Geoff Shacklock, Robert Hattam & John Smyth: Enterprise education and the construction of teachers' work: Exploring the links

Geoff Shacklock, Robert Hattam & John Smyth: Enterprise education and the construction of teachers' work: Exploring the links
Paper for the Australian Association for Research In Education Conference, Adelaide, 1998

Joining the din

The purpose of this paper is to offer a speculative interrogation of the recent invasion of 'enterprise culture' into the discourse of teaching and learning in the school sector in South Australia. As such, we want to join the din of an increasing number of educators who have raised concerns about the ongoing vocationalisation of the school curriculum. We are interested in this issue because we fear that writing 'enterprise culture' into curriculum practice will seriously undermine the struggle to advance concerns for social justice in the school sector. Our fears are fuelled by our rather pessimistic reading of the recent reforms in schools - a reading that undermines having much optimism about the future possibility that schooling might make a better go of advancing egalitarian ideals. In beginning to move beyond such pessimism we want to focus our investigation around the following question -

1. What are the possibilities for advancing concerns for social justice in the school sector through the implementation of enterprise education?

Other questions that might be useful include:

2. What does enterprise education look like in schools?

3. What affect will enterprise education have on the existing social inequalities?

4. What does this mean for teachers' work and what and how students learn?

5. What are the possibilities of a socially-critical enterprise education?

In this paper we will attempt a brief and selective reading of some recent developments that might be fit under the banner of vocationalising the school curriculum, highlight important contestations, outline how we have began to understand the category 'enterprise education', briefly outline what we are 'up to' research-wise and begin to suggest some "socially-critical" (Kemmis, Suggett et al. 1983) possibilities. What we what to contemplate, is the possibility of a counter-hegemonic re-infection - that is getting inside of the discourse of 'enterprise education' and using it as a vehicle for advancing a socially-critical agenda. We also want to use this opportunity to field test some of our assertions and hopefully join in the existing dialogue, promoted by A.E.U. (S.A.), about the nature of the socially critical school. (see SAIT's Curriculum Policy)

Reading the 'vocationalising' of schooling

It's our view that the recent introduction of the idea of enterprise education into schools needs to be understood as a part of a continuity - that is, an historical struggle over the place of vocational education in the school curriculum. In attempting to understand how such a 'reform' might be made to work for a socially critical agenda we first want to briefly visit what's been happening in this struggle recently. We especially want to examine the process of implementating the key competencies because we believe this will give us a few clues as to the method in which vocationalising the curriculum is being advanced by both the federal government in concert with the market. We believe, even though its only early days, that the infection of enterprise culture into the discourse of teaching and learning is proceeding by much the same route.

From a socially-critical perspective, reading and interpreting the way curriculum gets made in Australian schools reveals resistance and contestation. Schooling as "contested terrain" (Edwards, 1979) can be considered as a social and cultural location in which a number of logics or imperatives struggle for significance. That schooling is 'contested terrain' is perhaps a banal observation to practicing teachers. More significant, is making sense of the way that contestation is managed - of making sense of the struggle around maintaining continuities and implementing reforms. In terms of maintaining continuities - we want to know - how is it that certain logic gets to dominate the practice of teaching and learning? And in relation to implementing reforms - we want to know - how 'new' ideas get incorporated into the existing settlement? We want to shine these questions on the nature of the struggles for control of teachers' work through what gets authorised as good curriculum.

Historically speaking, at least during the past 20 years of so, the practice of teaching and learning in schools has been broadly defined in terms of an "educational settlement" (Freeland 1986) that often goes by the title of a 'general liberal' education. Struggles for control of teacher's work go on daily in classrooms and staff rooms but significant and defining boundaries are organised institutionally and as such are periodically settled. A settlement can be understood in this instance, as a framework that contains struggles within manageable limits. The 'general liberal' education settlement has occurred around broad agreements such as:

  • not contesting government funding of private schools

  • adequately funding public schools

  • pursuing a 'general' education for all - which in effect has meant supporting a competitive academic curriculum formulated around knowledge deemed important for everybody's children

  • pursuing policies that advance the educational attainment of groups that are widely recognised as 'educationally disadvantaged' e.g. those affected by poverty, girls and aboriginal students.

Such an educational settlement needs to understood in the broader context of a post world war 2 political economic settlement around the welfare state, in which struggles by trade unionists, feminists, environmentalists, human rights activists, to name a few, have affected institutional and lifeworld arrangements against the grain of the interests of those pursuing capital accumulation, private ownership and the maximising of profit. The twin pillars of the post war settlement Hall and Jacques (1990: 25) argue are " a modernising capitalism and a labour market and democratic movement intent on social and economic reform." Quite clearly, the educational settlement, that has been a significant part of the welfare state is now being significantly disrupted. We believe that the future contribution that schooling might make to advancing Australia as a more socially just society, is now being undermined by the recent change in federal government in Australia and the concomitant change "from corporate to supply-side federalism" (Knight & Warry, 1996). A supply-side federalism, we argue operates the policy levers of government as an apologist for a globalising capitalism. Stuart Hall is instructive here as he refers to such a perspective as "authoritarian populism" :

.... is based on an increasing close relationship between government and the capitalist economy, a radical decline in the institutions and power of political democracy, and attempts at curtailing "liberties" that have been gained in the past. (Hall in Apple, 1993, p. 21)

Anthony Giddens (1994) on the other hand refers to this form of New Right restoration as a form of "neoliberalism".

For the neoliberals, capitalistic enterprise in no longer regarded as the source of the problems of modern civilization. Quite the opposite: it is the core of all that is good about it. (p.33)

Having a federal government whose policy formulations, broadly speaking, are about letting loose in a completely unfettered way the rationality of the market into education and training is a cause for alarm, given the effects noted in countries such as New Zealand (Gordon, 1994; Kelsey, 1995), England (Ball, Bowe, & Gewirtz, 1996) and the United States (Apple, 1993) - countries that have already felt the blunt end of economic fundamentalism. It is our fear that the logic of work or the economic imperatives for the flexible, multi-skilled competent worker and beginning to dominate in the process of defining what is 'good' teaching and learning practice. It is becoming apparent that the logic of education - the imperative to develop as life long learners, and the logic of life - the imperative to develop as active citizens, is now profoundly muted by the discourse of "economic fundamentalism" (Kelsey, 1995) that is colonising our educational institutions (Smyth, 1995a) and civil society (Pusey, 1996).

