Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Liz Kirwan* and Kathy Hall, The mathematics problem: the construction of a market-led education discourse in the Republic of Ireland, Critical Studies in Education,
Vol. 57, No. 3, 2016, 376–393.

DOI: 10.1080/17508487.2015.1102752

Educational change in the neoliberal state is permeated by the effects of forces from outside the field of education itself. The process of governmentality welcomes, indeed demands, the participation of those non-state actors valorised by neoliberalism as well as government agencies dedicated to the advancement of such groups. Inevitably, the concerns of such organisations become central to how the state sees education. This article traces the assembly of national and international agents from industry, business and special interest groups around the concept of ‘knowledge economy’. It treats this assemblage as an apparatus (dispositif), examining how the construction of an economic problem is brought to bear on the demand for educational change, and how this construction of the problem is used to shape public opinion in order to prepare the public for a radical change of direction. Confining itself to the reform of mathematics education introduced in the Republic of Ireland in 2010, this article traces the emergence of a mathematics discourse focused on market-led education. It interrogates the construction of ‘the mathematics problem’ or ‘crisis in maths’ and argues that the discourse of the present construction is economic in nature, centring as it does on human capital production and market-led reform.

Keywords: governmentality; human capital; Ireland; knowledge economy; market-led education; mathematics education; neoliberalism; Project Maths

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