Background: PISA results appear to have a
large impact upon government policy. The phenomenon is growing, with
more countries taking part in PISA testing and politicians pointing to
PISA results as reasons for their reforms.
The aims of this research were to depict the policy reactions to PISA
across a number of jurisdictions, to see whether they exhibited similar
patterns and whether the same reforms were evident.
Sources of evidence:
We investigated policy and media reactions to the 2009 and 2012 PISA
results in six cases: Canada, China (Shanghai), England, France, Norway
and Switzerland. Cases were selected to contrast high-performing
jurisdictions (Canada, China) with average performers (England, France,
Norway and Switzerland). Countries that had already been well reported
on in the literature were excluded (Finland, Germany).
Design and methods:
Policy documents, media reports and academic articles in English,
French, Mandarin and Norwegian relating to each of the cases were
policy reaction of ‘scandalisation’ was evident in four of the six
cases; a technique used to motivate change. Five of the six cases showed
‘standards-based reforms’ and two had reforms in line with the
‘ideal-governance’ model. However, these are categorisations: the actual
reforms had significant differences across countries. There are
chronological problems with the notion that PISA results were causal
with regard to policy in some instances. Countries with similar PISA
results responded with different policies, reflecting their differing
cultural and historical education system trajectories.
The connection between PISA results and policy is not always obvious.
The supranational spell of PISA in policy is in the way that PISA
results are used as a magic wand in political rhetoric, as though they
conjure particular policy choices. This serves as a distraction from the
ideological basis for reforms. The same PISA results could motivate a
range of different policy solutions.
- standards-based reform
- ideal governance