23 SES 02 A, International Knowledge Assessment and National Reforms 2
Since the year 2000 results emanating from large scale educational assessments such as PISA and TIMSS have found wide coverage in newspapers and other media. However, this is not the only mode by which PISA and TIMSS come to influence the educational sector. They are also part of the currency of bureaucratic and political contexts. It is fair to say that large scale assessments create and form how we talk and think about education. Contemporary discussion of large scale assessments generates a specific narrative, a narrative that has evolved ever since the 1960’s, when the IEA presented their first international assessments. In this paper I revisit scientific discourse about the IEA and the OECD through content analysis of two special issues of Comparative Education Review (1974 and 1987), where the IEA assessments are discussed, and a special issue of the European Educational Research Journal (2012) devoted to PISA. One conclusion regarding the 1974 narrative is that when future historians of comparative education refer to the 1960´s, they will define it as a decade of empiricism and quest for quantifiable “scientific” modes of inquiry. Reasons for this methodological orientation are many, but among them may be included a general concern for development, modernization and educational efficiency. Main themes from the 1987 narrative indicate that the discussion, in part, has shifted towards a perception of the work of the IEA as being more policy oriented. This shift of narrative may be interpreted as one, of many, where large scale assessments evolved and began to play a significant role in bureaucratic and political contexts, as educational systems headed toward a new millennium. In the 2012 narrative the main scientific discussion has once again shifted from a policy orientation to a more critical view of large scale assessments as represented by PISA. The main theme in this narrative is “multiple fabrications”, in other words, how a narrative of PISA is made and remade in and across different contexts. By studying scientific narratives associated with large scale assessments, a history of how education and learning policies attempt to regulate and manage systems and populations, in rapidly moving and changing national, transnational and networked contexts, can be described.
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