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Teachers’ and school leaders’ perceptions of commercialisation in Australian public schools

Abstract

This paper explores teachers’ and school leaders’ perceptions of commercialisation in Australian public schools, reporting on findings from an open-ended survey question from an exploratory study that sought to investigate teacher and school leader perceptions and experiences of commercialisation. Commercialisation, for the purposes of this paper, is understood as the creation, marketing and sale of education goods and services to schools by for-profit providers and often includes (but is not limited to) the provision of curriculum content, assessment services, data infrastructures, digital learning, remedial instruction, professional development and school administration support. Our account highlights that commercialisation is prevalent in the day-to-day practice of Australian public schools. The perceptions of teachers and leaders suggest that commercialisation is complex, with both affordances and challenges. Respondents acknowledged that aspects of commercialisation are necessary for successfully running schools and classrooms in the 21st century, but also noted that there is a fine line beyond which these seemingly innocuous services become perilous. Concerns focused on how particular services are leading to the deprofessionalisation of teachers as they have less autonomy over what to teach and how to teach it. Moreover, teachers and school leaders reported being perturbed by the idea that commercial providers and services might work to replace teachers in the future. Drawing on these data we argue that growing commercialisation in Australian public schools clearly requires an ethical debate that schools, education professionals, policy makers and interested publics are yet to have.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The AEU-affiliated State unions include, Queensland Teachers Union, New South Wales Teachers Federation, State School Teachers Union of Western Australia as well as the AEU Australia Capital Territory Branch, South Australian Branch, Tasmanian Branch and Northern Territory Branch.

  2. 2.

    There were 29 responses that answered ‘No’ or ‘N/A’. These were not included in the analysis.

  3. 3.

    PAT-R refers to the ‘Progressive Achievement Tests in Reading’ sold by the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER). ACER offers Progressive Achievement Tests for Mathematics, Reading, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar and Science. ACER states that these ‘series of tests are designed to provide objective, norm-referenced information to teachers about their students’ skills and understandings in a range of key areas’ and that ‘more than 2.5 million Progressive Achievement Tests are delivered online every year’. (https://www.acer.org/pat).

  4. 4.

    This excludes the comments that did not discuss any aspect of commercialisation in schools, but rather focused on issues regarding the survey itself.

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Acknowledgements

The authors would like to acknowledge the support of the New South Wales Teachers Federation who funded the project and the Australian Education Union who assisted with participant recruitment.

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Correspondence to Anna Hogan.

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Hogan, A., Thompson, G., Sellar, S. et al. Teachers’ and school leaders’ perceptions of commercialisation in Australian public schools. Aust. Educ. Res. 45, 141–160 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13384-017-0246-7

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Keywords

  • Commercialisation
  • Public schooling
  • Australia
  • Policy
  • Teachers
  • Principals