Educational Standardisation in a Complex World

Cover of Educational Standardisation in a Complex World
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Table of contents

(14 chapters)

Prelims

Pages i-xi
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Part 1 Framing

Abstract

This introductory chapter introduces standards and standardisation as concepts of outmost relevance to current educational practice and policy across the world, and frames them historically, empirically, as well as theoretically. Furthermore, it gives an overview of how the book is structured and how it can be seen to contribute to the wider field of research in education. The chapter starts by introducing the concepts before it provides the reader with a background description of the broad discursive landscape of policy developments, as painted by educational policy research. Subsequently it describes how standards and standardisation have been theorised within educational research, and concludes with a presentation of the different contributions.

Abstract

Standards are normative specifications for the steering of education policy and practice. They aim to clarify educational objectives, means and practice, by giving a shape to the worlds of education. They raise criticisms of oversimplification often splitting the discussion in unnecessary oppositions between pro and con standardisation. To escape from a fruitless antagonism, this chapter proposes the concept of waves of standardisation. Standards are essential characteristics of any organisation, including schools. Historically, standardisation of education increases with the emergence of modernity, and in particular with the unfolding and consolidation of mass schooling. Since then, however, waves of standardisation develop into diverse political scenarios and are oriented by different rationales. More than a standard world of education, a world of standards sustained by several circuits of expertise where competing logics of justifications are embedded in various political rationalities is illustrated.

Abstract

Standardisation in education is an ambiguous process. Standards of time, measurement, technology and other aspects have evolved historically as basic preconditions for social life and communication, in education as well as in society at large. But excessive standardisation, especially in domains of culture and knowledge, often works as cultural and symbolic violence, undermining the qualities of education and learning situations. This chapter investigates these ambiguities, presenting concepts of standards and standardisation and developing their implications for education through selected theoretical contributions and empirical cases. The theoretical contributions include Berger and Luckmann's constructivist sociology of knowledge, Bourdieu's theory of symbolic capital and Habermas' theory of communicative action. The empirical cases include the processes of centralisation and standardisation of education in the United States and the process of standardisation in European higher education.

Part 2 Findings

Abstract

This chapter aims to contribute to research on standards and regulation in education, taking as a point of departure three sets of interrelated policies, core to the globalised educational agenda: policies on competencies and skills, school autonomy and performance-based accountability, representing a new governmental logic founded on the values of efficiency, quality, competitiveness and outcomes. The chapter has a double purpose: first, to make a theoretical contribution to the literature interrogating the new modes of governing schools and curricular knowledge. It does this, by explicating the relationship between the regulative dimension of global policy discourses, embodying the principle of performativity, and the discourses regulating pedagogic practices in local sites, where policies are enacted. Second, to present aspects of a study carried out in the Greek education context, in which policies towards a post-bureaucratic administration regime (school autonomy, national testing, accountability mechanisms) have failed to be institutionalised. Focusing on the Modern Greek Language curriculum and its enactments in demanding school settings, the study illustrates how discourses on inclusion, diffused within the educational field and invading the school space, exert strong control over teachers' instructional practices. It is argued that developments of Bernstein's theory of knowledge pedagogisation provide a language to describe the complex ways in which regulative discourses operate in global times, affecting the recontextualisations of curricular policies. The theory thus contributes to the literature on the enactments of globalised education policies and helps explain the diversity of national and institutional responses to such policies.

Abstract

In the context of globalisation, setting standards for excellence in education is considered necessary to enhance human capital to ensure future global competitiveness of the national economies (Rasmussen & Lingard, 2018). In line with education thus being set up as the basis for the economy, the development of talent has become an important part of the education political agenda in Denmark. This agenda claims that the Danish mass of talent should develop to a high level, and even more students should reach the highest levels of excellence (Ministry of Education, 1997). Accordingly, it labels the next generation of students ‘the mass of talent’.

This chapter questions the terms of talent applied in global education policies and their enactment into other agendas of concurrent standardisation and diversity. Empirically, the analysis of the wider policy context draws on policy texts at EU, OECD, and national level, in particular a ministerial report from 2011 (Rasmussen & Ydesen, 2020), as well as information materials and ethnographic case study research on a talent programme at upper secondary school level in Denmark (Bomholt & Rasmussen, 2020).

The analysis departs in an ambition to uncover the questions, how do global education policies frame standards for talent in a national context and how does this standardisation interact with the standards produced in the local programme? Therefore, the chapter focuses on the terms of talent applied in policy contexts at different levels of the specific case. For this, it employs the analytical approach of policy technologies (Ball, 2008), which involves viewing talent from the three policy technological perspectives of market, management and performance. They form a generic part of global convergence and work across the public sector as a whole.

It combines the empirical levels of macro and micro by referring to policy text and enactment at the global, national and local school level. The combination means first outlining the historical background for the policies in question and then considering how local actors bring their terms of talent into action at municipal and school level (Ball, Maguire, & Braun, 2012), emphasising the different actor rationalities.

