23 SES 07 B, International Organisations
This paper historicises on what we analytically claim to be international curriculum making based on a comparative statistical reasoning (cf. Hacking, 1990) developed in tandem with national curriculum making in the new millennium. Curriculum making concerns the possibility to decide and prescribe purposes, aims, and contents of schooling, but also how these purposes, aims and contents are legitimized (Elde Mølstad, 2015). As such, we see curriculum making from the ‘wide’ interpretation of curriculum where discussions of knowledge often are put in the fore. We are in relation to curriculum making especially interested in investigating how some important international organisations interact and organize educational purposes, aims, and contents on a world scale level affecting national level, as well as the very local of educational activities. Hence, we are investigating curriculum formulation based on a comparative statistical reasoning. The actors we are most interested in are those that have been characterized as ‘grey zone’ actors (Lindblad, Pettersson & Popkewitz, 2015). The idea (and term) of the ‘grey zone’ emerged from a previous review of research and organizations using data from international large-scale assessments (Lindblad et al., 2015) for comparing education systems. These ‘grey zone’ actors have only at best an indirect mandate in education systems, however they still make explicit statements on how to improve schooling and students’ performances, and as such enters national contexts on curriculum making. It is the indirect mandate combined with relatively strong impact on the governing of education, not at least when it comes to an alignment of the educational language and educational ‘images’ used on both international and national levels, that motivates our study.
For understanding how curriculum making within nations, in the contemporary, takes place in tandem with international trends and statements on education, we examine activities involved in curriculum formulation and how the specific reasoning (cf. Hacking, 1990) is used and evolves in these activities. There are at least three important actors that stands out after the millennium in terms of activities spread to a world scale level; the McKinsey, the OECD and the Pearson Company, which all have arisen as important nodes for knowledge on what education is perceived as and maybe more importantly, should be. This is a most important notion to make here – the fact that these organisations based on the comparative statistical reasoning is making normative claims on how education should be thought, enacted and improved. Their position within education is basically reinforced by the comparative and data driven aspects of the contemporary society (cf. Pettersson, Popkewitz & Lindblad, 2016). These three organisations produce a lot of knowledge on education and some examples of this is that the McKinsey is producing international reports on educational improvements and developments. Within the terminology of McKinsey recommendationsare produced for these purposes.; The OECD is not only producing international large-scale assessments and recommendations, but also producing newsletterswhere the results of ILSA are mediated and communicated to policy, research and practice; and the Pearson Company is not only the winner of the open tender to perform PISA 2018, but also the producer of a vast amount of websites for school development within the frameworks of The Learning Curve(TLC) and The Efficacy Frameworkas well as producing school textbooks. Hence, we investigate how these activities frame education defining what content curriculum making ‘should’ focus on and as such making prerequisites on what education is and should be thought as based on various products from these three organisations.
All three of the mentioned organisations above can be discussed in terms of producing activities important for curriculum making in the ‘wider’ sense of the concept, not least in producing normative claims on how education should be thought. By analysing products by these organisations, we are in a position to highlight them as important sites for curriculum making on an international level. In our study, we especially highlight these products in terms of producing specific claims and statements on education, which creates narratives framing curriculum making on an international, a national as well as on a local school level. We perform content analysis of texts, pictures and videos of the following products (in brackets the organisation producing them): - Two reports: How the World’s Best-Performing School Systems Come Out on Top by Barber and Mourshed, (2007), and How the World’s Most Improved School Systems Keep Getting Better by Mourshed, Chijoke and Barber, (2010) (McKinsey) - 13 articles/reports from the years 2009-2014 on various educational issues (McKinsey) - 68 newsletters presenting PISA results (OECD) - Two reports: Asking more: The path to efficacy by Barber and Rizvi, (2013a), and The incomplete guide to delivering learner outcomes by Barber and Rizvi, (2013b), presenting the Efficacy Framework. (Pearson Company) - Two reports: Lesson in Country Performance in Education (Pearson, 2012) and Education and Skills for Life (Pearson, 2014) presenting The Learning Curve (TLC) programme. (Pearson Company) - Presentations of 45 ‘success’ stories within education on a company website (Pearson Company) - 17 short videos produced for presenting successful stories in education (Pearson Company) In performing content analysis, we especially emphasize on indices that can tell something about the reasoning framing how education is thought, talked or written about. With this in mind three research questions are formulated: 1) What is to be taught? 2) How is this content to be taught and learned? 3) Why is this content selected to be taught and learned? These questions provide us with insight on what the organisations highlight as important in teaching and learning and as such we can discuss how curriculum making in the national contexts are conducted in tandem with how education is thought by some important international organisations involved in educational curriculum making.
Some of our tentative results show similarities but also discrepancies between the three organisations on how they are involved in an international curriculum making: McKinsey is looking into the future of education and they see some important cornerstones evolving that challenges national governance of education, shifting the governance from governments to business or non-profit organisations in terms of curriculum making. I relation to these developments McKinsey sees themselves as providers of services of importance for governing education towards better performances. OECD highlights information possible to retrieve from PISA in newsletters, which on one level are making kinds of people and kinds of educational systems. In most of the newsletters there is a ‘knowledge simplification’ in terms of presenting differences, thus creating hierarchies on what is conceived as good or bad education, but implicitly also statements on good or bad kinds of students and schools. The dominant reasoning in this is an emphasize on the removal of ‘achievement gaps’. Pearson, within its products, is signalling a specific kind of educational success and happiness. The Pearson strategy for selling solutions became even more obvious when Pearson announced that it had won the competitive tender to develop the PISA 2018. Conclusively, Pearson is now not only in a position of selling solutions to education, but is also able to define educational challenges.
Mølstad, C. (2015). State-Based Curriculum-Making: A Study of Curriculum in Norway and Finland. Oslo: University of Oslo. Hacking, I. (1990). The Taming of Chance. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Lindblad, S., Pettersson, D. & Popkewitz, T. S. (2015). International Comparisons of School Results: A Systematic Review of Research on Large Scale Assessments in Education. Delrapport från SKOLFORSK-projektet. Stockholm: Vetenskapsrådet. Pettersson, D., Popkewitz, T. S. & Lindblad, S. (2016). On the use of Educational Numbers: Comparative Constructions of Hierarchies by means of Large-Scale Assessments. Espacio, Tiempo y Education. 3 (1) 177-202.
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