From ‘empowerment’ to ‘compliance’: Neoliberalism and adult literacy provision in Australia

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal for Critical Education Policy Studies, 2018, 16 (1), pp. 104 - 144
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
© 2018, Institute for Education Policy Studies. All rights reserved. This article contrasts educational discourses and their associated policy and practice in the field of adult literacy in two sociopolitical eras in Australia: firstly, the social-democratic era that describes the beginnings of adult literacy as a distinct educational field from the late 1970s, and in particular the 1980s; and secondly, the neoliberal era that first strongly influenced the field from the early 1990s, and has reached its zenith in the contemporary state of the field. The terms ‘empowerment’ and ‘compliance’ are used in a reductionist way to describe the key discourses underpinning adult literacy provision in these two eras. The language of empowerment was popular with policy makers and literacy educators in the social-democratic era of free courses in a public education system. In the subsequent neoliberal era, while ‘compliance’ may not feature much in the language of policy makers and literacy educators, it nevertheless accurately describes the overarching process of what contemporary adult literacy provision does to teachers and students. In working towards nationally accredited curriculum outcomes, adult literacy educators and their students can be seen primarily to comply with the dominant industry and productivity agendas that underpin the curriculum. There are now few spaces for an empowering adult literacy education.
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: