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Politics and school education in Australia: a case of shifting purposes

Neil Cranston (Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia)
Megan Kimber (School of Education, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia)
Bill Mulford (Faculty of Education, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia)
Alan Reid (School of Education, University of South Australia, Mawson Lakes, Australia)
Jack Keating (Centre for Post Compulsory Education and Lifelong Learning, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia)

Journal of Educational Administration

ISSN: 0957-8234

Article publication date: 23 March 2010




The paper aims to argue that there has been a privileging of the private (social mobility) and economic (social efficiency) purposes of schooling at the expense of the public (democratic equality) purposes of schooling.


The paper employs a literature review, policy and document analysis.


Since the late 1980s, the schooling agenda in Australia has been narrowed to one that gives primacy to purposes of schooling that highlight economic orientations (social efficiency) and private purposes (social mobility).

Practical implications

The findings have wider relevance beyond Australia, as similar policy agendas are evident in many other countries raising the question as to how the shift in purposes of education in those countries might mirror those in Australia.


While earlier writers have examined schooling policies in Australia and noted the implications of managerialism in relation to these policies, no study has analysed these policies from the perspective of the purposes of schooling. Conceptualising schooling, and its purposes in particular, in this way refocuses attention on how societies use their educational systems to promote (or otherwise) the public good.



Cranston, N., Kimber, M., Mulford, B., Reid, A. and Keating, J. (2010), "Politics and school education in Australia: a case of shifting purposes", Journal of Educational Administration, Vol. 48 No. 2, pp. 182-195.



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Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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