23 SES 04 B, The Role and Impact of the OECD
The government funding of schooling is exemplary of David Easton’s (1953) framing of policy as ‘an authoritative allocation of values’. Funding decides, in the crudest of terms, ‘who gets what’, and is, therefore, a fundamental articulation of the values of government (Gerrard, Savage and O’Connor 2017). In recent decades, trends towards private- and market-based funding models in school systems internationally have opened new opportunities for a multitude of actors in the funding of schools, including philanthropies, corporations and via increased parental contributions. Alongside these changes have been growing fiscal constraints in many nations, particularly since the global financial crisis, which have driven an increased interest in ensuring spending practices are the most cost-effective means for achieving improvement in schools. These factors have combined to place increased scrutiny on the role of governments in school funding, with debates emerging globally about how to reform school funding models (OECD 2017).
While debates about the funding of schools are typically dominated by national and subnational politics and contingencies, the past decade has seen funding debates become increasingly ‘global’ in nature, particularly as policy learning and borrowing between systems intensifies (Lingard 2010) and governments increasingly seek international data about ‘what works’ to improve schooling outcomes (Lewis 2017). As is the case in many domains of schooling policy, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has expanded its work in an attempt to influence policy ideas and practices relating to the funding of schools. For example, in 2013, the OECD launched a major project on the effective use of school resources, titled ‘the Review of Policies to Improve the Effectiveness of Resource Use in Schools’ (the School Resources Review). The OECD suggests the primary purpose of the project is to ‘help countries exchange best practices and learn from one another, and to gather and disseminate evidence of what works in school resource policies’ (OECD 2017, p. 3). In doing so, the OECD seeks to carve out a transnational space for debating school funding, in a way that ‘transcends’ domestic constraints. For example, the OECD suggests that the project, ‘highlights issues and explores ideas for policy development that may be difficult to raise in national debates’ (OECD 2017, p. 3). One major output from this ongoing project is the 2017 report, titled ‘The Funding of School Education: Connecting Resources and Learning’ (OECD 2017). The report strongly promotes an argument that governments should better target resources towards ‘what works’ and features an array of data about the impact of funding in relation to key indicators like student achievement and equity (OECD 2017). In addition to such major projects and reports, the OECD has also emerged as a leading source of comparative data on expenditure in schooling, through producing annual ‘Educational finance indicators’, which are publicly accessible and have been used by governments to compare levels of funding (and the nature of funding arrangements) between nations (e.g. Australian Government 2011).
While the OECD’s role in assessment, teaching and school governance has been heavily researched in recent years, its role in funding debates has received significantly less research attention. The purpose of this paper is to respond to this gap by examining the role of the OECD in seeking to influence international debates about the funding of schools. Drawing upon insights from a comprehensive analysis of OECD policy artefacts and practices over the past decade, the paper argues that the OECD has evolved to assume a major role in debates about school funding, to the extent that it is now a dominant global player in influencing policy ideas and practices relating to the government funding of schools.
The paper presents insights from an analysis of OECD policy documents and initiatives relating to school funding reform, with a particular focus on developments from 2007 onwards (that is, in the years since the global financial crisis). Significant attention is paid to policy documents and initiatives produced as a result of the School Resources Review, which has been in operation since 2013 (see the previous section). The analysis is informed by two complementary methodological approaches. First, our analysis aligns with the interpretive policy research tradition, which seeks to understand the meaning-making practices at work in policy documents and in practice (Schwartz-Shea & Yanow, 2012; Bevir & Rhodes, 2012). Through an analysis of OECD policy artefacts (e.g. reports, websites, policy briefs) and practices (e.g. establishing reviews and panels, convening events, working with member nations), we analyse how the OECD has produced certain ways of framing and understanding the government funding of schools. We are particularly interested in the kinds of ‘policy rationalities’ (i.e. modes of reasoning) deployed by the OECD, in terms of how its arguments relating to school funding are justified. Second, we engage with the concept of policy problematisation (Bacchi 2009, 2012; Li 2007) to examine: a) how school funding has been ‘made problematic’ by the OECD; b) how certain policy responses have been framed as ‘solutions’ to such problems; and c) the potential effects of such problem/solution dynamics. Building on the work of Li (2007), we seek to understand how particular problems and solutions relating to funding have been ‘made to cohere’ (p. 264) in certain ways, and not others. For example, as Ansell and Geyer (2017) argue, ‘problems are themselves problematic’ and are also ‘contested’ (152, italics in original), so it is imperative for policy researchers to make problematic processes of problem-setting and definition. We also seek to draw attention to the politics of policy, and its historical contingency. As Bacchi (2012) argues, policy problematisation positions us to interrogate the present, asking how things that are made to appear self-evident, true or essential, instead rest upon historically-situated forms of knowledge or assumptions. It also positions us to examine the extent to which particular problem/solution dynamics might ‘gloss over’ tensions and complexities to make both the problem and the solution (and the relationship between the two) ‘appear far more coherent’ than is actually the case (Li 2007, p. 270).