Abstract

Narratives about educational phenomena and identities that circulate in society have the power to frame and make sense of specific educational experiences as well as general educational ideas. Some of these narratives also underwrite assumptions for policymaking and thus produce meaning, structure and alignment in an otherwise uncertain and complex field of governing. Narrative control refers to the way a specific selection of narratives and narrative plots legitimise, necessitate and normalise a specific way to understand educational purposes, processes and identities. The analyses in this chapter illuminate processes of narrative control in core documents of the latest Norwegian educational reform. Through the narrative construction of a specific educational trajectory, pupil identity and categories of deviance representing positions at risk, the documents' narrative control generates a specific standard regulating what a ‘normal pupil’ is.

Abstract

The present work aims to investigate social competences as part of the broad discourse on social and emotional skills, abilities and competences (SESACs). The objective is to nourish the body of literature on the different standardisation processes of educational practices with specific emphasis on the motives which govern standardisation of SESACs. With the intention to empirically explore these themes, data from a research on social competences as conceived by Italian middle school teachers are presented. In order to understand the practices of meaning negotiation in a scenario of normative indeterminacy, teachers' conceptions of social competences are presented and analysed. Results suggest a great conceptual variation about what social competences are. The work addresses a reflection on the role of SESAC in educational contexts in the attempt to give content and educational significance to this potentially fruitful educational tool.

Abstract

This chapter contributes to the field of educational standardisation by analysing and discussing the relationship between risk conceptions, standards and subjectivation in education. The empirical case for investigation is the implementation of a new interdisciplinary topic in Norwegian curriculum, called ‘health and life skills’, a topic that has gained momentum in educational systems worldwide in recent decades. We perform a theoretical reading of policy and curriculum document through the perspective of Foucault's notion of governmentality. Our reading suggests understanding ‘health and life skills’ as a soft governance practice, instigating ‘standards of the self’ that direct and control the conduct of young people in the Norwegian curriculum. Furthermore, the chapter discusses how becoming a subject in modern education implies acquiring a set of standard skills derived from societally perceived risks thought to affect the mental and physical health of young people. Building on this analysis, we discuss if standards can be regarded as measures aimed at managing and safeguarding against societal risks, and the consequences this may have for subjectivation processes in education.

Abstract

The global emphasis on performance-based assessment marginalises teachers' professional work with assessment and affects what is valued and devaluated in education. Thus, it affects students, teachers and schools, how the education system is governed, external experts, educational industry and societies. The programme Assessment for learning (AfL), which developed in the wake of the comprehensive high stakes test regime in England in the 1980s, was initially meant to counteract the democratic deficit caused by the increasing focus on metrics and large-scale assessments. As a backdrop, this chapter discusses performance standards in assessment and their consequences and then asks: What potential do professional standards in assessment have compared to current performance standards, and what do professional standards in assessment look like? The following argument is elaborated: In the endeavour to make education meaningful and relevant for students and societies, there is a need to shift from a focus on (global) standards for assessing students' performance to a focus on professional standards for teachers' work in assessment.

Part 3 Futures

Abstract

This chapter unpacks the ontological conjectures underlying economy-oriented standardisation of educational institutions, practices and processes and reflects on alternative – and arguably more desirable – rationales for standardisation in education. Drawing from the works of Maxine Greene and John Dewey, as well as Critical Theory, this chapter contrasts the future-oriented educational concepts at the foundation of economy-directed standardisation – which are oriented on the attainment of certain future ‘outcomes’ – with standardisation rationales based on present-oriented educational theories that derive the purpose of education from educational experience and interaction.

Abstract

This chapter contributes to the field of educational standardisation by critically discussing the recent preoccupation with social and emotional abilities as performance standards in education policies and curriculum. The chapter is philosophical-theoretical in scope and sheds light on standardisation of social and emotional abilities through the different theoretical layers of the Foucauldian notion of governmentality. By bringing the writings of the late Foucault to the fore, I will argue that the power structures imbued in social and emotional standards are not merely oppressive and vertical structures of subjection, but can also be seen as enabling, relational and productive means for subjectivation. Thus, although social and emotional standards certainly can be seen as governmental measures in the production of a flexible, diligent, self-managing workforce, ensuring the kind of transferable non-cognitive skills that are so much needed in the knowledge economy, educators can ambiguously also construct public spaces for political-ethical self-creation and resistance in context of these ‘standards of the self’.

Abstract

In this chapter we open up questions about educational standardisation by thinking through the possibilities of the theoretical work on Totally Pedagogised Societies (TPSs) initially developed by Basil Bernstein (2001). In relation to new modes of teacher professionalism, including the introduction of standardisation measures, researchers have drawn on Bernstein's sociological concepts, including the concept of the TPS (Robertson & Sorenson, 2018). Studies, drawing on the concept of the TPS, have tended to focus on the power scape or power reach of international organisations into pedagogic acts across time space – from cradle to grave, in and out of schools. We seek here to move the analytical possibilities for TPS where the focus on the ‘total’ part of the concept is often read and understood as ‘totalising’ (see, for example, Gewirtz, Mahony & Hextall, 2009; Ball, 2009) and deterministic. Instead, we extend work on the TPS and theorise the redesign of standardisation.

Index

Pages 233-238
Content available
Cover of Educational Standardisation in a Complex World
DOI
10.1108/9781800715899
Publication date
2022-04-20
Editors
ISBN
978-1-80071-590-5
eISBN
978-1-80071-589-9