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School Evaluation Policies and Educating States

Trends in Four European Countries


Hélène Buisson-Fenet and Xavier Pons

Are we witnessing the decline of state involvement in education or is it being reshaped, and if so how? Surprisingly, this question has received little attention from researchers in education studies, sociology and political science.
This book aims to fill this gap by exploring school evaluation policies in four European countries: England, France, Scotland and Switzerland. It shows that the same policy tool – promoted in many European and international arenas concerned with good practice in educational governance – can actually give rise in each system to a variety of policy configurations in which forms of state control can differ. Written from a policy sociology perspective, the book aims to go beyond the decline/permanence dichotomy and proposes a specific conceptual framework within which to consider both contextualised forms of state intervention and their potential similarities and combinations. By doing this, the authors not only aim to counterbalance or supplement dominant views on the Europeanisation and transnationalisation of education policies but also to imagine new possibilities for state policy analysis.
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Chapter 8 Towards Figures of Educating States


Chapter 8

Towards Figures of Educating States

This last chapter aims to deepen the analysis of the institutional dimension of policy configurations that we studied and examine through them contemporary forms taken by educating States themselves. In the educational research area, many studies on the evolution of modes of institutional regulation of European education systems have put forward over the past three decades the existence of a form of government in particular towards which many countries converge more or less rapidly and intensely: the evaluative state. If they allow a better understanding on the regulatory changes processing and create effectively a new space for questioning, these works also raise some problems, about the issue of the evaluative state itself. They often rely on definitions that are heavily inspired by a particular example (usually English), which are not always relevant and operating from one context to another and thus tend to include under the term strong contrasting realities. The risk is that this notion of evaluative state, generic actually, becomes finally an obstacle to a more detailed understanding of the on-going processes of recomposition of the states.

That is why, after having presented the main conceptualizations of the evaluative state developed in comparative research in education and their limits, we propose a synthesis of policy configurations in three countries covered by our survey (England, France and Switzerland) to show that the implementation of a single regulatory instrument (external evaluation of schools) can give rise to...

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