Testing The Test: Pisa’s Role In The Evolving Human Development Agenda
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Over the past thirty years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of national and international educational assessments given to students each year. Countries have become increasingly willing to evaluate and compare national education systems through these tests, and some international assessments have even been considered as potential tools to measure progress towards global human development goals in education. This thesis uses the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA)—one of the most publicized and prominent international assessments—to identify the forces that led to the rise in educational testing, and to understand the potential role of PISA in the current human development agenda. I find that the rise in testing is largely to due to several interrelated forces: 1) globalization and its network of international organizations and trade ties, 2) the prominence neoliberalism, 3) the bureaucratic tendency to emphasize rationalized, scientific policymaking, 4) improved technology, and 5) the belief that education is a central tenet of a nation’s economic competitive advantage. These forces make PISA a durable international initiative, but also one that can cause stakeholders to adopt an oversimplified view of education and development. Though PISA does have beneficial aspects, it is important that PISA does not become the principal standard for understanding and assessing global development goals for education.