23 SES 12 D, Europeanising Education
Evaluation – in its wide variety of forms – is nowadays considered somewhat natural and self-evident tool for education policy making and school improvement in education systems all over the Europe. Further, the quality assurance and evaluation (QAE) of education and education systems is argued as vital for increasing global competitiveness of European economies and assuring better future prospect for European societies. So, in recent education policy documents very much weight and hope is put on evaluation.
In my study, I have been examining the present discourse on quality evaluation shortly described above in Finnish context. I have approached and analysed the discourse especially with a concern and interest in socio-historical construction and mobilization of it at the field of comprehensive education since early 1970’s. The special focus has been on the descent and fabrication of the local (municipal) and school level self-evaluation within that evolving quality evaluation discourse. I have been asking: How is the school and municipal self-evaluation being mobilised and constructed as highly necessary and expected, or more like a normal practice of education development and policy making during the research period? Which are the discursive and socio-historical conditions for the assemblage of the present discourse on quality evaluation and school/municipal self-evaluation within that discourse in Finnish basic schooling context?
The theoretical and methodological standpoint of my research is inspired by the history of the present. The basic idea of it is to approach the present ideas and practices seeming somehow evident, unquestioned, truthful or natural as contingent and socio-historically construed.
Thus, the rationality of my study is to unravel those historical and contingent truths and knowledges embedded in current discourse on evaluation in Finnish basic schooling context.
As previous study has shown, the Finnish discourse and especially evaluation practices related to the discourse both at local (school &municipal) and national level have been very specific kinds if compared to European or global counterparts. It has been argued that Finland has been highly receptive to a global and European impact on evaluation or to which Sahlberg calls as a GERM – a virus called as ‘global education reform movement’. For example, high stake testing, school rankings and school inspection system common elsewhere, have been totally rejected and even silenced by the Finnish education policy and evaluation discourses. Instead, besides the national sample based pupil achievement tests, the idea of the local level (municipality & school) autonomous self-evaluation has been emphasized in school improvement and local decision making. However, as my research shows, in assembling and constructing the idea or even the regime of the autonomic school and municipal self-evaluation those very same transnationally spread discursive ideas and rationalities are utilized
Methodologically the research is inspired by the idea of history of the present. Further I have been applying the archaeology of knowledge as an analytical tool of it. In accordance with the idea of the history of present I am focusing on how the idea of evaluation is emerging and transforming in research period. By utilizing the archaeology of knowledge I have focused on how the idea of evaluation is construed in different discursive practices by specific ways of using concepts, constructing objects and creating positions for subjectivities (see Foucault 2003; Bacchi & Bonham) during the research period. The research material includes over 200 Finnish policy documents and texts written by experts of evaluation of education in the period of 1970–2014. Data corpus includes textbooks, articles, guideliness, recommendation, policy texts, policy raports, National Core Curricula, relevant legislations, for instance. Data represents Finnish texts aiming at govern (on governing e.g. Dean, 1999) the local evaluation of basic education. For example, municipalities, schools and teachers are advised, urged, commanded and persuaded to evaluate themselves in these texts. I call my research material as an authoritative talk on evaluation of basic education. I have searched and selected the relevant texts by 1) using Finnish national library database MELINDA and article database ARTO, and 2) by looking for internal references.
The present Finnish discourse on evaluation can be seen socio-historically mobilised and construed especially by three different but entangled discursive practices. Those are the discursive practices of 1) school based development (D1), 2) performativity and educational outcomes (D2) and 3) customer oriented quality (D3). I present a short overview of the analysis here. Discursive practice of school based development arises in late 1970’s as a reaction to a prevailing bureaucratic, top-down development of basic education. It constitutes the individual schools and teachers as capable of developing schooling however presupposing the commitment to the self-evaluation and reflection of their own work. The discourse of school based development is valid through the 1980’s but becomes more fragmented in the turn of 1990’s. In mid-1980’s the question of the outcomes of basic schooling becomes more salient than before (D2). The outcomes of education become widely discussed and disputed issue. I have analysed the problematization of the educational outcomes in detail and revealed how it relates to discussion on school development in 1980’s and emerging New Public Management -reforms of the state government. Evidently, what arises through discursive practice of performativity and educational outcomes, is the understanding that education has to be evaluated from the perspectives of effectiveness, efficiency and economy not only at national level but also locally in municipalities and schools. As I show in my analysis, the quality of education has been incidentally on topic at least since early 1970’s. After mid- 1990’s quality becomes especially an issue of customer-satisfaction which is accompanied by a construction of ‘quality school’ which is quasi replica of idealized business organisation. Evaluation arises then as one possible strategy to produce a ‘quality school serving the customers’ (D3).
Bacchi, C.;& Bonham, J. (2014). Reclaiming discursive prantices as an analytic focus: Political implications. Foucault Studies, 173-192. Ball, S. J. (2003). The teacher´s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy, 215–228. Foucault, M. (1991). Politics and the study of discourse. Foucault, M. (1998). On the Archaeology of the sciences: response to the epistemology circle. In J. D. Faubion, Aesthetics, Method and Epistemology. Essential works of Foucault 1954 – 1984. Volume two. (pp. 297 – 333). New York:: The New Press. Foucault, M. (2000). Governmentality. In J. D. Faubion, Power. Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984. Volume Three. (ss. 201–222). New York: The New Press. Foucault, M. (2003). Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Routledge. Popkewitz, T. S. (2013). Preface. In T. S. Popkewitz, Rethinking the history of education. Transnational Perspectives on Its Questions, Methods, and Knowledge (ss. xiii–xvi). New York: Palgrave macmillan. Popkewitz, T. S. (2013). Styles of Reason: Historicism, Historicizing, and the History of Education. In T. S. Popkewitz, Rethinking the History of Education. Transnational Perspectives on Its Questions, Methods, and Knowledge (ss. 1–26). New York: Palgrave macmillan ahlberg, P. (2007). Education policies for raising student learning: the Finnish approach. Journal of Education Policy, 147-171.Simola, H. (1995). Paljon vartijat. Suomalainen kansanopettaja valtiollisessa kouludiskurssissa 1860-luvulta 1990-luvulle [The Guards of Plenty. The Finnish school teacher in educational state discourse from the 1860's to the 1990's]. Helsinki: University of Helsinki Simola, H., Rinne, R., Varjo, J., Pitkänen, H., & Kauko, J. (2009). Quality assurance and evaluation (QAE) in Finnish compulsory schooling: a national model or just unintended effects of radical decentralisation? Journal of Education Policy, 163-172.
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