Education Reforms:
The Real Impact of the Evidence from International Surveys

Comparative evidence shows that, with a few exceptions, education systems worldwide remain stagnated, unable to enhance student performance.

Forthcoming LLAKES Research Centre seminar by Dr. Montserrat Gomendio on Education Reforms: The Real Impact of the Evidence from International Surveys. Gomendio investigates why the evidence from international large-scale assessments (ILSAs) has, contrary to expectation, not generated improvements in most education systems.

Gomendio examines the evidence and the policy recommendations from PISA in detail and suggests that perhaps the most solid conclusion is that, beyond a certain threshold, further improvements in investment do not lead to better student outcomes. However, this strong evidence has had no impact whatsoever, since governments have continued to increase levels of investment mainly to reduce class size. Gomendio argues that this is because conflicts of interest with stakeholders are huge, and the evidence does not minimise these political costs.

Another set of variables is strongly context dependent, but the policy advice tends to generalize, making universal policy recommendations that lead to bad outcomes in certain contexts.

Finally, equity is a multidimensional concept that is measured in very different ways. The choice of variables is key, as each of them leads to a different diagnosis of the problem and to different policy recommendations. In these cases, PISA relies on qualitative evidence from “top performers,” and the advice is mostly based on “policy-borrowing” from Nordic countries. This evidence is inconclusive, and the policy recommendations are, in many cases, wrong, leading to poor outcomes in terms of equity.

Gomendio examines in detail the case of Spain, where these difficulties have led to the wrong conclusions about the strengths and weaknesses of the education system and to policy recommendations that have led to poor outcomes in terms of quality and equity. She concludes that, although the evidence provided by PISA is very valuable, it has had a very limited impact in terms of facilitating and guiding education reforms. The main reasons, in Dr. Montserrat Gomendio’s view, are that it is naive to argue that robust data can override political costs, and also that some policy recommendations are misleading.

The seminar takes place on Monday 13th November from 4-6 pm in room 114, Foster Court, Gower street, WC1I6B.

Foster Court can be accessed from Malet Place, opposite the Petrie Museum.

For directions please follow this link.