Getting back to the context of schooling though, the educational settlement has been significantly affected by radical educators struggles against the hegemony of an elitist version of the competitive academic curriculum during the 1970-1980s which gave rise to the school-based curriculum movement, and significant reforms to post-compulsory certification including a limited version of assessment reform (away from external examinations as a means of selection and sorting). These reforms are presently being undermined by the effects of Keating's corporate federalism and the development of the National curriculum, and moves to the self-managing school at a time of diminishing resources. Howard's supply side federalism though ups the ante - as social, cultural and environmental imperatives are all abandoned for the imperatives of the market. The Howard federal government's agenda seems driven by a fetish for the market and hence might be considered as being nothing more than clerks for a "predatory culture" (McLaren 1994).

Running concurrently to the struggles of socially critical educators has been the call to ensure schooling is more relevant to the demands of the workplace - in brief, schooling needs to ensure workers are job ready. During our time as secondary teachers, we have witnessed a number of programs developed in response to workplace demands. Many of these programs we supported, and still do, including - work experience, career counselling, school-to-work transitions programs, and the inclusion of work education into the formal post-compulsory curriculum. Most recently though has come a direct assault on the mainstream curriculum - the key competencies. What makes the key competencies such an potent vehicle for advancing the vocationalising of the curriuclum, is the collapse of the general-vocational divide being written into the conception of key competencies. What has been crafted in the case of the key competencies is a discourse in which vocational education no longer means training in particular occupational categories but aiming for a more abstracted, undifferentiated worker-citizen able to bring a set of generic competencies to any vocation.

The demands for a closer connection between school and work needs to be considered carefully though by socially critical educators. As Sedunry (1996) so eloquently outlines, many of the demands by socially critical - (she calls them radical) educators converge with demands to vocationalise schooling. Both socially critical educators and advocates for vocationalising the curriculum argue for reforms based on a disdain for the theoretical, abstract, (sorting and selecting for university) academic curriculum. The advocates for vocationalising of the curriculum demand contextual learning - an integration of 'heads on' and 'hands on'. Such a view has a lot of similarities with the call by socially critical educators for student-centred, integrated, negotiated curriculum that develops critical literacies about what is happening in a global context. What is being railed against by both groups is the theoretical, abstract academic curriculum that is often associated with didactic pedagogies, often referred to by Paulo Friere's term "banking education". This convergence becomes even more subtle in the case of the key competencies. Lowry (1995), in a very clever argument for an integrated approach to teaching key competencies, neatly characterises such a banking approach as "inhibiting conditions" to learning. These 'inhibiting conditions' he names as the following: the learner is a passive vessel; canonical and axiomatic knowledge; a high reliance on acquisition and rote learning; testing for the 'right' answer; decontextualised learning, and having to learn fragmented knowledge; subroutines or subskills separated from understanding the larger context into which they fit and which gives them meaning. Does all that sound familiar?

The development of key competencies needs a more careful examination.

The development and implementation of key competencies into the school and VET sector in Australia has occurred within a changing national forum attempting to pursue a rationalised national agenda for education and training. Since 1986, a "corporate federalism" (Lingard, 1991) has quickly evolved which in effect has meant that educational leadership and hence policy formulation has moved from State bureaucracies to Federal forums.

[C]hanges in public administration have emptied State government education authorities of their educational capacity. In the 1990s, all that is left is a managerial husk. (Seddon, 1995, p.4)

In 1988, within the context of an "emerging national perspective" (Ruby & Wildermuth, 1994) for education and training, the Australian Education Council (AEC) - the various Ministers of Education from around the country - began to address 'the problem' of post-compulsory education and training. In a retrospective article on the development of key competencies, Borthwick (1997) defined 'the problem' with post-compulsory education and training as: "attempting to grapple with the dramatic growth in Year 11 and 12 and with the changes of expectation of purposes of this phase of schooling" (p. 21). "The problem of post-compulsory education and training" was taken up in the first instance in the Finn Review (1995) which recommended amongst other things, the need for a convergence of general and vocational education (Maxwell, 1996), national reform of entry level training (Carmichael, 1992) and the development of employment-related key competencies. Such recommendations are not surprising given the dominance of the logic of "economic rationalism in Canberra" (Pusey, 1991), the rise of a neo-liberal valorisation of the free market and the fetish within the Federal Labour Government to solve Australia's economic problems by improving our international competitiveness through embracing the rhetoric of the "clever country" (Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee, 1991). The need to further develop employment related key competencies was taken up by the Mayer Committee. The Mayer Committee in its report, Key Competencies (1994) not only defined a key competency, but also argued for seven key competencies "that all young people need to be able to participate effectively in the emerging forms of work and work organisation." An eighth area of competence, Cultural Understandings was confirmed in July 1993 by the AEC (Centre for Workplace Communication and Culture, 1994). During 1994-6, the Federal Government funded a range of implementation projects around Australia in both the school and VET sector.

The essence of this is that there are real struggles over the interpretation and enactment of policies. But these are set within a moving discursive frame which articulates and constrains the possibilities and probabilities of interpretation and enactment. (Ball, 1993, p.15 )

In this paper we want to invoke the metaphor made famous by the musician/performance artist Laurie Anderson (1986) that "language it's a virus". Such a metaphor resonates with the "discursive turn in the social sciences" (Corson, 1995) which understands language/discourse as a means to not only communicate ideas but also works as a social technology.

Discourses do not just reflect or represent social entities and relations, they construct or 'constitute' them.... (Fairclough, 1992, p.3)

Using this perspective, the Mayer key competencies can be seen as, not only a policy text, but are also beginning to operate in the form of a social technology being set loose on the education and training arena. As such, key competencies can be considered as a sophisticated "discursive practice" (Davies, 1990; Davies, 1992; Davies & Harre, 1990) that is presently being developed as "a way of working the world" (Willinsky, 1990, p.6) of the VET and school sector to redefine what is considered best practice for teaching, and what is considered to be the desired outcome for students. Given the resistance to unsettling the competetive academic curriculum from it's prominence, the key competencies needed plenty of institutional support to ensure maximum infection of teachers' work.

