate is seen as an important aspect in the emergence of a new dominant narrative in the literacy curriculum and pedagogy which came to replace the dominant 1960s and 1970s child centred ideals with a technicist view which stressed basic skills of literacy and numeracy controlled by market mechanisms.