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PISA for Schools: Respatializing the OECD’s Global Governance of Education

The Impact of the OECD on Education Worldwide

ISBN: 978-1-78635-540-9, eISBN: 978-1-78635-539-3

Publication date: 5 May 2017


This chapter focuses on a new school-level instrument for international benchmarking and policy learning – the OECD’s PISA-based Test for Schools (“PISA for Schools”) – and how it helps to constitute new global spaces and relations of education policymaking and governance. Unlike main PISA, PISA for Schools assesses school performance in reading, mathematics, and science against the schooling systems measured by the main PISA test. Schools are thus positioned within a globally commensurate space of measurement and comparison, and are encouraged to engage with, and learn from, the policy expertise proffered by “high-performing” international schooling systems and the OECD itself. Drawing suggestively across literature and theorizing around new spatialities associated with globalization, the “becoming topological” of culture and “power-topologies,” and informed by document analysis and interviews with 33 policy actors from across the PISA for Schools policy cycle, the chapter examines how PISA for Schools helps the OECD to directly “reach into” local schooling spaces. This respatialized PISA for Schools, or “PISA to Schools”, provides the OECD with the means to influence how schooling is practised and conceived at the level of local policy implementation, while limiting mediation by national and/or subnational politics. Moreover, the school-to-system performance comparisons enabled by PISA for Schools arguably provide one of the first – if not the only – international data-driven catalysts of school-level reform. This furthers the relevance and diffusion of “lessons” from main PISA and the OECD to schools themselves, and helps extend the epistemic communities through which the OECD practices its global epistemological governance of education.



Lewis, S. (2017), "PISA for Schools: Respatializing the OECD’s Global Governance of Education", The Impact of the OECD on Education Worldwide (International Perspectives on Education and Society, Vol. 31), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 181-206.



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