Within a neo-liberal state the federal government supports deregulation by an integrated set of processes broadly named as privatise, marketise, legitimise. Privatisation involves selling off publicly owned enterprises to entrepreneurs for private ownership and profit. Marketisation is a strategy for those enterprises that can't be privatised immediately. For example - public schools, public health, public communications are still beyond the scope of the privatisation strategy but can be opened up to the logic of market. Parts of these enterprises can be privatised, some of the work can be 'out-sourced' and where possible the user-pays principle is written into practice. For the purposes of this paper though we are most interested in the methods of legitimation used by neo-liberal governments. We see a legitimation strategy that works in at least these three ways: promulgate 'moral panics', vigorously promote a discourse of 'common sense' about the inevitability of marketisation, and closing down the spaces of dissent. Once the legitimacy of marketising has been assured in the public consciousness what generally follows in the eduactional arena is a practice of 'discursive coercion' - the development of sophisticated discourses by 'experts' (intellectuals) that promote a vocationalising agenda and then funding it's implementation, usually to the exclusion of other logics competing for significance. The key competencies being a classic case.

The education and training sectors, being such significant sites of social and cultural formation are prime targets for the use of 'moral panics' or 'manufactured crisis'. The marketizing of education and training requires pursuing reforms that obviously will be resisted. If education and training is to dance to the tune of the market then these sectors need to emphasise the development of skills for work. Of course to achieve this requires overhauling the commitments to a general liberal education and the need to have an informed citizenry. A number of manufactured crisis come together as a powerful concoction to legitimate the need to privilege the imperatives of the market in devising curriculum - e.g youth are deviant (Roman 1996); the Australian education and training sectors need to do more if Australia are to be economically competitive in an international market place; and, we have a debt crisis. At a time when it would have been more appropriate to be concentrating on schooling as a means of increasing Australia's 'social capital' and hence developing more competent learners and active citizens, the educational discourse in being colonised by the logic of the competent worker. The manufactured crisis generates a discourse of deviancy to deflect the public attention from the broader structural questions. The deviants are the workers (especially trade unionists) who want to be paid too much, who aren't productive enough and teachers who don't teach the right things well enough. What does not seem to get much mention in the official discourse though, is the disastrous effect deregulation of the banking industry had in the late 1980's and in particular the huge debts generated by the cowboy entrepreneurs, the ineffectiveness of Australia's corporate management in working towards more democratic relationships in the workplace, and the failure of Australia's policies on unemployment.

A significant part of the legitimation strategy of neo-liberal governments is closing down spaces for dissent. In the education and training sectors, State governments have become "managerial husks" (Seddon 1995) during the years of the Keating Government. The spaces for debate about policy issues disappeared when State systems closed down most of their Advisory and Curriculum Officer positions(Bartlett 1994). Leadership positions have also been made short term tenured positions and this too have ensured a silencing of critique from those working in the field. Perhaps more insidiously has been the blatant muting of social justice discourse. The category 'social justice' has all but disappeared.

In the case of the vocationalising of schooling, legitimation for the strategy is always on shaky ground. The call for more flexible, multi-skilled and competent workers through the implementation of key competencies fails because it is well known that the labour market for young people has all but collapsed except for part-time unskilled work - work that really requires compliant low payed workers rather that competent, problem-solvers who can work in groups. etc.... The key competencies did give progressive educators some access to funding to pursue the socially critical pedagogies. It does appear as though the implementation of key competencies has either stalled or run out of steam and the competitive academic curriculum is still intact. The imperatives of the market it seems has made little inroads into reforming the curriculum or teacher's work.

It is in this context that we now find enterprise education entering the lexicon of teachers. How are we to understand what enterprise education is about. Briefly, we've located a number of ways in which enterprise is being talked about in schools. Enterprise education is often referred to as a set of skills - enterprising skills:

  • assess strengths and weaknesses

  • seek information and advice

  • make decisions

  • plan time and energy

  • carry through agreed responsibility

  • negotiate successfully

  • deal with people in power and authority

  • solve problems

  • resolve conflict

  • cope with stress and tension

  • evaluate your performance

  • communicate -verbal.

On the surface, such a list of skills is difficult to argue against. They sound a lot like DECS's 'essential skills and understandings' or the key competencies. What's different though is the way in which this set of skills are learned. In line with previous calls to vocationalise schooling, enterprise education involves learning this set of skills though being involved in 'real' projects. Doing something enterprising with a group of others. Again this sound fine. What is perturbing though is the rationale that lies behind establishing such learning experiences. Enterprise education it seems is a close relation to the schooling for the dole programs of the 1980s. If you cast your mind back a decade, advocates of vocationalising the curriculum rallied around a view that we needed to teach kids how to live on the dole - that was all the disadvantaged one's could expect. Translate that sort of logic into the late 1990s and we get, teach them how to live in a labour market that is increasingly casualised, part-time, piece-meal, semi-skilled, and that requires some small business entrepreneurial skills.

Reading educational policy and enterprise culture in schooling

When it is stripped down to the essentials, it is clear that the policy imperative behind the thrust for an enterprise culture in schooling is to create an ethos and a climate in schools that is likely to make students more amenable to the values of business, industry and the economy in general. In other words, there is widespread feeling that schools have for too long been insulated from business and industry and have let the economy down by not inculcating appropriate values of diligence, obedience, hardwork, compliance, and an acquisitive approach to life in general.

It is not hard to make the claim that we are in the economic predicament we are in because schools have failed us. It is not hard either to make the argument, and have it stick, that an absence of an enterprising culture in schooling is tantamount to a collective act of economic sabotage. With the almost complete collapse in recent years of the youth labour market, it is not difficult to make the case that schools are to blame for not having a curriculum relevant to the work lives of students. The argument is that if only a more relevant work-related curriculum were offered, then schools would be able to inculcate youth with values and assumptions that make them more attractive 'commodities' (sic) to business and industry. This may turn out to be quite a spurious argument, particularly in a context where it matters little what schools do because the bulk of new jobs are - low skill, part-time, insecure, menial, service sector jobs. Part of the attractiveness of enterprise culture as a policy solution is that it deflects attention away from the real problem, which is a deindustrialisation in the context of global restructuring.

