Veröffentlicht am 26.05.14

From Yardstick to Hegemony

How the OECD uses PISA to enforce a new concept of education Not only do the PISA studies and their results determine how future generations are educated but one yardstick alone measures and evaluates the abilities and skills – in newspeak competencies – of students from over 30 countries. In the year 2000 the German PISA Consortium openly acknowledged that its standard of measurement does not take into account the educational traditions, constitutions or policies of the countries under assessment. Rather, its ratings are based on an original concept with normative influence: Teachers, schools and entire educational systems are being subjected to a single system of testing, the criteria of which alone determine their excellence. Therefore, in view of the immense media attention given to PISA’s publication of its testing results, it appears pertinent to ask the following questions: What exactly are the criteria informing these assessments? And who has the power to determine their „validity“?

These questions point directly to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) which – as initiator of the PISA assessment process – has since the 1960s and on its own account “become central, providing indicators of educational performance that not only evaluate but also help shape public policy.” 2 The OECD, though fully aware that it has no legitimate claim, considers peer review assessments like PISA as “the most effective way of influencing the behaviour of sovereign states“. The idea for doing so was formed as early as 1961 at its policy conference “Economic Growth and Investment in Education in Washington D.C. “ The conference documents and recommendations immediately became – as the Cultural Commission of the Council of Europe uncritically stated in its preface to the German conference volume – the “basis for consultation in the national ministries and parliaments. They also exerted determinative influence on the entire public discourse on matters of education and education policy“. And, „it is rare for such a conference to have such visible impact on the policy of so many countries”

The conference was explicitly not about setting standards which would do justice to respective national traditions of education and education policy. On the contrary, the new standard was geared toward overruling all traditional concepts. The same conference volume states that, with regard to developing countries, it would be “nothing short of cutting a million people loose from a way of life that has constituted their living environment for hundreds or thousands of years. Everything achieved by these countries‘ schools and education until now has served social and religious aims which have primarily allowed for resignation and spiritual comfort; things that completely go against any economic sense of progress.Changing these century-old approaches may perhaps be the most difficult yet also most important task for education to accomplish in developing countries.“ It is important to note here that the OECD includes the nations of Europe in this circle of developing countries. Germany, for example, „due to its decentralized school administration system (…) may also be considered a somewhat underdeveloped country with regard to its education policy“. The obvious consequence is that Germany is to be subjected to cultural uprooting as well.

The complete article (PDF): Graupe; Krautz: From Yardstick to Hegemony
German version: Die Macht der Messung