Personalisation: the nostalgic revival of child-centred education?

David Hartley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Citations (Scopus)


Personalisation is an emerging 'movement' within education. Its roots reside in marketing theory, not in educational theory. As a concept it admits a good deal of confusion. It can refer either to a new mode of governance for the public services, or it qualifies the noun 'learning', as in 'personalised learning'. The concern here is with its intellectual affinity to child-centred education, one which the government in England has strongly denied. On balance, the government's view of personalisation is not of a piece with what may commonly be regarded as child-centred education. But the strong semantic accord between the terms 'personalisation' and 'child-centred education' provokes a question: why does the government not provide a term which unequivocally distinguishes its current 'vision' for education from child-centred education? By retaining the term personalisation, the government purports to do two things: first, because of its focus on personalised 'tailored' needs and co-produced solutions, it adapts education even further to a consumerist society; and second, because the term personalisation strikes a chord with the discourse of child-centred education, it blurs the fact that little to do with pedagogy or with curriculum has in fact been changed. The term personalisation generates a nostalgic appeal to better times long gone.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010


  • personalised learning
  • pedagogy
  • progressive education
  • child-centred education
  • policy


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