From a policy perspective the notion of enterprise as a category is disturbing because of its pejorative and ameliorative connotations. Enterprise has become a code word in which the policy assumptions that lie behind it have gone largely unexamined. According to the OECD document "Towards an Enterprising Culture" (1989), 'being enterprising' means: "having the ability to be creative and flexible, to be able to take and exercise initiative and responsibility, and to be able to solve problems" (p.5). The problem is constructed as an absence within certain individuals of enterprising skills - in this respect it is likely gendered, racist, and classist. There is an inherent presumption deeply entrenched in common sense, that kids who come from areas of poverty, from backgrounds of disadvantage, from working class families, are aboriginal, or come from Non-English speaking origins are part of an underclass that is deficient, and that enterprise programs funded by governments or industry philanthropists will improve their skills and competencies and somehow catapult them out of these categories.

By quarantining the problem in this ways so that it becomes an issue of 'kids from poor backgrounds who can't get jobs', the social pathology view of enterprise culture locates the problem with individuals, rather than focus on the social and economic structures of society that produce and maintain inequality. While the problem is portrayed predominantly as an individual one, schools are regarded as being partly to blame because of a failure to inculcate an appropriate curriculum, vocational skills, attitudes and dispositions.

Educational policy of this kind surfaces in response to a widespread 'common sense' view that the future of our young people are at risk unless schools do a better job at introducing them to the adult world and its values.

Youth in crisis

The notion of 'youth in crisis' and the various 'moral panics' which are connected to it gets played out in the media day after day: unemployment, drugs, violence, crime, gangs, subcultures and sex are some of the categories in which the media plays out the supposed moral vacuity of young people.

The media spectacle of the 'failure of youth' helps to whip up hysteria about the degradation of values and the rending of the social fabric; a hysteria which can lead to all kinds of severe remedial social nostrums. The media seeks to cause alarm, to frighten, by constructing "imaginary positions that redefine and rearticulate popular common sense" (Roman, 1996, p. 7). Cinematic representations of young people at the margins usually give a graphic edge to the construction of the latest moral panics; witness the in-your-face attitude for kicking back at the world central to the lives of Kev and Mick in Idiot Box.

The treatment of the Paxtons (a year or so ago,) is a case in point. By harnessing goodwill in the community to find jobs for these young people and setting them up in the no-win position of accepting unsuitable work or refusing a job for welfare, A Current Affair succeeded in creating a powerful negative view of the young unemployed. Not surprisingly, the Paxton youths were vociferously attacked on talk-back radio and condemned through phone-in polls. They were described by journalists as "the putrid Paxton kids', "lazy bastards", and "the patron saints of dole bludgers"; even the Prime Minister joined in, describing their 'difficult' attitude as having "stuck in the craw of hard-working people" (Button, 1996). Focussing attention on dress codes, hair styles and their reluctance to eagerly and gratefully take jobs (thousands of kilometres from their home), A Current Affair diverted attention from the important issue of how it is that many young people, like the Paxtons, living in the high unemployment regions of our cities, are unable to get work.

This is the background, the popular culture of demonised youth, that informs the re-invigoration of vocational education. The case for enterprise education is anchored in the appropriation of these constructions of youth-at-risk. Connecting schooling to the requirements of business and industry for labour, irrespective of the market demand for youth workers, is advanced as the solution to the moral panic of youth-in-crisis, typified in the media by the Paxtons. Large amounts of money, intellectual capital, and social energy are brought to bear on creating busy schools, teachers and students occupied in a quest for the improbable outcome of jobs for all through enterprise skills.

These are tough times for young people, no mistake. The youth labour market has evaporated in Australia (Chamberlain, 1997; Stilwell, 1993; Windshuttle, 1980) and throughout the industrialised world (Niel, 1997; Herbst-Bayliss, 1997; Sklar, 1995). Often students leave secondary schooling, and various other forms of post-compulsory education, without much hope of continuous employment (Button, 1997; Milburn, 1997; Willox, 1997). School, TAFE, and university qualifications are no guarantee of automatic, or even delayed, entry into regular paid employment (Woollacot, 1997). For those who leave school early, without completing standard school certificates the situation is far worse (Fagan, 1995). For many of those, a life of chronic unemployment and poverty can lead to lives full of despondency, poisoned by anger and envy that lead to desperation, violence and anti-social forms of retaliation (Barrowclough, 1997; Caesar, 1996).

The prospect of long term unemployment, even the likelihood of a lifetime of non-employment, is very real. This trend together with the declining rates of pay for many skilled workers (Weekes, 1995) means that many people, especially the young and untrained, are destined to be part of that burgeoning group of poor who do not work, or work for small return (Heath, 1996; Gans, 1996; Madrick, 1995; Galbraith, 1993). What is more, the pursuit of deregulated 'ruthless' economies (Head, 1996) by governments will likely mean that levels of employment and income desired by working people cannot ever be met in Australia (Freeland, 1997). Inevitably, the young, especially those who seek the kind of unskilled work that used to be abundant in manufacturing feel the brunt of this trend. (Australia now has the smallest manufacturing sector, relative to the size of its economy, in the OECD (Colebatch, 1997).)

Within this kind of economic and labour market climate, the political gaze falls upon curative solutions to the symptomatic problems which immediately trouble the community's perception of the social good. Fired by 'moral panics' (Cohen, 1972) and 'semiotics of fear' (Roman, 1996) located in the social spectacle of 'youth in crisis' (Connell & Lopez, 1996; Acland, 1995), the rapidly moving political gaze transforms itself into a publicly displayed political will to 'do something'. It is this that can spawn programs like 'working for the dole' (Willox & Painter, 1997), new forms of vocational education (DECS, 1997), and school funding connected to the placement of exit-students in employment (Cook, 1997). The focus, when it turns to schools, is sharply concentrated upon the links between school learning and getting jobs. The acquisition of skills, competencies and the development of enterprising attitudes becomes the rhetorical glue which binds the various layers of the case for schools to be in the business of supplying ready made workers. The problem is, it is a 'tricky business' (Philipsen & Noblit, 1993) that requires the reshaping of curriculum and the reconstrual of teachers' work.

