Bernstein revisited: the recontextualisation of equity in contemporary Australian school education

Year: 2013

Author: Sriprakash, Arathi, Loughland, Tony

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This paper draws on the sociology of Basil Bernstein to show how his detailed theories of ‘recontextualisation’ and the ‘pedagogic device’ provide useful analytic levers to examine the politics of educational change. We focus on recent policy developments which have significantly impacted Australian school education: the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the National Assessment Programme for Numeracy and Literacy (NAPLAN), and the government’s public dissemination of school achievement data through the MySchool Website. The analysis illustrates the ways in which the logics of economic rationalism have become not only ubiquitous in Australian education policy, but have come to recontextualise – or reshape – discourses of social and educational equity through new norms of competition, standardization and commensurability. In doing so, the paper highlights the value of a Bernsteinian approach to understanding the vernacular character of neoliberalism in contemporary educational policy and reform.