Nowadays, the use of indicators (benchmarks) to govern education systems and policies at national and international level is widespread. The practice of using data to administrate and govern education systems appeared at the end of the nineteenth century and developed throughout the twentieth century. Through national and international case studies, this issue studies the process and the conditions which allowed the emergence and the expansion of this phenomenon. Deciding how to collect useful data, how to organise data series according to models which allow comparison (or even ranking), and how to transform them into governing tools is essential for conducting data/benchmarks-based policies. This process leads to a new 'vision' (social construction of reality) of people, education systems and backgrounds, through new standardised objects like the 'average child' or an 'achievement standard'. These processes are at the core of policies conducted by organisations at national, European or international level (European Commission, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development [OECD], UNESCO). This issue aims to better understand these processes through historical and sociological analysis from national or inter/transnational points of view.