Enterprise schooling and teachers' work

Teachers' work does not exist in isolation from education policy and curriculum formation. The connection of enterprise education with the vocational role of schooling brings a whole set of metaphors and other language embedded frames to bear on the construal of teachers' work. Inevitably, pedagogy for the enhancement (or even direct creation) of opportunities for post-school paid employment, means an identification of priorities in teaching-learning relationships and new patterns for teachers' work.

Teaching has always been construed by policy-makers, educational managers, academics and others according to the dominant educational perspectives of the time. However, the apparent tight connection between these construals and perspectives often obscures the informative role in that relation played by the political agenda operating in their construction. Teachers have variously been seen as technicians, bricoleurs, moral agents and so on at different times. We believe it is important to recognise that the imperative behind any portrayal of the work of teaching is never innocent; it will always have an outcome in mind for the kind of pedagogy it legitimises.

We see the present rapid development of enterprise schooling in Australia and its reform of the pedagogical relationship between schools and jobs leading to the conceptual framing of the 'enterprising teacher'. It is described as a new 'approach to teaching'; one that focuses on "student's enterprising qualities, skills and competencies" (Idczak & Shea, 1995, p.1). The enterprising teacher is described as one capable of providing the leadership required in schools, or more specifically in classroom relationships with students, to promote business work practices as exemplars of successful life skills. While the image of the enterprising teacher is still largely nascent in the literature about enterprise schooling, nevertheless, the enterprising teachers of the (not too distant) future will trace their ancestry, their pedagogical heritage, to that construal of the enterprising teachers' work in-formation now.

While the enterprise teacher is encouraged to draw upon different pedagogical tools there would appear to be a residual core of the technical in the enterprising teachers' work despite an illusion of its absence. The desire to free-up teaching-learning connections to enhance flexibility for the pursuit of individually crafted pathways toward new learning opportunities disguises the strong pattern of linearity in enterprise education. The strong sense of outcome, and the specific indicators for success, built into enterprise schooling encourage the same kind of purpose driven classroom thinking characteristic of the teacher-as-technician. We worry that concentrated relational fidelity is dissolved and dispersed as external relationships become more important for teachers and students alike as exploitable sites for 'opportunity'.

More specifically, Kearney and Russell-Green (1991) have outlined the fundamental principles for the work of the enterprising teacher. As they see it, in enterprising teaching, teachers would:

  • enable students to greater control over their own learning

  • focus teaching on relevant experiences

  • ensure the primacy of group work and planning

  • enable students to review and assess their learning

  • ensure that teaching is appropriate to course outcomes (cited in Idczak & Shea, 1995, p.14).

On the surface of it, these do not look very different from the kind of established practices that many teachers would already employ in their classrooms. In fact, it might be argued that they are fundamental to any form of good teaching; that is, they are really only a rehearsal of those typical motherhood statements about teachers' work widespread in the 1990s. However, when positioned against the contextual influences of the drive toward enterprise education as a new metaphor in schooling, these very general attributes of the enterprise teacher take on a sharper, more uniquely profiled, appearance.

Given that enterprise education is about fostering the acquisition of attitudes, skills and competencies toward making students attractive to employers and competitive and durable in the workplace we believe that enterprise teaching is concerned with processes of matching. Matching enterprising activities in student work to the skill development which matches those that are required in workplaces. Matching the individualistic and collaborative work practices of the workplace with those in schools that are designed to encourage enterprise development by students. Increasingly, such work takes on the appearance of training; learning to do what can find ready application in a workplace.

In our view, amid the rhetorical humus of motherhood statements about good teaching is a hard-fisted desire to assert the ascendancy of some curricula and pedagogies and simultaneously knock-out others. Nowhere is this more evident than in the push towards the teaching and learning of generic skills like those set out as Key Competencies by the Mayer Committee (Australian Education Council and Ministers for Vocational Education Employment and Training, 1992). The competencies discourse has provided fresh metaphors for reframing old problems and we see the push for competencies in teachers' work as related to the construal of teaching through enterprise and entrepreneurial metaphors. The pedagogical informants from the competencies movement in teaching and learning are neatly carried over into enterprise teaching and learning. This is well reflected in Ready Set Go (DECS, 1997) where it is assumed that there is strong overlap between key competencies and enterprise skills and attributes.

Just what does enterprise teaching look like? It can be detected, according to Kearney & Russell-Green, with the 'enterprise geiger counter' - a device which measures "how enterprising a teacher's curriculum delivery is" (Idczak & Shea, 1995, p.14). Characteristics of enterprising teaching are described with the "K-I-S-S principle ... 'keep it short and simple'" (Idczak & Shea, 1995, p.14). Overwhelmingly, in the portrayal of exemplars of enterprise teaching, there is a sense that enterprise teaching is a pedagogy that has an 'implementable' quality. Teachers can get it 'right' if they follow the 'KISS' principle or something similar.

New formations of teaching do impact upon the nature of teachers' work by the fetishising a privileged subset of attributes, attitudes and strategies against a process of devalorisation of others; that is, policy has a powerful capacity to remake teaching (Smyth & Shacklock, 1998 forthcoming). As new ways of doing classroom work become preferred and legitimised through processes of measurement and evaluation those which are substantively different become increasingly marginal to the discussion of good practice. In the case of enterprise teaching, practices which follow the 'KISS' principle in the development of enterprise skills and competencies, and which have right kind of emanations for detection by the enterprise 'geiger counter', reflect a very different model of classroom work to that employed and advocated by many teachers. For a large number of teachers, teaching is not, and can never be, short and simple with an outcome focus. For them it is complex and finely nuanced through extended temporal intersections of the lives of students and teacher(s).

