Seeing like PISA: a cautionary tale about the performativity of international assessments

Gorur, Radhika 2016, Seeing like PISA: a cautionary tale about the performativity of international assessments, European educational research journal, vol. 15, no. 5, pp. 598-616, doi: 10.1177/1474904116658299.

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Title Seeing like PISA: a cautionary tale about the performativity of international assessments
Author(s) Gorur, RadhikaORCID iD for Gorur, Radhika
Journal name European educational research journal
Volume number 15
Issue number 5
Start page 598
End page 616
Total pages 19
Publisher Sage
Place of publication London, Eng.
Publication date 2016-09
ISSN 1474-9041
Keyword(s) Education policy
international assessments
Summary PISA is an extremely influential large-scale assessment, and its ‘policy lessons’ are being incorporated in a range of nations all over the world. In this paper I argue that not only is PISA influencing policies and practices, but also that ‘seeing like PISA’ is becoming a widespread phenomenon. Globally, education administration is now characterized by an intense focus onoutput measurement, a highly competitive environment heightened by national and international rankings, and an economic and instrumentalist approach to education and education reform. Using James Scott’s account of 18th Century German forestry practices as a parable, this paper suggests that ‘seeing like PISA’ could have far reaching and damaging effects. The paper proposes the following: first, understanding PISA as a ‘project of legibility’ enhances our appreciation of its purposes and possibilities. Second, PISA is much more than a ‘representation’ of existing conditions, but is creating new conditions – in other words, it is not descriptive but performative; and, finally, ‘seeing like PISA’ is bringing about deep-rooted changes, and it is likely that the effects will be very long-term. Some of these effects may only manifest themselves in the next fifteen or twenty years; and, by then, the possibilities of redressing some of the ill effects may be very limited.
Language eng
DOI 10.1177/1474904116658299
Field of Research 160506 Education Policy
Socio Economic Objective 930501 Education and Training Systems Policies and Development
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
ERA Research output type C Journal article
Copyright notice ©2016, The Author
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