23 SES 08 C, Media and Education Policy Making
The OECD’s Program for the International Student Assessment (PISA) has become a more influential policy tool globally and within nations since the first test was administered in 2000 and then every three years subsequently (Meyer & Benavot, 2013). This influence is evident amongst the 34 OECD member countries (most of which are in Europe) and in other non-member participating nations (75 nations participated in 2015). The OECD analyses the PISA results and reports on two dimensions, namely, quality and equity.
National media take a great interest in a nation’s comparative performance on PISA, whose results are released in December of the year following the test year. There is a body of literature that documents and analyses the ‘mediatisation’ of education policy (Lingard & Rawolle, 2004; Baroutsis, 2016) and much European research that has analysed this mediatisation of PISA results (e.g. Martens & Niemann, 2013; Mons & Pons, 2009; Pons, 2011). The OECD also takes an interest in managing the mediatisation of PISA results, seeking to influence how the results are read within nations across the globe through a number of media-related strategies. This mediatisation has become more significant in respect of the policy cycle in education and become very important in terms of the policy impact of PISA results over time. The focus of this paper is on media constructions of Australia’s PISA results, the work of the OECD in seeking to manage the reading of PISA results, and the policy impact of these. While the empirical focus is Australia, there are implications more broadly for policy in participating PISA nations, including those in Europe (Carvalho and Costa, 2015).
Specifically then, this paper empirically documents media portrayals of Australia’s performance on PISA 2000-2014 in two national and eight metropolitan newspapers. We were interested in analysing the ways in which Australia’s PISA comparative performance and changes to it over time have been reported in particular ways in these media outlets. Our data were analysed using ‘framing theory’ (Entman, 1993, 2004; Matthes, 2009). Three major frames emerged: counts and comparisons; criticisms; and contexts. Most of the media coverage was concerned with the quality theme based on counts and comparisons which provided evidence of Australia’s declining comparative performance over time. The analysis also demonstrates changing reference societies over time (Waldow, 2017; Sellar & Lingard, 2013), with Shanghai becoming particularly significant in Australia after its stellar performance on the 2009 PISA. Until that time the media had represented Finland as the poster child of PISA. The reference salience of Shanghai for Australia (as opposed to Finland for Europe) was situated against the so-called Asian century and the geo-political rise of China and Australia’s economic dependence on the region.
The paper demonstrates the ways in which the media portrayals give emphasis to quality over equity concerns in their reporting of Australia’s changing PISA performance. This reporting also emphasizes declines in Australia’s comparative performance over time, ushering in a discourse of crisis in Australian schooling. The analysis also shows how much PISA data is excluded from coverage in the media. The paper then demonstrates how this kind of media focus has policy effects and impact in Australian schooling. Drawing on multiple interviews at the OECD, the paper also illustrates how OECD media work and media strategies around PISA contribute to the media’s league table approach to the reporting of PISA results. The application of the analysis to other contexts, including in European nations, is also considered.
Baroutsis, A. 2016. Media accounts of school performance: Reinforcing dominant practices of accountability. Journal of Education Policy. doi:10.1080/02680939.2016.1145253 Meyer, H.-D., & Benavot, A. 2013. PISA and the globalization of education governance: Some puzzles and problems. In H.-D. Meyer & A. Benavot (Eds.), PISA, power, and policy: The emergence of global educational governance (pp. 7-26). Oxford: Symposium. Boyatzis, R. E. 1998. Transforming Qualitative Information: Thematic Analysis and Code Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Braun, V., and V. Clarke. 2006. Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101. Carvalho, L. M., & Costa, E. 2015. Seeing education with one's own eyes and through PISA lenses: considerations of the reception of PISA in European countries. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education 35(5), 638-646. doi:10.1080/01596306.2013.871449 Entman, R. M. 1993. Framing: Toward Clarification of a Fractured Paradigm. Journal of Communication, 43 (4), 51–58. Entman, R. M. 2004. Projections of Power: Framing News, Public Opinion, and U.S. Foreign Policy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. Lingard, B., & Rawolle, S. 2004. Mediatizing educational policy: The journalistic field, science policy, and cross-field effects. Journal of Education Policy, 19(3), 361-380. Macnamara, J. R. 2005. Media Content Analysis: Its Uses, Benefits and Best Practice Methodology. Asia Pacific Public Relations Journal, 6(1), 1–34. Martens, K., & Niemann, D. 2013. When do numbers count? The differential impact of the PISA rating and ranking on education policy in Germany and the US. German Politics, 1-19. doi:10.1080/09644008.2013.794455 Matthes, J. 2009. What's in a Frame? A Content Analysis of Media Framing Studies in the World's Leading Communication Journals, 1990–2005. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 86(2), 349–367. Mons, N., & Pons, X. 2009. The reception of PISA in France: Knowledge and regulation of the educational system. Retrieved 14 August, 2015 from http://knowandpol.eu/IMG/pdf/o31.pisa.france.pdf Pons, X. 2011. What do we really learn from PISA? The sociology of its reception in three European countries (2001-2008). European Journal of Education, 46(4), 540-548. Sellar, S., & Lingard, B. 2013. Looking East: Shanghai, PISA 2009 and the reconstitution of reference societies in the global education policy field. Comparative Education, 49(4), 464-485. Waldow, F. (2017). Projecting images of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad school’: Top scorers in educational large-scale assessments as reference societies. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. doi:10.1080/03057925.2016.1262245
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