Elite sport as official knowledge in the comprehensive school system. A case study of the recontextualization of education values

Year: 2012

Author: Kårhus, Svein

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


In the context of national discourses of high performance sport developments, there is evidence to suggest that the field of 'Sports Studies' in the school system in several countries is privileging an elite few (Green, 2004; Houlihan, 2009). By using a case study from Norway, this paper aims to analyze the national recontextualization (Bernstein, 2000) of Sport Studies framed within the global education policy developments affected by neo-liberal discourses. In the 2006 Norwegian reform of schooling ('The Knowledge Promotion'), in the upper secondary school national curriculum elite sport was introduced as a 5 hours a week elective subject to students at the A-level programs qualifying students for admission to higher education institutions. The paper explores the processes of contestation about "what counts" as official knowledge in the school system (Bernstein, 2000; Apple, 2003), and illuminates past and present values in the school system' against a backcloth of the increasing marketization of schooling (Coffey, 2001; Lingard and Ozga, 2007).

Following Rizvi and Lingard (2010) the data have been generated from a situated study of policy formations based upon elite studies (Maguire and Ball, 1994), which involve in-depth interviews with a sample of today's and former senior national education policy players, and a sample of senior leaders in the school system. Focusing on changing education discourses over time, the paper presents a critical discourse analysis (Chouliaraki and Fairclough, 1999) of the interview data, education policy and national curriculum texts.

In the context of a national school system influenced by neoliberal thinking and the local development of schools in quasi-markets informed by populist and economic agendas, the analysis reveals the ways in which the organized interests of elite sport supported by the Norwegian Olympic Committee, have negotiated the spaces of upper secondary school curriculum, and provided the minority group of high performance sport students with elite sport ambitions privileges in the national school system. Further, the analyses illuminate how the establishment of elite sport as official knowledge in the recontextsualization prosesses of the aims and pedagogical values of the comprehensive school system affected by marketization, challenge notions of education as a common versus a private good (Whitty et al., 1998).