23 SES 03 A, The Impact of PISA on National Education Policy
The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and broader education policy work has exerted a significant influence upon education policy internationally, contributing to the emergence of global governance of education (Meyer & Benavot, 2013). While acknowledging its international comparative element, academic research around PISA has mostly addressed the impact of such technologies of governance within national spaces. There is limited evidence to suggest how the effects of the OECD’s policy dispositif (Bailey, 2013) are experienced at the regional or school level, with PISA data used primarily in relation to national policy making. To this end, the research examines the recent development of the PISA-based Test for Schools (‘Test for Schools’) – a nascent assessment instrument of the OECD that enables an individual school’s performance to be evaluated against globally comparative PISA benchmarks, and high-performing international schooling systems, to facilitate school-level reform. Specifically, it will investigate (1) how the emergent Test for Schools programme discursively constructs ‘global’ notions of school performance and accountability, and (2) how these discursive and material elements are articulated within a European schooling system that participated in the Test for Schools. Drawing upon these findings in conjunction with other theoretical resources, the research will then examine (3) how the Test for Schools facilitates the creation of new and rescaled policy spaces and networks for the governance of education.
This research locates the development of the Test for Schools in relation to the expanding scope and scale of the OECD’s educational policy work (Sellar & Lingard, 2013), and how this has facilitated the emergence of new modes of educational governance. It acknowledges the growing importance of the ‘global’ in education policy production, dissemination and enactment, with these developments contributing to a conception of education policy that is increasingly networked, rescaled and re-spatialized in nature (Ball, 2012, 2013; Ball & Junemann, 2012). The study is also informed by what has been described as the ‘becoming topological’ of the modern cultural and political world (Lury, Parisi, & Terranova, 2012). These understandings help to theorize the shifting landscape of modern power relations (Allen, 2011), and the constitution of new topological globalized spaces that disrupt the ‘traditional [scalar] distinction between place and space as in-here versus out-there boundaries’ (Amin, 2002, p. 392). Lastly, the research is framed by the notion that comparison, especially of and by numeric data, has become fundamental to modern forms of governance. This in effect constitutes a ‘governance by comparison’ (Novoa & Yariv-Mashal, 2003) that occurs not only within traditional national boundaries and spaces, but also increasingly across them on a global scale. The research deploys these collective approaches as a theoretical lens through which to investigate the historical and cultural development of the Test for Schools, the resultant policy effects within a European school system, and the networks and spaces of governance that are constituted by, and constitutive of, the Test for Schools. Given the international comparative nature of the Test for Schools instrument and the historical global significance of PISA more broadly, combined with its current (or forthcoming) availability in the US and Europe, investigating the Test for Schools provides valuable insights into the broader implications of a global and networked governance of education.
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