Comparing the outsourcing of health and physical education in four different countries: Purpose, products and practice

Year: 2015

Author: Enright, Eimear, MacDonald, Doune, Rossi, Anthony, McCuaig, Louise

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Neoliberal globalisation has opened schools to new partners, products and services (Ball, 2012; Macdonald, 2014). Health and Physical Education (HPE) is particularly ripe for outsourcing practices given the ways that schools are positioned as sites for health promotion (Macdonald et al., 2014). While there is increasing scholarly interest in the outsourcing of HPE, there is a dearth of international comparative work or work that seeks to recognize international networks.

The purpose of this paper, then, is threefold. First, we compare how organizations in four different countries mobilise obesity discourses to represent and sell physical activity services to schools. Second, we compare the extent to which these organisations shape their products and services in line with their national curricula and policy. Third, we look at if/how these organisations are moving across traditional state boundaries.

Following Ball and Junemann (2012), web-audits were used to select 12 focus companies in Australia, UK, USA, and Hong Kong that provide services to HPE in the areas of obesity or mental ill-health. Discourse and text analysis of product materials and interviews with key figures generated network schematics for each organisation, several of which shall be shared in this presentation. For the purposes of this paper we undertake a comparative analysis of four organisations that draw on obesity discourses to rationalize their services: Spark (USA), Youth Sports Trust (UK), Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation (Australia) and Tetra Nutritional Consultation Centre (Hong Kong).

Theoretical Framework
The complex networks and socio-political contexts in which inter/national companies are embedded are fuelled by the neoliberal imperatives for competition, privatisation, performance and partnerships (Ball, 2012). These imperatives interplay with health imperatives, and the democratization of knowledge to make particular HPE-related products and services more accessible and attractive to the edu-market.

Findings & Conclusion
Powerful global networks that sit outside traditional schooling are becoming increasingly engaged in the provision of HPE; welcomed by schools and education authorities for many different reasons which we are seeking to better understand. What was perhaps unsurprising, given the global neo-liberal landscape and associated health imperatives, was the absence of social justice oriented discourses that might encourage a recognition of, and capacity to address, the broader social, political and cultural inequities and issues that currently shape the issues of mental health and obesity.

Ball, S. (2012). Global education inc. London: Routledge.
Ball, S., & Junemann, C. (2012). Networks, new governance and education. London: Routledge.
Macdonald, D. (2014). Is global neo-liberalism shaping the future of physical education? Physical Education and Sport Pedagogy. DOI: 10.1080/17408989.2014.920496.
Macdonald, D., Johnson, R., & Leow, A. (2014). Health promotion and health education: beyond cells and bells. In K. Fitzpatrick & R. Tinning (Eds.) Health education: Critical perspectives (pp. 17-30). London: Routledge.