CASE-CSA Webinar – Challenges and Conflicts in Education Privatization Inside and Outside Canada: Critical Discourse and Policy Analysis

Thursday, March 23 2023

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The Canadian Association of Sociology of Education (CASE) and Canadian Sociological Association (CSA) Sociology of Education Research Cluster are pleased to present this webinar.

Webinar Moderator: Ee-Seul Yoon, University of Manitoba

Webinar Co-organizers: Cathlene Hillier (Crandall University), Alana Butler (Queen’s University), Ee-Seul Yoon (University of Manitoba), Danielle Lorenz (University of Alberta), Emerson LaCroix (University of Waterloo), Gus Riveros (University of Western Ontario), and Maria Brisbane (University of Waterloo)

Presentation #1: The British Columbia Offshore School Programme: Discourses on Provincial Government Websites

Ian Alexander is a PhD student in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at The University of British Columbia researching Social Studies education in BC offshore schools. Laura Werbitsky is a MA student in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at The University of British Columbia researching the impacts of curriculum reform on teachers at an international school in China.

This presentation examines how the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) portrays its offshore school programme on its government websites. Since the late 1990s, BC offshore schools have operated in up to nine countries, teaching the public provincial curriculum to students from local populations (Schuetze, 2008; Wang, 2017). We conducted a critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1993; Scollon, 2008) of two websites and one video, finding that neoliberal discourses permeate the portrayal of offshore schools. Goals and rationales of the offshore school programme are inconsistent, and connections with BC are opaque. We will highlight neoliberally driven discourses on the websites, including the privatization of the public BC curriculum and the level of marketization of this program. We will also discuss conflicting discourses regarding the purpose of offshore schools and goals of the program. There has been a drift away from a curriculum grounded in BC, toward a detached global curriculum portrayed as another branded product on the international education marketplace. Implicit in the discourses is that BC curriculum is more modern and worldly than students’ own countries. Additionally, recent initiatives to include Indigenous education in BC curriculum and pedagogy are absent from government websites and video. Our discourse analysis is punctuated by each author’s own lived experiences as BC offshore school teachers over the past decade and our shift to becoming emerging scholars in curriculum and pedagogy. Based on these findings, we open opportunities for teachers, administrators, and owners to reassess the identity, rationales, and goals for British Columbia offshore schools.

Presentation #2: Unequal Benefits: Privatization and Public Education in Canada

Sue Winton is a Professor in the Faculty of Education at York University examining how education policies and policy processes support and/or undermine critical democratic commitments to equity, diversity, social justice, and public participation in policymaking.

This presentation will focus on the privatization of public education in Canada, drawing on my recent book, Unequal Benefits: Privatization and Public Education in Canada, (University of Toronto Press). I will show that over the past few decades governments and school districts across the country have adopted policies that encourage private actors to take on new roles and responsibilities in public education. I will also explain how policies and private resources interact to enable some kids to accumulate more private benefits from K-12 public education systems than many of their peers. I will present findings from multiple critical policy analyses that demonstrate these policies undermine commitments to equal access to opportunities, equity, open decision-making processes, and prioritizing the public that are foundational to democracy and the ideal of public education. I will conclude with suggestions for how audience members can participate in efforts to resist educational privatization and realize the public school ideal across Canada.

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