A miscarried curriculum: hegemonic effects of colonialism on a developing nations physical education curriculum

Por: Philip Doecke.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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This paper presents some findings and a discussion of socio-cultural and political issues encountered while investigating the development of physical education curriculum in Papua New Guinea (PNG).


The paper is taken from a larger study which employed postmodern ethnography. Analysis of historical literature, government and curriculum documents supported interviews undertaken with respondents from diverse education and administrative levels in PNG. Transcripts were scrutinised for recurrent themes, concepts, and beliefs.


The history of the colonial relationship between Australia and PNG, its effects on education and society, is of concern. When the historical focus and analysis is narrowed to a specialised subject such as physical education, the anticipated benefits of a well prepared curriculum are not seen.  Physical education is seldom seen in schools and, where it is available to schools, it is taught and resourced poorly.  Consequences include a significant decline in community health, fitness and wellness, across this nation, as well as poor levels of participation in global and traditional movement activities.

Discussion / Conclusion

Physical education is a curricular subject which, when taught well, ought to provide its learners and their community with many positive social and healthful benefits. Interviews with teachers, education administrators, former students, and curriculum writers, unfold the history of hegemonic control of curriculum development in PNG, symptomatic and reflective of socio-political decisions made during Australia’s colonial administration of PNG.  Quality curriculum materials have not been published despite attempts to do so. Little formal support was provided for physical education during the colonial era, an attitude which continues in the post-colonial era, with negative effects to the young independent nation.

The findings of this study should be applied to improve curriculum development in PNG, and to the enhancement of post-Independence cultural identity in education in PNG.  Principles elicited can contribute to the growing body of knowledge pertinent to education in young independent nations emerging from colonial administrations.



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