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From Measuring the World to Measuring Education. Departures from Daniel Kehlmann’s novel to a consideration of efficiency, privacy, transparency and control

Fri, March 13, 8:00 to 9:30am, Washington Hilton, Floor: Concourse Level, Lincoln West


Daniel Kehlmann's celebrated novel, Die Vermessung der Weldt - Measuring the World, (2005) gives a fictional account of the lives of Alexander von Humboldt and Carl Friedrich Gauss, two seminal figures of the Enlightenment. Each was preoccupied with measuring the world his own way. Inspired by their insights, at least as related in the novel, this paper explores the contemporary landscape of measuring education to critique its assumptions and anticipate its detours and omissions.
Comparative international education statistics have come far since the International Bureau of Education started providing broadly comparative annual education information in 1926 and the social reporting movement of the 1960s gave impetus to social indicators and the early International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) studies. The international comparative assessment studies of the 1990s, which emerged after the Jomtien Conference on Education For All in 1990, included, among others, the IEA Reading Literacy Study, PASEC and SACMEC, the OECD’s TIMMS, and PIRLS. All have helped to focus policy attention more closely on quality in education systems, albeit mostly through the proxy lens of mathematics and reading. PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment), which was first published in 2000, broadened this focus more to look at mathematics, science, reading and readiness for life. After the World Education Forum in 2000 in Dakar, the Global Monitoring Reports on EFA, as well as citizen’s initiatives to own information such as ASER and UWEZO, continue to show the potential of information to drive and shape policy.
How do we weigh the cost and the opportunity cost, the certainty and purpose, the local relevance and the comparative value of these endeavours?