23 SES 11 A, The Encounter between Homogenization and Heterogeneity: Increased standardization in a diverse world? Part 1
Standards are playing a key role in the complex transformation of educational landscape. The increasing investment in standards and standardisation is revealing of the effort to change education governance and practice, by clarifying educational objectives, means and practices, reaching ‘optimal’ or ‘good’ performance levels and establishing the best conditions for the many elements of the ecology of education practice. The attention to standards suggests tendency towards the objectification of education practice, i.e. a shift towards what is measurable in education practice, and translation of the many aspects of education practice often considered ‘tacit’, or left as ‘implicit’ in scientific evidence to support policy-making in the field. As investment in standards is almost a ‘universal belief’ several questions can be raised. In particular, we are interested in understanding: a) How does this ‘indisputable truth’ emerge? How does the focus on standards and standardisation of education practice come to be the dominant trend in education policy-making, and inspired education reform? b) What aspects of education practice are the current trends of standardisation in European and Italian education policy focused on? To provide some answers to these questions, the paper draws on sociomaterial approaches to education (Fenwick, 2010; Fenwick & Edwards, 2010; Fenwick & Landri, 2012) and considers education standards as epistemic objects. In particular I will: 1) trace back some of theoretical thinking supporting the standardization of education practice and reflecting in policy documents triggering standard based reform, and 2) try to analyse what are the dominant circuits of knowledge and expertise support the blackboxing of standards in European education and in the case of the Italian education system. Methodologically, the paper draws on literature review on standards in European education (Grek et al., 2009; Lawn & Grek, 2012) and on a long research program on the implementation of the governance by standards in Italy (Landri, 2014). While standards-in the making come out as assemblages of dispersed and partly heterogeneous trasnational associations of networks, they are frequently enacted and viewed as technical objects in contemporary educational discourses (that is, as fixed, stable, ready to hand, transparent, etc.) for producing ecologies of predictable and transparent educational practice. The paper will argue that standards do not lead automatically to uniformity, and coordination. The empirical investigations in their enactment bring to forefront complex processes of translation where standards reveal more malleability than expected.
Fenwick, T. (2010). (un)Doing standards in education with actor‐network theory. Journal of Education Policy, 25(2), 117–133. Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-Network Theory and Education. London: Routledge. Fenwick, T., & Landri, P. (2012). Materialities, Textures and Pedagogies: Socio-Material Assemblages in Education. Intro. Pedagogy, Culture & Society. Grek, S., Lawn, M., Lingard, B., Ozga, J., Rinne, R., Segerholm, C., & Simola, H. (2009). National policy brokering and the construction of the European Education Space in England, Sweden, Finland and Scotland. Comparative Education, 45(1), 5–21. https://doi.org/10.1080/03050060802661378 Landri, P. (2014). Governing by Standards: The Fabrication of Austerity in the Italian Educational System. Education Inquiry, 5(1), 1–17. Lawn, M., & Grek, S. (2012). Europeanizing Education: governing a new policy space. Oxford: Symposium Books.
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