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In Event: International large-scale assessments meeting educational policy-making in a restructuring Nordic welfare state.
There are two starting points in this paper. The first is theoretical and refers to science-technology studies (STS) on knowledge in a changing society. The second starting point is the evolution of international comparative education. We are here using Sweden as a case – and more specially the post-WW2 evolution of international large scale assessments.
Studies in science and technology (such as Gibbons et al, 1994; Nowotny et al, 2001) deal with changing dynamics in the interplay between science and society. This interplay is taking place at an agora, a term derived from the square in ancient Greece where meetings are held and where merchandise is handled, symbolizing science in context of society. These researchers argue that this meeting-place is changing with the entrance into a Knowledge Society, the borders between science and society are increasingly blurred and that linear and unidirectional relations from science to society are no longer valid. Here, we do not deal with the holistic conceptions of the science-society relations and the somewhat normative conclusions referring to sustainable knowledge in a “mode-2” society (see also Rip, 2010). Instead, we regard central concepts such as agora, coproduction science-society and contextualization of science as productive in doing empirical analyses of the dynamics of science-society relations in education discourses.
Here, the case of international comparative studies is analysed as an agora. We are using different entries – documentations from research developments, production of books on comparative education, policy documents and self-biographies. This approach is reasonable given previous studies on comparative education as a field (Manzon, 2011) with changing paradigms (Paulston, 2001) and epistemologies (Epstein, 2014) as well as in terms of knowledge politics (Lindblad, Pettersson & Popkewitz)
Our analysis – in accordance with our point of departure – present a complex development of international comparative education since the WW2. These findings are best formulated as a set of compound statements:
- Comparative Education research started in Sweden by case comparisons where international understanding was vital to international variable studies (such as ILSA) and driven by international competition in neoliberal contexts.
- Important in the development of ILSA is the development in psychological testing at the universities and in the military services and the international military cooperation in Europe and the US considering personal networking and intellectual approaches.
- Active in the Swedish ILSA operated as state intellectuals and intellectual consultants and experts in supranational organizations such as the World Bank and the OECD crossing borders of global, political and intellectual character.
- ILSA is academic research and translated into supranational research and multinational corporative research serving as the context of application
In sum, we find the evolution of international large-scale assessments as an illustration of the transgression into a knowledge society. But we also note that this transgression is uneven, complicated and non-holistic in character. Thus, we need to analyze agora carefully and the politics of knowledge at work there!