In our view the work which teachers do in schools is discursive in nature and that which can be known about doing the work of teaching is inextricably linked to the discourses informing that work - teaching is 'discourse-bound' (Gee, 1990). Teachers read and write themselves (as workers) within discourses, not outside of them. As official discourses on teaching change, practitioner discourses in schools also change; new practice and new ways of conversing about practice become established ways of practice and conversation about practice. Discourses about enterprise schooling bring training metaphors and language into the professional conversation of teachers and schools. Words like outcomes, skills, competencies, and so on, together with practices inspired by the 'KISS' principle and other methodological imperatives become normalised and serve to endorse widespread change in the work of all teachers.

Framing a socially critical construal of teachers' work in enterprise schooling

Given our argument, that the position of youth in society is anchored in moral panics about unemployment and other social evils, we propose a form of teaching which offers productive, socially critical visions for enterprise schooling. We do not see enterprise education as separable from political and media debates about the place of young people, especially school leavers and the young unemployed, in society. In taking on vocationally focussed programs at school, which may enhance and or diminish some occupational choices over others, it seems morally necessary that students have opportunity for engagement with the contextual determinants which influence the decision making of policy makers, curriculum writers and teachers. This, we know, will require an much expanded notion for the work of an enterprise teacher.

That which we suggest is that relatively new construal of teachers' work which sees teachers and students as "cultural workers" (Giroux, 1994) capable of critically understanding the impact of popular and consumer cultural forces on their lives. Teachers working in this way would seek to engage students in locating their school learning within a broader canvas of knowledge and understanding about young people as participants in society (Hattam, Shacklock & Smyth, 1998). This would see students being able to interrogate popular, media and consumer images of youth in relation to employment, schooling and social life to gain insights about how entry in to the adult world is informed by the economic and political climate.

Enterprise teachers that see their work as a form of 'critical cultural studies' will not only teach enterprise skills through vocationally focussed learning, but will also seek to engage a process of "radical contextualism" (Grossberg, 1994) in the work they do with students. This will require the close and critical examination of the products of enterprise schooling to reveal the links between its claims for skill development and job prospects and informed readings of the social and economic situation faced by young people. Fundamental to such an approach is the non-acceptance of passive and neutral transmission of the auto-connection of schooling to the imperatives of the workplace. Teachers operating in this way should encourage students to place their desire to get a job into a bigger conceptual frame than that offered by simplistic linear-conduit versions of school to work which are disconnected from the complexities of society.

In our view, this need is very great and supported by the results of international research about youth, enterprise culture, enterprise teaching, and youth training. Such research reveals much that should be instructive to Australian initiatives in enterprise schooling.

Research with sixth formers who had been exposed to enterprise culture in Thatcher's Britain by Curran and Blackburn (1991) found that:

  • there has not been any major increase in levels enterprise-mindedness

  • students have not become starry-eyed over the enterprise alternative

  • students are cautious and uncertain but open minded about the work they will do

  • students have a strong sense of economic realism about small business

  • job security is highly valued by students

  • students show no great commitment to the kind of risk-taking found in enterprise culture.

In particular they concluded that:

the findings strongly suggest that while interest in self-employment as a career alternative is relatively widespread ... any notion that they have uncritically embraced the kinds of 'enterprise culture' which have been central to the dominant political rhetoric of the 1980s and 1990s is quite unsupported (p. 42-43).

Harris' (1995) year-long study of teaching in enterprise classrooms in Britain found that, despite literature and resource materials for enterprise education advocating 'student-centred' pedagogies, the teachers retained a lot of technical control over classroom learning. She reports that:

... observations revealed that within enterprise lessons the potential for emphasis upon open-ended inquiry by the pupils existed, but was not facilitated by the teacher ... many of the problems given to pupils in enterprise lessons merely demanded the application of low level technical skills, or required choices to be made by pupils which were of a routine nature. The opportunity of introducing pupils to the complexities of decision making and of framing their own problems was rarely observed ... there was very little evidence of pupils negotiating the content or direction of the enterprise work (p. 53).

Other related research from Britain (Gleeson, Glover, Gough, Johnson & Pye, 1996), about young people's experience of work-oriented training, showed that they are most concerned about:

  • training that recognises the reality of work

  • learning skills appropriate for getting a job

  • not being exploited by working long hours for low pay

  • not being treated as deficient

  • not being shafted by the vagaries of the labour market.

To us, this research supports our assertion for the development of socially critical approaches to enterprise education which allow young people to move beyond the exhilaration of doing different work in school, working in groups and with adults, and using new technologies to some engagement with the realities of the workplace; things like job satisfaction, economic security, workplace democracy, and long term life choices.

In terms of classroom practice, we are advocating what some would describe as the best of progressive practice or a "dialogic method" (Shor, 1988) which is summarised as having these features:



students should be active in the classroom from the very outset.

Critical nature of learning

problem-posing is central to how the content is presented and dealt with in class.


the class text is the language, statements issues and knowledge of the students. From this text the problems are developed.


a return to a desire to talk about and act on the world together.


"to transform passivity into involvement"(p. 106).


"critical student voices are spoken (p. 107)" and asserted.


uses material from many areas.

Activist oriented

aim is to effect change in society so that it is more just.

Some examples of pedagogies that are dialogic include the following:

The Education for Social Justice Research Group (1994) developed a "teaching for resistance" model. The model has three phases: raising consciousness; making contact (with resistance groups in the community); and taking action. This approach was developed in one secondary and one primary school. Teachers were able to reinterpret old themes within a teaching approach that unabashedly aims to develop in students a 'sociological imagination'. As an example the topic titles include - Writing as resistance to racism, Gender and the division of labour, The politics of sugar, racism and Land, and Sexism in church language. This model was also used by SAIT's project on socially critical key comptetencies.

The New London Group (1995) developed a "pedagogy of multiliteracies" with these features: situated practice; overt instruction; critical framing and transformed practice. This model has evolved from the 'genre approach' (Cope and Kalantzis, 1993) and the view that reading is a "critical social practice". (Luke & Freebody, 1993).

