Neoliberalism, privatisation and health and physical education teachers as knowledge brokers

Year: 2012

Author: Macdonald, Doune

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This symposium, Physical education plc, is unashamedly stimulated by Stephen Ball's book, Education plc (2007). In his text, Ball addresses issues surrounding the privatization of education through the lenses of discourse, the competitive state and private actors. As with Ball, we are interested in the impact of neo-liberalism, an ideology that Apple (2006, p. 14) considers is the "one specific defining political/economic paradigm of the age in which we live....". Manifested in schooling, and more specifically, Physical Education, neo-liberalism has shaped, for example, curriculum priorities for the production of the healthy body/citizen, educational provision by those within and beyond the school, and performative reporting practices (Macdonald, 2011). These manifestations shall be explored in more detail in the papers to follow.
Against a backdrop of the curriculum-making exercise for Australia's national curriculum for Health and Physical Education (HPE), we are particularly interested in how (post?) neo-liberalism shall play out as the HPE curriculum meets the 2020 teacher and student. Futures literature predicts that teachers will act as "knowledge brokers", with students' individual learning pathways being a negotiation (frequently outside a traditional physically bounded school) between the learner, teacher and the infinite (online) resources available. In our field, the futures literature suggests learning is likely to be circumscribed by emphases on preventative health, participation, and lifelong learning in relation to movement/physical activity challenges. Might HPE therefore be moving inexorably towards a highly privatized future where the teacher needs to be skilled in resource appraisal and synthesis? Or might post neo-liberal discourses intercede as they have to date in the HPE curriculum-making process in Australia?