(Re)Envisioning autonomy: Neo-liberalism, performance-based school management and the development of ideal global citizens in Taiwan
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Education
Within a neo-liberal world polity, the concept of autonomy is increasingly perceived as conducive to postmodern nations’ rational progress in developing knowledge societies. In accordance with global trends, the Taiwanese government implemented a policy of performance-based school management in 2005 to enhance educational accountability, efficiency, equity and quality. This autonomy-based reform perceives all educational stakeholders as self-interested, utility-maximizing market egoists who are capable of realizing their maximum potential by ceaselessly making consumer-style choices. The government assumes that the provision of choices will give everyone an equal chance of educational success.
The negative socio-political consequences brought about by the adoption of neo-liberalism’s beliefs and practices have been explicitly acknowledged and illustrated in the literature. Nonetheless, the ways neo-liberalism has affected Taiwan’s socio-educational reality have scarcely been acknowledged or examined, and even on a theoretical level there has been little thought given to the provision of alternative socio-educational possibilities. Thus, this research, grounded in the context of Taiwan, analyzed neo-liberal ideologies to discover their implications for socio-educational practices. Moral and philosophical insights from various theorists were synthesized and advanced as a substitute for neo-liberalism.
This research was based on the method of deconstruction and reconstruction of textual discourse. For deconstructive analysis, the aim was to investigate and problematize how certain neo-liberal values have come to be globally/nationally institutionalized, and utilized to manipulate citizens’ consciousness for the maximization of economic efficiency, productivity, and profitability in the education market. The reconstructive synthesis, then, aimed to initiate possible socio-educational changes through reconceptualising these same values in respect to Taiwan’s contextual specificity.
Overlooking the need to address neo-liberalism’s belief in individualism, inequitable socio-economic structures and monistic, decontextualised and mechanistic epistemology, the Taiwanese government’s promotion of autonomy was found to perpetuate socio-economic inequalities, power imbalances, human monism and intellectual inflexibility in education.
A shift in epistemology wherein autonomy was reconceptualised as “heteronomous autonomy” was found to be capable of reorienting the overall frame of democratic reference towards a communitarian paradigm that would contribute to greater social equity and solidarity. This finding is extremely important as heteronomous autonomy takes human diversity as its foundation, so the emphasis changes from the rights of the individual to the self’s unconditional responsibility to and for differences. Thus, a heteronomous-autonomy-based education would forsake neo-liberalism’s standardized pedagogical approaches in favour of a creative framework-in-context. Committing to increased democratic justice and social intellectualism, this alternative education model has more capacity to transform Taiwan into a true knowledge society, where a high level of social cohesion is an absolute precondition.