A variation on the pedagogy of Paulo Freire's "problem-posing" approach has been developed by Ira Shor (1987). With this approach the focus for investigation is problematised by considering an ever widening context, starting from the immediate, moving out to national and global contexts and also considering an historical reading. By this contextualising of themes from life, students are given the opportunity to understand that no phenomena is natural and that oppressive situations which are the basis of the problems posed are not historically inevitable.

Another approach which we are presently developing is a students-as-researcher approach. This draws on critical ethnography for its ideas and involves students being involved in investigating a real world problem through a process involving an ethnographic research approach. Such an approach can be summarised as involving designing, doing field work, analysing and representing knowledge to an audience. We are trialling this approach in a unit called 'researching youth lives in and around post-compulsory schooling'. We are interested to see what groups of students can ascertain from talking to their peers as to why some stay on at school and others leave before they finish year 12. Other suggestions for topics include:

  • Youth working in our community

  • Poverty in our community

  • Media culture and youth employment

  • Youth unemployment

  • Trade Unions and youth

By way of closing, we take a recently publicised example of enterprise learning from a Victorian High School (Scott, 1997). What might a socially critical approach include for these students in this kind of enterprise learning project? We suggest that discussion of the experience include:

  • How do you find this kind of work?

  • How many jobs like this are there?

  • How is this kind of work organised in industry?

  • What kinds of job skills are needed?

  • How much does each job in the process earn?

  • How is this industry financed?

  • What are the longer term prospects for this work?

  • Where do you need to live to do work like this?


Acland, C. (1994). Youth, Murder, Spectacle: The Cultural Politics of "Youth in Crisis". Boulder, Co.: Westview Press.

Apple, M. (1993). Official Knowledge: Democratic Education in a Conservative Age. New York, Routledge.

Australian Education Council and Ministers for Vocational Education Employment and Training. (1992). Putting General Education to Work: The Key Competencies Report (The Mayer Committee Report). Melbourne: Australian Education Council.

Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee (1991). Foundations of the the "Clever Country": Report for the 1992-1994 Triennium. Canberra.

Bain, J., E. Lietzow, et al., Eds. (1993). Promoting Teaching in Higher Education: Reports for the National teaching Workshop. Funded by the national Priority Reserve Fund. Brisbane, Goprint.

Ball, S., R. Bowe, et al. (1996). "School choice, social class and distinction: the realization of social advantage in education." Journal of Education Policy 11(1): 89-112.

Barrowclough, N. (1997). Ram, bam, grab what you can: crimes of envy. Good Weekend. (19 April), p.14-23.

Bartlett, L. (1994). "Qualitative research in Australia." Qualitative Studies in Education 7(3): 207-225.

Bowe, R. and S. Ball (1992). Reforming Education and Changing Schools. London, Routledge.

Button, J. (1996). Punishing the Paxtons. The Age. (16 March, Melbourne). p.A27.

Button, J. (1997). Maybe tomorrow. The Age. (15 February, Melbourne). p.A23.

Caesar, D. (1996). Idiot Box: The Screenplay. Melbourne: Text Publishing.

Carmichael L (Chair) (1992). The Australian Vocational Certificate Training System /Employment and Skills Formation Council. Canberra, National Board of Employment, Education and Training.

Centre for Workplace Communication and Culture (1994). Cultural Understanding as the Eighth Key Competency, Final report to the Queensland Department of Education and the Queensland Vocational Education, Training and Employment Commission. University of Technology, Sydney.

Chamberlin, P. (1997). Hiring plans omit youths and jobless. The Age. (18 February, Melbourne). p.A2.

Cohen, S. (1972). Folk Devils and Moral Panics: the Creation of the Mods and Rockers. London: MacGibbon and Kee.

Colebatch, T. (1997). Outlook grim for textile workers. The Age. (19 March, Melbourne). p.A5.

Connell, R., & Lopez, R. (1996). Kings of crime. The Age. (22 November, Melbourne). p.A17.

Cook, M. (1997). Society's ills come to class. The Age Education Supplement. (29 April, Melbourne). p.3.

Corson, D. (1995). Emancipatory Discursive practices. International Handbook for Educational Leadership and Administration. Boston, Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Curran, J., & Blackburn, R. (1991). Youth and enterprise culture. British Journal of Edcation and Work, 4(1), 31-45.

Davies, B. (1990). "The problem of desire." Social problems 37(4): 501-516.

Davies, B. (1992). Women's Subjectivity and Feminist Stories. in C. Ellis and M. Flaherty (eds.) Investigation Subjectivity: Research on Lived Experience. London, Sage.

Davies, B. and R. Harre (1990). "Positioning: The Discursive Production of Selves." Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 20(1): 43-63.

Department of Education and Children's Services. (1997). Ready, Set, Go! Administrative Guidelines. Adelaide: Education Department of South Australia.

Edwards, R. (1979). Contested terrain: The transformation of the workplace in the twentieth century., Basic Books.

Fagan, H. (1995). Culture, Politics, and Irish School Dropouts: Constructing Political Identities. Wesport, CT: Bergin and Garvey.

Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and Social Change. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Freeland, J. (1986). Australia: The search for a new educational settlement. in R. Sharp (ed.) Capitalist crisis and schooling: Comparative studies in the politics of education. . Melbourne, MacMillan.

Freeland, J. (1997). Limiting the pain ahead. The Age. (12 May, Melbourne). p.A15.

Galbraith, J. (1993). The Culture of Contentment. Harmondsworth: Penguin.

Gans, H. (1996). The War Against the Poor: the Underclass and Anti-Poverty Policy. New York: Basic Books.

Giddens, A. (1994). Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Giroux, H. (1994). Disturbing Pleasures: Learning Popular Culture. New York and London: Routledge.

Gleeson, D., Glover, D., Gough, G., Johnson, M., & Pye, D. (1996). Reflections on Youth Training: toward a new model of training experience. British Educational Research Journal, 22(5), 597-614.

Gordon, L. (1994). ""Rich" and "poor" Schools in Aotearoa." New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies 29(2): 113-125.

