Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Rod Chadbourne


This study investigates the links between devolution and Year 8-10 Society and Environment (SAE) curriculum policy in Western Australia (WA) since 1987. It explores whether changes to the structure within which SAE resides, the process through which curriculum decision making occurs, and the content of SAE are consistent with the principles and practice of devolution. An attempt is made in the study to determine whether these changes would have occurred anyway, even if devolution had not been introduced. The investigation is based on a radical humanist model of social inquiry, As such, it uses a critical theory conceptual framework to inform a qualitative research paradigm. Two sources provide qualitative data for the study, namely, interviews and documentary material. The interview material comes from discussions with twenty six senior education officers, school staff, academics and other stakeholders. The documentary material includes key system-wide policy documents, Year 8-10 curriculum frameworks, guidelines and syllabi, and relevant school level publications. Generally, the analysis of data gained from those two sources support the claims made by critical theorists about the impact of devolution upon curriculum policy. More specifically, the findings show that in WA, since 1987, state curriculum development has contributed to a reinforcement of social control, a widening of social inequality and an intensification of the school's role as an agent of narrowly defined economic interests. These links are shown to be consistent with the critical theory argument that devolution is underpinned by corporate managerialism and that it involves not only a decentralisation of responsibility but also a recentralization of power. The study concludes by suggesting that the implications of WA's experience of devolution for China depend largely on whether China's context and needs are examined in terms of a consensus model or a critical theory model of society.

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