Test-rich, justice-poor: Australian education in the new era

The Theodore Fink Memorial Seminar in Australian Education Presented by Professor Raewyn Connell

Thursday 11 July
6:00pm- 7:00pm
Theatre Q230, Level 2, 234 Queensberry St, campus map

School systems have been seen as an engine of change, a ladder of social mobility, a wall for social exclusion, or an arena of privilege. Arguably they are all of these at the same time, but the balance shifts historically.

A generation ago, Australian schools attempted compensatory education for children in poverty and became involved in pioneering work in gender equity and multicultural education. But before these could deepen into structural change, neoliberal agendas came to dominate Australian politics and set about transforming education systems on market lines.

New policy processes, new politics of language, new technologies of testing and ranking, new dynamics of class formation and gender division, and new controls over teaching workforces have arrived. The fragment of a social justice agenda that survives is a woolly project of 'social inclusion' that targets extremely disadvantaged groups while reinforcing the main dynamics of inequality.

Educational knowledge is now heavily discounted in a technicized and market-driven policy process, impervious to research and protest. Is the new order of test-rich, justice-poor schooling now impossible to change? It has its own contradictions and weaknesses; educators face the task of making these clear and putting together new agendas for just and inclusive education, and pro-education, rather than pro-profit, coalitions.

Professor Raewyn Connell

Professor Raewyn Connell is University Professor at the University of Sydney, a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and one of Australia's leading social scientists. Her most recent books are Confronting Equality (2011), about social science and politics; Gender: In World Perspective (2009); and Southern Theory (2007), about social thought beyond the global metropole.

She has taught at universities in Australia, Canada and the USA, in departments of sociology, political science, and education. A long-term participant in the labour movement and peace movement, Raewyn has tried to make social science relevant to social justice. Details at: www.raewynconnell.net.