(c) Jonathan Cohen

(c) Jonathan Cohen

The Journal of Education Policy this year published a special issue on Testing regimes, accountabilities and education policy, which includes a set of nation-based case studies – including studies on the schooling systems of Australia, Japan, Canada and the USA. In the introductory essay, the quest editors make the bold assertion that we are witnessing a ‘new global panopticism’

with national school systems variously positioned within the global market place and global educational policy field with important effects within national policy-making (Lingard, Martino & Rezai-Rashti, 2013: 539).

How warranted you think such a claim to be will depend on your interpretation of the evidence provided in these case studies (also included are a couple of papers on the OECD, unsurprisingly). Although to be fair you don’t have to look far to find yourself nodding along to talk of panopticism … in this regard the special issue could have indulged a bit more those of us inclined to (social) theorise developments in the fields of global education governance and management. Theorising these changes is especially significant given the implications of their concluding remarks:   

Given these changes, we see a strengthening of technologies of governance in education as a result and a weakening of political debates about what imagined and better future, schools ought to be helping to produce and how we might think about accountability in education in more productive and educative ways, including opportunity to learn standards and horizontal accountabilities. These matters appear to have been closed down to a considerable extent, as testing, both international and national, has become perhaps the major top-down, policy steering contemporary education systems. … we need to think about the important broader purposes and goals of schooling beyond a concern to simply raise test results for individual schools and nationally and globally, so as to ensure the competitiveness of the national economy. We would suggest our days are numbered, if we forget what really counts. (Lingard, Martino & Rezai-Rashti, 2013: 553).

Reference: Bob Lingard, Wayne Martino & Goli Rezai-Rashti (2013) Testing regimes, accountabilities and education policy: commensurate global and national developments, Journal of Education Policy, 28:5, 539-556.