28 SES 07 A, Reshaping Space-Times of Education: Global trends, National responses
The aim of this communication is to demonstrate how, in an era of accountability, the shaping of metrics in education is a kind of bricolage, to use Stephen Ball’s words, between knowledge, ideas, ideologies, imaginaries, beliefs, instruments which are circulating in international and national spaces (Ball, 2017). Metrics are embedded in books, papers, and reports but also in instruments or tools like indicators, benchmarks, surveys, rankings but they are also justified by sciences of government, mainly School Effectiveness Research and Human Capital Theory (Grek, 2009, Normand, 2012, Gorur, 2014). I will demonstrate how the French education policy has been influenced by policy borrowing from the OECD and the European Commission while some policy and expert networks have been quite active in translating these global and European influences according to their interests, strategies, and windows of opportunity (Steiner-Khamsi, 2006; Ball, Exley, S., 2010; Lawn, 2013; Lawn, Normand, 2014). This communication draws a mapping of these influent policy networks and “grey zones” in the French education space, and it shows some links between policy-makers and experts based on their shared assumptions from school effectiveness research and PISA data (Ball, 1998; Petterson & others, 2017). I demonstrate how these networks operate as translators, mediators, brokers, and how some specific political arenas or forums (think tanks, political clubs) can be highlighted besides traditional organizations under the umbrella of the Ministry. In doing so, I refer to the conceptual framework of actor-network-theory but also to some issues developed in the sociology on governing by numbers and quality (Fenwick, Edwards, 2010: Ozga and others, 2012)).
First, I will describe the trajectory followed by the French evaluation policy and how some issues of School Effectiveness Research and Human Capital Theory have been successively used by these policy networks with the increasing development and recognition of the PISA survey. I will at the same time present some leading experts, including sociologists of education, who had an important role in bringing closer expertise, research and policy making. Then I will identify some specific public arenas of forums through which policy makers have facilitated the translation and ownership of School Effectiveness Research and the PISA survey within the French education policy aligned on the OECD’s recommendations and the Lisbon Strategy.
In summary, there is a strong alliance between reformist policy-makers and expert networks, including sociologists, who have prepared the development of evaluation policy in the French education system. These networks had the capacity to buffer international influences, to translate them into their ideologies according to their own interests, and to choose the way they can deconfine the information coming from the OECD and the European Commission for the media and a larger audience.
The study is a policy analysis that relies on a combination of documentary analysis and collection of data on websites since the beginning of the 1980s. It draws on an extensive range of published documents, including policy papers, official reports and policy-makers speeches in the media, secondary documents such as publications by experts and in the media; extensive Internet searches focusing on specific spokesmen and their biography, proceedings of events and meetings organized between policy-makers and experts; and website documents, with personal attendance to some events and production of some policy and expert documents. These data are used to map and make sense of the networks and their relations to and influence on the French policy making and relationships between policy-makers and experts.
The paper describes 3 periods in policy borrowing and networking: a period of hesitation and uncertainty, a period of consolidation and internationalization, a period of alignment on international standards and dissemination. - The first period is a time of hesitation and uncertainty during the 1980s, France was reluctant to globalization and the ministry, and even there was a collaboration between the DEP (Department of Assessment and Forecast, Ministry of Education) with the OECD, policy-makers did not want to implement an accountability and basic skills policy and to participate in international surveys. - The second period from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, is a time of consolidation and internationalization. The DEPP consolidated its knowledge and expertise and became influent in policy making and in the media, particularly under the leadership of some sociologists in education At the same time, the French School Effectiveness Research Movement began to be institutionalized and gained legitimacy in policy making circles, particularly in the General Inspectorate and among sociologists. - The Third period is a time of alignment and dissemination. The PISA survey was well accepted and commented by policy-makers, even ministers to justify their decision-making. The Ministry was following the Lisbon Strategy and it define its policy in relation to the indicators and benchmarks of the Open Method of Coordination, particularly focusing its efforts of basic skills and drop out. The PISA survey became a kind of boundary object welcomed by different social groups in the education system: policy-makers, trade unionists, researchers, associations, etc. there was no PISA shock in France but a smooth and well-prepared welcome. This policy agenda is consolidated by the development of think tanks and other places at the edge of the ministry’s traditional and institutional networks.
Ball, S. J. (1998). Big policies/small world: An introduction to international perspectives in education policy. Comparative education, 34(2), 119-130. Ball, S. J., & Exley, S. (2010). Making policy with ‘good ideas’: Policy networks and the ‘intellectuals’ of New Labour. Journal of education policy, 25(2), 151-169. Ball, S. J. (2017). The education debate. Policy Press. Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-network theory in education. Routledge. Gorur, R. (2014). Towards a sociology of measurement in education policy. European Educational Research Journal, 13(1), 58-72. Grek, S. (2009). Governing by numbers: The PISA ‘effect’in Europe. Journal of education policy, 24(1), 23-37. Lawn, M. (Ed.). (2013, May). The rise of data in education systems: Collection, visualization and use. Symposium Books Ltd. Lawn, M., & Normand, R. (Eds.). (2014). Shaping of European Education: Interdisciplinary Approaches. Routledge. Normand, R. (2010). Expertise, Networks and Indicators: the construction of the European strategy in education. European Educational Research Journal, 9(3), 407-421. Ozga, J., Dahler-Larsen, P., Segerholm, C., & Simola, H. (Eds.). (2011). Fabricating quality in education: Data and governance in Europe. Routledge. Pettersson, D., Popkewitz, T. S., & Lindblad, S. (2017). In the grey zone: large-scale assessment-based activities betwixt and between policy, research and practice. Nordic Journal of Studies in Educational Policy, 1-13. Steiner‐Khamsi, G. (2006). The economics of policy borrowing and lending: A study of late adopters. Oxford Review of Education, 32(5), 665-678.
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