Mobility of human capital is emerging as a key issue in contemporary educational and social policy. The concept of mobility brings to the fore notions of globalisation, characterised by geographical re-location and dislocation, portability of human capital, movements on the social ladder, multi-directional flows of technology, capital, products, ideas, values and knowledge. However, given that the manifestations of globalisation differ in various ways in different contexts, it follows that the flow or movement of people, products and capital is not fluid and unrestricted, it is unequal and problematic. Conceptually, mobility is embedded within the concept of globalisation, which has dominated much of recent research in educational policy internationally; what is less examined, however, are the restrictions and borders that systemically disrupt the flows of globalisation. This paper uses Cunningham and Heyman’s conceptualisation of movement as mobility and enclosure in their study of political borders, to examine the policy response to student mobility in a provincial city in Australia.
By utilizing the notion of enclosure alongside mobility, Cunningham and Heyman provide a valuable conceptual tool to examine the interplay of power in policy, particularly, as it highlights the resistance, barriers, contests of and in, economic and cultural globalisation. Moreover, this conceptualisation gives emphasis to the dialectical relationship between these two concepts of mobility and enclosure making visible the barriers in education. Particularly, when market discourse dominates the discourse of public schooling and effects ideological borders that silence the significance of social justice in education reforms, this analytic tool refocuses the educational inequities, and in the process, re-situates and re-affirms the centrality of social justice in education.
Further, whilst globalisation is conceptualised to be signified by the diminishing contrasts and increasing similarities between nation-states, compression of space-time, and the “intensification of global consciousness” (Waters, 2001, p.4), Cunningham and Heyman (2004) postulate, ‘borders’ could become the next symbol of globalisation. Therefore, it is necessary to return to two basic, but essential questions of what access is available in the global networks, and who has access to these networks. These two questions are examined in the empirical findings of student mobility in a two-year case study of three schools. It argues that neo-liberal agenda in globalisation has increasingly erected and tightened invisible and visible borders that constrain and “close” the educational opportunities for students of the underclass. In these ‘new times’, the unresolved educational outcomes of socially and economically disadvantaged students are increasingly more entrenched amidst the deepening social and economic divide between the rich and poor.
The paper draws on the policy responses that have emerged from a project that involves a two-year case study of three schools on student mobility in a provincial Queensland city in Australia. The project involves the identification of mobility factors and problems, and implementation of strategies to address the specific problems that confronted the pupils in moving from school to school. The findings in this project are also examined alongside the policy responses to student mobility in Britain and Europe.
The analysis is underpinned by two main bodies of work. Firstly, it utilises Michael Apple’s analyses of public education and marketisation and secondly, Hilary Cunningham and Josiah Heyman’s conceptualization of movement as mobility and enclosure. It adopts a discourse analysis approach to explore the notions of mobility, enclosure and equity in the policy response to student mobility.
The underpinnings and manifestations of mobility in the case study suggest firstly, that the “active marshalling” (Bacchi, 2000, p.45) of market discourse has depoliticised education and social justice, and reformulated the ‘needs discourse’ to a discourse of choice, which enables the state to diminish support and intervention, and as consequence, limits the capacity for the socially and economically disadvantaged families to exercise choice in the unfettered market (Apple, 1996). Secondly, the deepening and widening divide between the rich and poor is reproduced in education. The differential effects of mobility suggest that market discourse privileges those of higher socioeconomic status and by contrast, the discursive formulation of choice and autonomy conceal and perpetuate the systematic disadvantage of the underclass (Apple, 2001). Thirdly, the effects of globalisation demand our attention to be turned towards the most marginalized in new ways.
The paper closes with reflections on the differential effects of mobility, and argues that issues of student mobility pertain to equity in the globalised context. Market discourse can disenfranchise and marginalize teachers, students and parents (Apple, 2001). Policy responses to student mobility play out in different ways and in different contexts. For students from disadvantaged backgrounds, their social mobility and capacity to participate in the globalised context are restricted by material, ideological and symbolic borders and enclosures.
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