Our primary argument is that the OECD has evolved to assume a major role in debates about school funding, to the extent that it is now a dominant global player in influencing policy ideas and practices relating to the government funding of schools. Its role, we argue, has expanded significantly in the years since the global financial crisis, and during this period its arguments about school funding have become increasingly relevant to member nations that are under fiscal pressure and seeking to render the funding of school more effective and efficient. Much like it does in other areas of schooling policy, the OECD now seeks to exert influence through strategically curating evidence about ‘what works’, and by carefully constructing solutions to apparent policy problems. Linked to this, we argue that the OECD is playing a lead role in shaping an international argument that seeks to broaden the focus of policy debates beyond questions about whether ‘more money’ improves outcomes, to a more complex set of questions about impact and ‘what schools do’ with money. Its role, therefore, is strongly linked to an ‘impact’ agenda, but with ‘impact’ understood primarily in relation links between spending and student performance on its Programme of International Student Assessment (PISA).
Ansell, C. and Geyer, R. (2017). ‘Pragmatic complexity’ a new foundation for moving beyond ‘evidence-based policy making’? Policy Studies, 38(2): 149-167. Australian Government. 2011. Review of Funding for Schooling: Final Report. Canberra: Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Bacchi, C.L. (2009). Analysing policy: What’s the problem represented to be? Frenchs Forest: Pearson Australia. Bacchi, C.L. (2012). Why study problematizations? Making politics visible. Open Journal of Political Science, 2(1): 1-8. Bevir, M. & Rhodes, R.A.W. (2010). The state as cultural practice. New York: Oxford University Press. Easton, D. (1953). The Political System. An Inquiry into the State of Political Science. New York: Knopf. Gerrard, J., Savage, G.C., O’Connor, K. (2017). Searching for the public: School funding and shifting meanings of ‘the public’ in Australian education. Journal of Education Policy, 32(4): 503-519. Lewis, S. (2017). Governing schooling through ‘what works’: The OECD’s PISA for schools. Journal of Education Policy, 32(3): 281-302. Li, T.M. (2007). Practices of assemblage and community forest management. Economy and Society, 36(2): 263-293. Lingard, B. (2010). Policy borrowing, policy learning: Testing times in Australian schooling. Critical Studies in Education, 51(2): 129-147. OECD. (2017). The Funding of School Education: Connecting Resources and Learning. OECD Publishing, Paris. Schwartz-Shea, P. and Yanow, D. (2011). Interpretive research design: Concepts and processes. New York: Routledge.
00. Central Events (Keynotes, EERA-Panel, EERJ Round Table, Invited Sessions)
Network 1. Continuing Professional Development: Learning for Individuals, Leaders, and Organisations
Network 2. Vocational Education and Training (VETNET)
Network 3. Curriculum Innovation
Network 4. Inclusive Education
Network 5. Children and Youth at Risk and Urban Education
Network 6. Open Learning: Media, Environments and Cultures
Network 7. Social Justice and Intercultural Education
Network 8. Research on Health Education
Network 9. Assessment, Evaluation, Testing and Measurement
Network 10. Teacher Education Research
Network 11. Educational Effectiveness and Quality Assurance
Network 12. LISnet - Library and Information Science Network
Network 13. Philosophy of Education
Network 14. Communities, Families and Schooling in Educational Research
Network 15. Research Partnerships in Education
Network 16. ICT in Education and Training
Network 17. Histories of Education
Network 18. Research in Sport Pedagogy
Network 19. Ethnography
Network 20. Research in Innovative Intercultural Learning Environments
Network 22. Research in Higher Education
Network 23. Policy Studies and Politics of Education
Network 24. Mathematics Education Research
Network 25. Research on Children's Rights in Education
Network 26. Educational Leadership
Network 27. Didactics – Learning and Teaching
The programme is updated regularly (each day in the morning)
- Search for keywords and phrases in "Text Search"
- Restrict in which part of the abstracts to search in "Where to search"
- Search for authors and in the respective field.
- For planning your conference attendance you may want to use the conference app, which will be issued some weeks before the conference
- If you are a session chair, best look up your chairing duties in the conference system (Conftool) or the app.