Inequality as meritocracy: a critical discourse analysis of the metaphors of flexibility, diversity, and choice, and the value of truth in Singapore’s education policies, 1979 - 2012

Abu Talib, Nadira (2016). Inequality as meritocracy: a critical discourse analysis of the metaphors of flexibility, diversity, and choice, and the value of truth in Singapore’s education policies, 1979 - 2012 PhD Thesis, School of Communication and Arts, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2016.142

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Author Abu Talib, Nadira
Thesis Title Inequality as meritocracy: a critical discourse analysis of the metaphors of flexibility, diversity, and choice, and the value of truth in Singapore’s education policies, 1979 - 2012
School, Centre or Institute School of Communication and Arts
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2016.142
Publication date 2016-03-24
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Richard Fitzgerald
Natalie Collie
Nicholas Carah
Total pages 254
Total black and white pages 254
Language eng
Subjects 2004 Linguistics
1699 Other Studies in Human Society
2203 Philosophy
Formatted abstract
This research develops a form of critical discourse analysis (CDA) to examine Singapore’s Ministry of Education (MOE) policies on streaming. The contributions of this thesis are advanced primarily through the interface between theoretical concepts and methodological principles in interpreting empirical material. The thesis draws on a theoretical framing from Foucault augmented by Nietzsche’s views on valuation to develop a multi-level CDA framework for policy analysis and to make analytically observable how changes associated with new modes of value determination serve to legitimise educational inequality within a meritocratic education system.

The analysis develops in two stages. The first stage examines the original 1979 MOE report that proposed a streaming policy for Singapore. Foucault’s archaeological method is used in combination with an amalgamation of CDA approaches to investigate how policy works to recognise, define, and classify learners through binary categorisations. This methodology critically examines the ‘regime of truth’ that makes possible capability-based identity constructs. This approach is then developed in the subsequent genealogical stage of the research, which traces the historical and discursive construction of learner identities in policy texts from 1979 to 2012 and how they are constituted in various moral discourses.

The second stage builds on the methodological and theoretical work of the first to formulate and employ a micro-meso-macro CDA framework to examine metaphors and the value of truth in policy texts. This framework draws upon a relationship between language analysis, the philosophical study of valuation, and political economy to analyse how changes associated with new modes of value determination serve to legitimise inequality within a frame of meritocracy. The analysis illustrates the interaction and interdependent relationship between the recursive metaphors of flexibility, diversity, and choice, as engines of neo-liberal discourse. These metaphors operate as a fluid movement in and through the texts to provide the necessary foundation from which to hold unequal structural reforms as a justifiable, desirable form of ethical practice. The analysis concludes that objectification is a fundamental part of the valorization process. Forms of objectification through identity categorisation increase the relative value of subjects through upskilling and modes of valuation within the perceived demands arising from the living movement and changing material conditions of surrealistic political economies.
Keyword Critical discourse analysis
Valuation
Metaphor
Neo-liberalism
Political economy
Inequality
Singapore education policy
Nietzsche
Foucault
Meritocracy

Document type: Thesis
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Created: Mon, 21 Mar 2016, 06:19:46 EST by Ms Nadira Abu Talib on behalf of Learning and Research Services (UQ Library)