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SSRE Conference 2018

Richard Münch

Education in international competition: On the change in governance of schools and instruction

Comparative international education studies, such as the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) conducted every three years by the OECD since 2000, have become an influential instrument in the governance of education, schools, and instruction. They are a part of the changing relationship between the state and the education system. In this evolution, the powerful pedagogic establishment in the control center of the cultural bureaucracy has been replaced by an educational-industrial complex, in which international organizations, think tanks, consulting firms, philanthropic-capitalist foundations, and education reformers and researchers cooperate with the education and testing industry to bring about a fundamental transformation of schooling and instruction. The traditional division of labor between the state’s responsibility for the material and legislative prerogatives of schooling, the bureaucratic control of the formal legality of these prerogatives, and teachers’ professional responsibility for curricula and teaching has been supplanted by a strained conflict situation. Indeed, a transnational network of experts in cooperation with a global education and testing industry are setting a reform agenda that is pressuring states and bureaucracies to comply and replacing teachers’ professional guardianship of teaching and the curriculum with external control structures. This presentation analyzes this change of the governance of schools and instruction and then examines to what extent the new governance fulfills its promises to improve educational attainment, to reduce the impact of pupils’ social background on educational attainment, and to bridge the achievement gap between students in better and worse positions and considers what side-effects this entails.