Grossberg, L. (1994). Bringin' it all back home - pedagogy and cultural studies: an introduction to "Between Borders: Pedagogy and the Politics of Cultural Studies". In H. Giroux, & P. McLaren (Ed.), Between Borders: Pedagogy and the Politics of Cultural Studies . New York and London: Routledge.

Hall, S. and M. Jacques (1990). From the Manifesto for New Times: The New Times. in S. Hall and M. Jacques (eds.) New Times: the changing face of politics in the 1990's. New York, Verso.

Harris, A. (1995). Teaching approaches in enterprise education: a classroom observation study. British Journal of Education and Work, 8(1), 49-58.

Hattam, R. and M. L. (eds.) (1996). Teaching and Learning the Key Competencies in the Vocational Education and Training Sector: Research Support. Adelaide, Flinders Institute for the Study of Teaching.

Hattam, R., Shacklock, G., & Smyth, J. (1998). Doing critical cultural studies: an antidote to being done to. Discourse, 19(2).

Head, S. (1996). The new, ruthless econony. The New York Review of Books, (February 29), 47-52.

Heath, S. (1996). Increase in unemployed parents. The Age. (30 November, Melbourne). p.A3.

Herbst-Bayliss, S. (1997). Kohl blamed for Germany's woes. The Age. (11 February, Melbourne). p.A8.

Idczak, R., & Shea, F. (1995). Approaches to Enterprise Education. A Secondary Professional Resource. Carlton, Vic: Curriculum Corporation.

Kearney, P., & Russell-Green, J. (1991). Youth, Employment and Enterprise. North Hobart: Enterprise Design Associates.

Kelsey, J. (1995). Economic Fundamentalism: New Zealand Experiment - A World Model for Structural Adjustment. London, Pluto Press.

Kemmis, S., D. Suggett, et al. (1983). Orientations to Curriculum and Transition: Towards the Socially Critical School. Clifton Hill, Victoria, Victorian Institute for Secondary Education.

Knight, J. and M. Warry (1996). From corporate to supply-side federalism? narrowing the Australian education policy agenda 1987-1996. Paper presented at AAER/ERA Singapore.

Lohrey, A. (1995). A Report on Transferability in Relation to the Key Competencies. Centre for Workplace Communication and Culture. Sydney, University of Technology.

Madrick, J. (1995). The end of affluence. The New York Review of Books. (21 September), p.13-17.

Maxwell, G. (1996). "Forum: Convergence of general and vocational educction - Overview and critique." Unicorn 22(2): 4-13.

McLaren, P. (1994). Critical Pedagogy and Predatory Culture: Oppositional Politics in a Postmodern Era. London and New York, Routledge.

Milburn, C. (1997). Suburban ghettos grow as wealth drift deepens. The Age. (2 June, Melbourrne). p.A1 & A4.

Niel, F. (1997). France faces battle to help jobless youth. The Age. (11 February, Melbourne). p.A8.

OECD/CERI. (1989). Towards an Enterprising Culture - a Challenge to Education and Training. Paris: Educational Monograph No.4.

Philipsen, M., & Noblit, G. (1993). Tricky business: corporate conceptions of educational reform. The High School Journal, 76(4), 260272.

Pusey, M. (1991). Economic Rationalism in Canberra: A nation-biulding sate changes its mind. New York, Cambridge University Press.

Pusey, M. (1996). "Economic Rationalism and the Contest for Civil Society." Thesis Eleven 44: 69-86.

Roman, L. (1996). "Spectacle in the dark: Youth as trangression, display, and repression." Educational Theory 46(1): 1-22.

Ruby, A. and C. Wildermuth (1994). The Emerging National Perspective in Education. in F. Crowther, B. Caldwell, C. Chapman, G. Lakomski and Ogilvie.(eds.) The Workplace in Education: Australian Perspectives National Agenda. Sydney, Edward Arnold.

Scott, J. (1997). The business of learning. The Age Education Supplement. (22 July, Melbourne). p.8.

Seddon, T. (1995). Educational Leadership and Teachers' Work. Paper presented at Conference: Educational Leadership: Political, Cultural, Critical and gendered perspectives, Held at Flinders University, July. Adelaide, Flinders Institute for the Study of Teaching.

Sedunary, E. (1996). "'Neither new nor alien to progressive thinking': interpreting the convergence of radical education and the new vocationalism in Australia." Journal of Curriculum Studies 28(4): 369-396.

Senate Standing Committee on Employment Education and Training (1990). Priorities for Reform in Higher Education. Canberra, AGPS.

Sergiovanni, T. (1994). "Organisations or communities? Changing the metaphor changes the theory." Educational Administration Quarterly 30(2): 214-226.

Sklar, H. (1995). Chaos or Community: Seeking Solutions, Not Scapegoats to Bad Economics. Boston: South End Press.

Smyth, J. (1995). Critical Discourses on Teacher Development. London, Cassell.

Smyth, J. (1996). Developing Socially critical Educators. in D. Boud and N. Miller (eds.) Working with Experience: Animating Learning. . London, Routledge.

Smyth, J. (1997). Three Rival Versions and a Critique of Teacher Staff Development. in A. Hargraves, A. Lieberman, M. Fullan and D. Hopkins (eds.) International Handbook of Educational Change. . Dordrecht, Netherlands, Kluwer Academic.

Smyth, J., & Shacklock, G. (1998). Remaking Teaching: Ideology, Policy and Practice. Book manuscript: Under review by publisher.

Stilwell, F. (1993). Economic Inequality: Who Gets What in Australia. Sydney: Pluto Press.

Weekes, P. (1995). How the new poor work for less than the dole. The Australian. (Sydney). p.4.

Willinsky, J. (1990). The New Literacy: Redefining Reading and Writing in the Schools. London, Routledge.

Willox, I. (1997). Long-term jobless rate rises. The Age. (19 March, Melbourne). p.A5.

Willox, I., & Painter, J. (1997). PM pushes for young people to work for dole. The Age. (10 February, Melbourne). p.A1 & 2.

Windshuttle, K. (1980). Unemployment: a Social and Political Analysis of the Economic Crisis in Australia. Melbourne: Penguin Books.

Woollacot, M. (1997). Many graduates make light work. The Guardian Weekly. (16 February, London). p.15.