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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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For several decades the educational systems of developed countries have been through deep structural transformations (decentralization / centralization, merchandising, privatization, opening to contracts, development of evaluation strategies and of quality assurance methods, etc.). These are said to be linked to the influence exercised by organizations like the OECD1, the UNESCO2 or the World Bank (Henry et al., 2000; Jakobi, 2009), which at an international level promote “new educational policies” such as decentralization, free choice, or differentiation of the compulsory school (Mons, 2007b). They are also said to be the result of the local and intermediary regulations being better taken into account (Maroy, 2006). Some see this process (that is found in areas other than education) as being the death of traditional State schools which can be described as “compulsory school[s] [which are] founded on a procedural logic and respect for equality, [which are] state-provided, culturally unique, territorially homogeneous and, over the last few years, pedagogically undifferentiated thanks to the progressive disappearance of the alternative routes.” (Mons, 2007b: 8) The State would be losing its educating mission to other actors (local authorities, families, autonomous schools, private funding, etc.), moved by the quest for manifold interests. In England, for example, several research works mention how private interests are increasingly taken into account in the working out of educational policies (Ball, 2007), leading some inspectors to talk about the privatization of schooling (Green, 2005).

Should this then be seen as the decline of the educating states, which can...

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