Source: Teacher College Record, Volume 116, No. 9, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)
This article describes OECD ideological and policy changes that form the background for PISA. Furthermore, the author focuses on the OECD’s governance mechanisms and the obstacles it presents to public scrutiny.
The author analyzes policy documents and relevant research from OECD and PISA to identify ideological commitments and configurations of power that form the backdrop for PISA.
The OECD has become a global education organization who is able to reshape the education around the globe. It effectively influences educational practice of millions around the world in the name of a neoliberal concept of accountability. The author argues that PISA is part of significant policy reversal inside the OECD. In the early 1990s, OECD education policy reflected a view of standardized global assessment and an awareness of public education as a project included economic, political and cultural aspects. However, PISA changed this balance between all these aspects in favor of a set of policies that place economic effectiveness above all.
The change in policy direction was part of a general shift in the mid-1990s whereby OECD embraced neoliberal free-market policies promoting an expansive use of markets and quasi-markets as a panacea to a wide range of public policy problems. This change is most visible in the OECD’s adoption of “new public management” (NPM) which was announced in OECD’s Governance in Transition report (OECD 1995)—a key policy document that argued that effective public policy should make optimal use of market mechanisms (Lane 2000; Pal 2008).
The author argues that this pursuit of market mechanisms posed both educational and political problems on the OECD's accountability regime. The educational problem is articulated in narrowing and homogenizing educational practices worldwide. The political problem includes profound challenges to democracy.
The author argues that in order to redress the asymmetries between strong influence and weak democratic control will require profound advances in the organization of the global public sphere. He proposes to broaden the global educational discourse, in which the accountability narrative is complemented by narratives of local institutional learning, educational tradition, democratic participation, and cultural diversity.