A genealogical examination of curriculum-assessment as governmentality in Aotearoa New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education at Massey University, Manawatū Campus New Zealand
This doctoral thesis with four publications examines the implementation of curriculum and assessment, as globally-driven standards-based reform (SBR) in Aotearoa New Zealand (ANZ). Drawing on Michel Foucault’s ‘toolbox’ and his genealogical methodology, it traces and contextualises the discursive basis of curriculum-assessment as neoliberal governmentality policies. From 1989, a policy chronology spanning three governments, analyses how governmentality inserts economics into the management of people, society and governance.
As a rationalisation regime, curriculum-assessment facilitated economic efficiencies and the achievement of official objectives by enabling ‘things’, people and the future to be steered in certain ways. Governmentality policies also nurture the making of particular kinds of people who will to support official objectives.
Comprising four key chapters, the thesis details the discursive ‘beginnings’ and emergence of an assessment-driven curriculum intended to boost ANZ’s global competitiveness. The failure of teacher-implemented national standards to produce reliable measurement by 1999, enabled the implementation of highly interventionist policies during the 2000s. A standardised curriculum and data-driven teaching strengthened schools as centres of calculation.
The genealogy then examines two curriculum programmes designed to increase achievement and make people more self-governing and responsible. A school-parent literacy partnership (2004) taught parent-teachers to boost children’s learning through home activities. Similarly, assessment change through National Standards (2011) nurtured responsible, future-focused and calculative learners and parents. Increasing the educational outcomes of the population was part of increasing its overall health, welfare and productivity. The study illustrates how personal responsibility is now the main technique for developing more enterprising, self-governing and calculative individuals under governmentality.
These biopolitical programmes, nurture desire in people to ‘freely’ re-make their bodies, skills, aspirations, emotions and living practices aligned to preferred models of the individual, culture and social relations. This involves re-moralising one’s inner life, and changing relationships with selves, families and the state. The study maps how governmentality commodifies and economises bodies and minds in the service of economic government. It confirms the usefulness of genealogically examining governmentality through this deeper, multidimensional lens and its ‘interpretative analytics’. This approach enables the uncovering of the politico-economic and cultural-socio purposes of education policy under neoliberalism.