Today we continue the mini-series on global learning metrics. Last week we heard from Eric Hanushek about the desirability of large scale international assessments such as PISA. He argued that cross-national tests offer ways for countries to see what is possible when it comes to student learning.

But what effect are large scale international assessments having on national governments? In my conversation today, I speak with Radhika Gorur about how PISA, and its embedded assumptions about education, are going a global.

In our conversation, Radhika unpacks what it means to “see like PISA.” She finds three major ways governments around the world have embraced PISA.

First, governments have assumed that the very purpose of education is to increase GDP, which is a cornerstone of PISA and the OECD. But of course education has many more values that are much harder to define.

Second governments have narrowed the field of vision of the meaning of education to be in line with what PISA has been able to test. In effect, we only talk about what we can actually measure on the test, missing so many other subjects and areas that are also important to education.

And the third issue she finds is that we now talk about an impersonal “Student” as represented by PISA. The many reports put out by the OECD talk about so-called “students”, but they are always abstracted and without color or context. Who is this so-called PISA “student” and why do states compare their young citizens to her?

Radhika Gorur is a Senior Lecturer at Deakin University, Australia, and a Director of the Laboratory for International Assessment Studies. She will speak at the inaugural CIES Symposium this November. The article discussed in this podcast can be found in the European Educational Research Journal.