Resisting the seduction of the global education measurement industry: notes on the social psychology of PISA

Gert Biesta*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The question I raise in this paper is why measurement systems such as PISA have gained so much power in contemporary education policy and practice. I explore this question from the bottom up by asking what might contribute to the ways in which people invest in systems such as PISA, that is, what are the beliefs, assumptions and desires that lead people to actively lending support to the global education measurement industry or fall for its seduction. I discuss three aspects of what, in the paper, I refer to as the ‘social psychology’ of this dynamics, highlighting the seductive nature of numbers, measurement and comparison, the persistence of technological expectations about education and its workings and the reference to social justice as a key motivator for wanting to know how systems work and perform. I raise critical questions with regard to each of these aspects and, through this, suggest ways towards a more grown-up response to the difficult question of providing good education for everyone, rather than engaging in an unsustainable race for the top.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)348-360
Number of pages13
JournalEthics and Education
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2016

Keywords

  • education policy
  • measurement
  • PISA
  • social justice
  • social psychology
  • what works

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