Non-formal education, personhood, and the corrosive power of neoliberalism

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The aim of this paper is to explore the extent to which non-formal education is being corroded by neoliberal values. Given non-formal education is frequently used to develop young people’s notions of citizenship, and that non-formal education providers are increasingly forced to operate within the free-market paradigm, it is significant to consider what forms of personhood are being championed. Qualitative data were gathered through semi-structured interviews and observations with coaches and young people from a youth sports charity in the UK. Focusing on a core aspect of non-formal education – caring relationships (as understood by Nel Noddings and Carl Rogers) – the findings suggest that the quality of coaches’ care for young people was conditioned by the extent to which adolescents re-shaped their personhood to align with neoliberal values of individual responsibility and discipline. Thus, the meanings of ‘care’ and ‘good citizenship’ were corroded by a neoliberal rationality.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-434
Number of pages18
JournalCambridge Journal of Education
Issue number4
Early online date4 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Non-formal education
  • care
  • charities
  • neoliberalism
  • personhood
  • young people

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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