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Comparative International Testing of Early Childhood Education: the Democratic Deficit and the Case of Portugal

Dos Santos Sousa, D; Grey, S; Oxley, L; (2019) Comparative International Testing of Early Childhood Education: the Democratic Deficit and the Case of Portugal. Policy Futures in Education , 17 (1) pp. 41-58. 10.1177/1478210318818002. Green open access

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Abstract

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has a key role in driving educational discourse and global educational governance. Its comparative ‘Programme of International School Assessment’ (PISA) has explicitly linked the knowledge and skills of young people with the economic potential of countries. Through the International Early Learning and Child Well-Being Study (IELS), the OECD plans to extend its reach to Early Childhood Education (ECE) by developing metrics to measure ‘quality’ in ECE. This focus gives weight to discourses centred around ideas of ‘what works’. The rhetoric derives from the principles that standards of learning and well-being can be improved by emulating notions of ‘best practice’ identified through comparative data. This article uses the case of Portugal to illustrate the significant disconnect between the aims and pedagogies of ECE and the increasingly influential de-contextualised discourses concerning ranking, performance and outcomes, as espoused by the OECD IELS project. Using evidence from three diverse Portuguese ECE settings, we illustrate how conceptual understandings of democracy in each school closely reflected the individual school philosophies. We discuss how the dampening of localised realities, for example through standardisation and de-contextualisation, could lead to a democratic deficit enabled by discourses which displace the purpose, complexity and subjectivity of ECE policy and practice.

Type: Article
Title: Comparative International Testing of Early Childhood Education: the Democratic Deficit and the Case of Portugal
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/1478210318818002
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/1478210318818002
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Comparative international testing, OECD, IELS, Portugal, Early Childhood, decontextualisation, democracy in education, democratic deficit.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Learning and Leadership
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10058112
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