Year

1996

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Department of Sociology

Abstract

The last ten years have brought an increasing emphasis on what has been termed economic rationalism in business and government, and this is frequently linked to a managerialism which seeks for stream-lined efficiency, but which is all too often blind to the human costs of the quest for cost efficiency. The business of education has been drawn into this enterprise with schooling systems across the world being affected by an ideology which lays claim to making education more relevant and responsive to the perceived needs of late C20th industry, and which is characterised by rapid curriculum changes, intensification of work, and a decrease in security for those working within the systems. Social expectations of education and of living standards have risen and it is now accepted that most families will have two wage earners, and that children will stay at school much longer than they did in previous generations. This constellation of changing expectations is not without adverse consequences however, with occupational and relational stress being seen as major causes of ill-health and psycho-social alienation.

The research undertaken in this project focuses on the lived experience and the intensification of responsibilities among a group of education workers in a Catholic Secondary College for girls in New South Wales. Drawing on a range of empirical, historical, and theoretical material, the study examines the impact that socioeconomic and curricula change is having on the lives of these workers and their families. The complex and often contradictory forces of patriarchy are examined as they operate to shape choice and experience through the institutions of the Catholic Church, the state, and the family, all of which are brought together in the daily management of Mother Mary College, and which also impinge upon the private lives of its education workers. The artificial construct which has acted to theoretically divide the public from the private realms is shown to be false as teachers' private lives are invaded by instrumental work brought from the paid workplace, and their domestic and affectual labour is also exploited at school. It is found that the intensification of work, coupled with a perceived lack of recognition of the complexity and demandingness of multiple responsibilities increases the risk of stress, alienation, and occupational burnout among these workers, resulting also in the premature retirement of experienced and gifted teachers. Such human costs seriously challenge the claims of managerialism to increase the efficiency and cost effectiveness of the education industry.

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