Introducing enterprise education: Innovative curriculum at three case study schools in Australia
This thesis investigates three Australian schools conducting enterprise education, an approach to education that is significantly different to the curriculum set by governments and their education authorities. It explores why schools decide to develop and implement enterprise education at a local level and the implications that occur as a result. The thesis discusses the tensions between state-set curriculum and school-developed curriculum to reveal the risks and vulnerabilities faced by teachers when they diverge from the established practices of school curriculum.
The research was conducted via semi-structured interviews with 17 participants at three case study schools located in three different states of Australia. The schools were in the process of developing or already conducting enterprise education on a large scale in terms of the number of students within a cohort and the time allocated to enterprise education during a school year.
The participants perceived Australia’s school system as fixated on an outcomes-based curriculum that made the achievement of grades the ultimate goal of school education. They also perceived a need to develop students’ thinking and social skills and personal capabilities beyond the curriculum as imposed by educational authorities. The introduction of enterprise education was seen as a means to address the imbalance between students’ knowledge of subjects and the development of students more holistically. Overall, the aim was to provide students with agency in life by centring the curriculum on who they were and who they were becoming.
The teachers involved in curriculum development found that the risk of creating something new whilst collaborating intensely with other teachers meant they were experiencing, like their students, a form of enterprise education. However, the risk provided teachers with great rewards due to the successes of their students and the learning from each other. Participating in the development and implementation of their own curriculum also gave them an increased sense of agency.
The research therefore reveals many of the issues inherent in outcomes-based curriculum and excessive emphasis on achievement of grades. It demonstrates that it is feasible for schools to develop and implement curriculum that can work alongside or in conjunction with state-set curriculum when school context allows it. To make significant change in curriculum at the local level, it takes educators who are prepared to experience risk and vulnerability in the process.