23 SES 01 A, PISA and Education Governance
This paper examines emerging techniques of educational governance that are enabled by a new online platform for teacher professional development, collaboration and certification: the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) PISA4U. I specifically address how PISA4U, like many other of the PISA-derived ‘products’ of the OECD, enables a commensuration between diverse national and (now) local schooling spaces and actors, eliding rich contextual differences to render schools and teachers exclusively through the lens of their comparative performance.
Although national school system performance has been measured and compared for decades, there have been more recent attempts to shift this focus to schools and school-level educators. Large-scale assessments, such as the OECD’sPISA for Schoolstest, means that individual schools can, for the first time, voluntarily participate in international comparative tests and generate significant amounts of school-level performance data (Lewis, Sellar, & Lingard, 2016) This increased focus on the ‘local’ has since led to the development of the OECD’s PISA4U, an online teacher professional learning platform whose rationale is to ‘mobilise the good ideas in the minds of hundreds of thousands of teachers … [and] create the world’s best education systems (OECD, 2017, np), all facilitated via the evidence and ‘best practice’ solutions derived from PISA. Moreover, the participants of PISA4U are positioned as part of a global learning community for individual teachers to learn from and share the educational solutions of the OECD and ‘high performing’ schooling systems (e.g., Singapore), as well as network with fellow PISA4U participants to develop a global repository of free teaching resources, albeit one curated by the OECD. The first round of PISA4U commenced in March 2017, with more than 6,000 teachers and school leaders participating from 171 countries(out of a total of 195 countries worldwide). Significantly, four of the top-6 countries by number of participating teachers (the Philippines, India, Pakistan and Nigeria) are neither OECD members nor national participants in the main PISA survey of schooling systems. This reflects the expanding scope, scale and explanatory power (Sellar & Lingard, 2014) of the OECD’s educational policy work to new audiences (i.e., new national contexts and new local actors), and especially the rearticulation of school and system-level assessment data to inform forays into teacher professional development and credentialing.
Alongside demands for increased accountability and transparency in public schooling, these data have produced new urgencies around finding ‘evidence-informed’ (Lingard, 2013) solutionsto putative problems of policy and practice; in short, identifying and implementing ‘what works’ (Lewis, 2017). This desire for solutions has produced a new market for policy populated by new providers of services, with efforts to identify ‘what works’ occurring in tandem with the increased presence of non-governmental organisations in education. As such, powerful transnational private policy networks, which encompass intergovernmental organisations, for-profit businesses, not-for-profit agencies and the philanthropic sector, now contribute towards a ‘global education industry’ that exceeds $4 trillion annually (Verger, Lubienski, & Steiner-Khamsi, 2016). This has relocated schooling evidenceand expertisefrom more traditional sources, such as the nation-state, academics in universities and teachers, to the private sector, including providers outside of government, the public sector or, as is now common, education itself (e.g., statistical or technology companies) (Lewis& Holloway, 2018). Such opportunities for private policy networks to produce universal forms of evidence and expertise, often with little regard for local context, thus make a compelling case to understand how attempts to reconstitute and govern professional knowledge, learning and practice are being realised locally(i.e., at the teacher, school and schooling system-level).
The research here is informed by data collected over a two-year period, during which time I examined the development and administration of PISA4U by the OECD and its partner organisations, and its subsequent trial implementation between March and August of 2017. Much of the following analyses draw upon semi-structured interviews undertaken with key policy actors drawn from organisations involved across the PISA4U policy cycle. These included: the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills; the PISA Governing Board (PGB), a body composed of government representatives from PISA-participating countries that sets and oversees the policy objectives of PISA; as well as the partner organisations that helped to fund, promote and administer the learning platform. All interviews were confidential, and the research was conducted in keeping with ethics requirements of the university institutional review board. Moreover, and reflecting the relational spatialities of contemporary policymaking and the geographically dispersed nature of the PISA4U policy network, these interviews were conducted across a diverse set of locations and using a variety of methods, including both face-to-face and electronically-mediated formats (e.g. Skype, FaceTime) Complementing these interviews is the analysis of relevant print documents, audiovisual materials and websites from organisations involved in the development and implementation of PISA4U. These documents include: materials received by PISA4U participants; content from the PISA4U platform; relevant posts to social media by the OECD and its partner organisations related to PISA4U; and other administrative and promotional materials associated with PISA4U. Collectively, the various data analysed here help reveal the diverse, and often conflicting, perspectives of the organisations and individuals associated with PISA4U, while also highlighting the frequent disparities between official institutional reports and the potentially more candid talk of policymakers themselves.
My analyses show how the PISA4U platform provides a direct conduit from the OECD to participating teachers, thus overcoming the mediating influence of the nation-state, the schooling system and (now) the school itself. In an unprecedented manner, this helps to achieve a ‘pure distillation’ of the OECD’s policy messages into practice-based solutions that can then be applied directly by teachers in the classroom, reflecting an overwhelming need for the Organisation to be, in the words of one senior OECD official, ‘relevant and impactful’, rather than being content to merely proffer policy advice. To this end, the collaborative nature of PISA4U, in which teachers voluntarily work in teams to produce examples of ‘world-leading’ practice, is arguably less about bottom-up buy-in, participation and content creation, and more an attempt by the OECD to further draw individual school leaders and teachers into the legitimation, uptake and dissemination of its policy agendas. Combined with an innovative governance structure, where neither PISA Governing Board approval nor main PISA participation is required before teachers in a given country can participate, we can see clear evidence of how PISA4U serves to promote the global expertise of the OECD and PISA to new actors (and countries) beyond its traditional audience of policymakers. This reflects how local schools and teachers are now situated within an increasingly global space of measurement and comparison, and how organisations like the OECD can, through PISA4U, ‘reach into’ and steer local schooling spaces. More broadly, my research also reveals the increased role and influence of a diverse array of non-governmental actors – including the OECD, edu-businesses, not-for-profits and philanthropic foundations – in school-level education policy, blurring public and private interests and opening up ‘profitable’ spaces and opportunities for new forms of expertise in the governance of education.
*Lewis, S. (2017). Governing schooling through ‘what works’: The OECD’s PISA for Schools. Journal of Education Policy, 32(3), 281-302. *Lewis, S., & Holloway, J. (2018). Datafying the teaching ‘profession’: Remaking the professional teacher in the image of data. Cambridge Journal of Education, 1-17 *Lewis, S., Sellar, S., & Lingard, B. (2016). 'PISA for Schools': Topological rationality and new spaces of the OECD's global educational governance. Comparative Education Review, 60(1), 27-57. *Lingard, B. (2013). The impact of research on education policy in an era of evidence-based policy. Critical Studies in Education, 54(2), 113- 131. *OECD. (2017). pisa4u: The online programme for school improvement. Retrieved from https://www.pisa4u.org/ *Sellar, S., & Lingard, B. (2014). The OECD and the expansion of PISA: New global modes of governance in education. British Educational Research Journal, 40(6), 917–936. *Verger, A., Lubienski, C., & Steiner-Khamsi, G. (Eds.). (2016). World yearbook of education 2016. Oxon: Routledge.
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