23 SES 14 C, Politics of Knowledge
The aim of this paper is to explore how does the power/knowledge nexus, in the context of Pakistan, socially constructs the idea of education for the citizens of the state. This paper, draws on the part of the empirical data from my PhD study, examines the attitude of the educational policy makers towards the national educational discourse. It critiques the way power elite indulges in a blame game to ensure the longevity of their hegemonic dominance by propagating an idea of education, which keeps the majority population out of the dominant educational discourse.
How does the power/knowledge discourse in the Pakistani society socially construct the idea of education?
In this paper, I am concerned with power relations in Pakistan impacting the educational discourse. Using Foucault’s notion of power/knowledge (Foucault 1980), this paper aims to examine the research question by applying the Foucauldian poststructuralist perspective on power, knowledge, and discourse (Richardson 1996 : 280).
In the words of Apple (1995) although education has a relative autonomy, the whole educational discourse is marked by structures which include state, economy and cultural reforms (1995 : xviii). Foucault emphasised that understanding the system of knowledge requires identification of the authority and institutions who can speak of the knowledge (Jardine 2005). The power-knowledge relation is comprehensively elaborated by Walshaw (2007) in her book, ‘Working with Foucault in Education.’ Foucault’s critical analysis of power-knowledge relationship is not only insightful but takes the power-knowledge nexus to an entirely different level. Understanding this nexus of power-knowledge relation unravels the operationalization of power in society from an entirely new and unique perspective. This new approach by Foucault presented power as a productive force, impacting day to day activities of human beings. Thus, he explored power as a notion that generated knowledge about ourselves, about others and the whole societal mechanism (2007: 69-70).
The critical aspect of the Foucauldian perspective is not to strive for objective truth but to identify ways through ‘which power appropriates knowledge, and weave it into discourses’ (Richardson 1996: 280). Moreover, discourses encapsulate our daily life schedules and are prevailing in a societal setting both in oral and written form (Weedon 1997: 108) and are the instrument of power, which are inherently part of institutions such as schools, churches, law courts and homes (Pitsoe and Letseka 2013: 24). Hence, ‘In most societies, the education system is controlled by the state, but it works to maintain relations of power throughout the society as a whole’ (Ibid: 25). Similarly, Foucault argues, ‘every educational system is a means of maintaining or modifying the appropriateness of discourses with the knowledge and power they bring with them’ (Foucault 1971: 19). Accordingly, Basil Bernstein states, ‘the way a society selects, classifies, distributes, transmits, and evaluates educational knowledge reflects both the distribution of power and the principles of social control’ (Bernstein 1971: 47).
The first part of the paper incorporates Foucauldian notions to explain the research context. In the second part, the Foucauldian poststructuralist perspective is applied to the responses of the interviewees. The paper suggests, based on the empirical findings, the idea of education in Pakistan is influenced by the power elite of the society, who commands the knowledge production discourse. The argument will be that although the official policy promotes the idea of education for all, in reality, the access to educational opportunities in Pakistan is positioned around social hierarchical positions. Based on the analysis of the interview scripts and the research findings, I further argue that the friction between the policy officials further dents the idea of education for the citizens of the state.
Methodology: The approach of the study stems out of poststructuralist interpretivist paradigm and incorporates qualitative methodology to answer the research question. There are a number of players when it comes to the formulation and implementation of the contested nature of the educational policy. Therefore, the study recruited civil servants, military officials, religious scholars, third sector officials and educationists to represent the dominant state structures in Pakistan and their integral relevance to the study. In total 25 participants were selected (5 per group) and the data was collected using elite interview methods. The elite interviews as described by Richards (1996) provides an insight into the mind of the actors who shape the society in which they live and their subjective analyses of specific situations. During the interview session, which lasted from 30-90 minutes, participants were inquired to offer their understanding of themes of power, knowledge, security, policy formulation and education. The responses were interpreted using poststructuralist analysis, with the Foucauldian aim ‘to pay attention to the historically specific relationships between combinations of power, language, and institutional practices in order to open up the knowledge bases that inform the taken-for-granted to critical scrutiny’ (Given 2008: 5-6). The data were transcribed and coded to identify emerging themes.
Expected Outcomes: According to Preece (1998), the alternative ways of thinking are usually overpowered by the sets of legitimised knowledge and values. Moreover, she asserted, ‘some knowledge is culturally and socially specific and often regarded as not important by the dominant power holders.’ Consequently, the paper aims to dismantle the policy myths of the Pakistani national educational policy. It strives to speak for the marginalised groups whose voices have been curtailed by the hegemonic state structures. In a country where education is placed at a higher pedestal in the policy documents but the evidence, in the form of interview findings, suggests that at the ground level it is hampered by factors such as monetary resources, structural discrepancies, societal prejudice, management issues, and policy frictions. The relevance of this research aims to challenge the notions of social exclusion that are impacting the lives of socially marginalised groups such as women, and economically impoverished, on the hands of the dominant power elite. Given the interpretative nature of the research, the data collected will be valuable in that they will inform patterns of perceptions and will add to current knowledge in the field of education research, which could act as a case study for diverse global regions. Also, it can help inform educators in the EU (European Union) who are attempting to develop global initiatives such as MDGs (Millennium Development Goals) and SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) to understand the local context from a poststructuralist point. The incorporation of a diverse point of view could open new avenues of policy intervention to improve the quality of education. Moreover, the findings of the study can assist the representatives of various donor agencies such as DFID (Department for International Development) and European Union organisations to build a better understanding of Pakistan’s educational culture.
Apple, M. W. (1995). Education and power. New York, Routledge. Bernstein, B. (1971). "On the classification and framing of educational knowledge." Knowledge and control 3: 245-270. Foucault, M. (1971). "Orders of discourse." Social science information 10(2): 7-30. Foucault, M. (1980). Power/knowledge: Selected interviews and other writings, 1972-1977. New York, Pantheon. Given, L. M. (2008). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. Thousand Oaks, California. Jardine, G. M. (2005). Foucault & education. New York, Peter Lang. Jardine, G. M. (2005). Foucault & education. New York, Peter Lang. Pitsoe, V. and M. Letseka (2013). "Foucault’s discourse and power: Implications for instructionist classroom management." Open Journal of Philosophy 3(01): 23. Preece, J. (1998). Applying a Foucauldian Analysis to Continuing Education Discourses and Struggles in Higher Education. Higher Education Close Up. University of Central Lancashire, Preston. Richards, D. J. P. (1996). "Elite interviewing: Approaches and pitfalls." 16(3): 199-204. Richardson, T. J. E. P. S. (1996). "Foucauldian discourse: Power and truth in urban and regional policy making." 4(3): 279-292. Walshaw, M. (2007). Working with Foucault in education, Sense Publishers. Weedon, C. (1997). Feminist Practice and Poststructuralist Theory (2nd ed.). Oxford, Blackwell.
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