Who is the “Student”? A Critical Analysis of Neoliberal Education Reform Legislation


  • Melanie Janzen The University of Manitoba
  • Rebeca Heringer University of Manitoba




neoliberalism, policy, construction of students, poststructuralism, public education


Neo-liberal reforms in education have been sweeping the globe, undermining education as a public good, and diminishing its contributions to democratic life. Using post-structural perspectives, this article provides a critical discourse analysis of a proposed legislative bill in the province of Manitoba, Canada, as it relates to the construction of the “student.” Using Foucault’s conceptualizations of governmentality and historical ontology of the subject, we interrogate the government’s proposed Bill 64 in order to reveal how policy works to constitute particular subjects. Our analysis reveals that Bill 64 constructs the student—through its relations to knowledge, others, and the self—as objectified and homogenous, and as being valued for economic contributions, thereby marginalizing other ways of being. By revealing the oppressive effects of neo-liberal discourses on students’ subjectivities, this article aims to inform educators, education researchers, and policy makers in the pursuit of more equitable educational policies and systems.

Author Biographies

Melanie Janzen, The University of Manitoba

Melanie Janzen is a professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the University of Manitoba. Her research explores the inter-related workings of power and discourses, particularly as they relate to the construction of identities of teachers and the ongoing marginalization of children. Her current SSHRC-funded research explores the influences of neoliberal education reform policies and how these play out on/in the lives of teachers and the school experiences children.

Rebeca Heringer, University of Manitoba

Rebeca Heringer (M.Ed., Ph.D.) is a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Education (Department of Curriculum, Teaching & Learning) at the University of Manitoba. Her main teaching and research expertise revolves around (forced) migrations and subsequent exclusions, oppressions, and inequities in education; anti-racism and inclusive education; education as/for/through well-being; philosophical foundations of education and; research ethics/anti-oppressive research methodologies.


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How to Cite

Janzen, M., & Heringer, R. (2023). Who is the “Student”? A Critical Analysis of Neoliberal Education Reform Legislation. Canadian Journal of Education/Revue Canadienne De l’éducation, 1. https://doi.org/10.53967/cje-rce.5641