New policy networks: the role of edu-businesses in the production and enactment of Australian education policy

Year: 2013

Author: Hogan, Anna

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper is part of a broader research project which is investigating the emergence of new policy networks in educational governance, where new actors, new spaces, and new methods of policy are contributing to a new type of polycentric state. Through this research an argument is made that the state has shifted from conducting bureaucracy to managing networks, where education policy is now produced and enacted via complex interactions between multifarious agents. Increasingly, edu-businesses are being identified as significant contributors to these global, national and local policy networks.
This particular paper focuses on the Australian context and utilises NAPLAN as the central node of analysis. Through a Bourdieuian lens, Network Ethnography and Social Network Analysis are employed to investigate the ways in which edu-businesses are contracted by the Australian Government in the enactment of their education policy - namely the Education Revolution, and specifically, their accountability agenda as decreed by NAPLAN. Through data collected from ACARA and the Australian States and territories, a series of network diagrams are presented that portray a complex network of governmental contracting, where all the NAPLAN lifecycle stages from test item development, to the review, trialing and equating of these items, as well as the testing of students, and the analysis and reporting of results, are almost entirely outsourced to edu-businesses. Pearson, the world's largest edu-business, and one of the most contracted agents in the Australian market, is used as a case to explore some of the consequences of this development.  
The intent of this research is to contribute to current ideas of education policy fields  - from the global to the local and the flow of policy between these - as not solely produced through the actions of international organisations and national, State and territory governments, but increasingly, through the activities of edu-businesses. To this end, the purpose of highlighting the edu-businesses working with ACARA, and the Australian States and territories in the development and delivery of NAPLAN, is not intended to spark a public verse private debate about what entity could, or should do this work. But rather it is a call for the field of education to question the new policy logic which confronts researchers, where we take care not to align our research with quasi-market values without considering the broader questions of how edu-businesses, working alongside governments in the production and enactment of policy, may be affecting education ideology.