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Knowledge Brokers, Naysayers, and the Quest for ‘What Works’: exploring the role of international comparisons in education policy

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Abstract:

Education reform is increasingly portrayed as an evidence-based process, premised on the identification and transfer of the key features of ‘high performing’ school systems. An influential intermediary network has emerged in response to this trend, using international datasets to identify and promote ‘what works’. Although advocates have portrayed the approach as a “New Paradigm”, extensive critique has argued that its claims to novelty are suspect. These critiques, however, have tended to focus on its deviation from the purported norms of ‘academic’ comparative education. The result has been an absence of meaningful engagement. This paper explores how the “New Paradigm” operates, identifying its inherent features and how it overcomes critical methodological issues. The analysis initially explores the rationale; assumptions; ideology; methodology; omissions and silences; rhetorical strategies; and language and presentation of four of its influential publications. The analysis then surveys a broader range of texts, examining how the complexity inherent in such comparisons is reconciled with the straightforward explanations required by the “New Paradigm”. This stage provides more nuanced insight into the varied and indeterminate faces of the “New Paradigm”, and highlights the fundamental conflict that arises with its ambition. The paper relates these insights to the patterns of selective borrowing identified in other studies, arguing that the comparative community must not only mobilize in collective critique, but also work positively to rearticulate the relationship between international comparisons and contemporary policymaking. Finally, it argues that any such relationship must begin with improved theorization within the field, rather than be led by the external demands of policymakers.
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Association:
Name: Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference
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http://www.cies.us


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p720284_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Auld, Euan. "Knowledge Brokers, Naysayers, and the Quest for ‘What Works’: exploring the role of international comparisons in education policy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p720284_index.html>

APA Citation:

Auld, E. "Knowledge Brokers, Naysayers, and the Quest for ‘What Works’: exploring the role of international comparisons in education policy" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Comparative and International Education Society Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada <Not Available>. 2014-12-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p720284_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: Education reform is increasingly portrayed as an evidence-based process, premised on the identification and transfer of the key features of ‘high performing’ school systems. An influential intermediary network has emerged in response to this trend, using international datasets to identify and promote ‘what works’. Although advocates have portrayed the approach as a “New Paradigm”, extensive critique has argued that its claims to novelty are suspect. These critiques, however, have tended to focus on its deviation from the purported norms of ‘academic’ comparative education. The result has been an absence of meaningful engagement. This paper explores how the “New Paradigm” operates, identifying its inherent features and how it overcomes critical methodological issues. The analysis initially explores the rationale; assumptions; ideology; methodology; omissions and silences; rhetorical strategies; and language and presentation of four of its influential publications. The analysis then surveys a broader range of texts, examining how the complexity inherent in such comparisons is reconciled with the straightforward explanations required by the “New Paradigm”. This stage provides more nuanced insight into the varied and indeterminate faces of the “New Paradigm”, and highlights the fundamental conflict that arises with its ambition. The paper relates these insights to the patterns of selective borrowing identified in other studies, arguing that the comparative community must not only mobilize in collective critique, but also work positively to rearticulate the relationship between international comparisons and contemporary policymaking. Finally, it argues that any such relationship must begin with improved theorization within the field, rather than be led by the external demands of policymakers.


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