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Fabricating Quality in European Education

Funded as part of the 'Eurocores' programme of the European Science Foundation (ESF). This research project consists of linked national projects in Denmark, Finland, the UK (England and Scotland) and Sweden, co-ordinated by CES, that aims to:

(a) develop understanding of quality assurance and evaluation as a form of governance of education at the various national levels in the study, drawing on empirical investigation, theory and current social science approaches to the relationship between evidence, data and governing;

(b) develop new methodological and theoretical approaches to comparative education in Europe, combining perspectives on global policy development and their mediating effects on national and local practices.

Overview

"Governing by Numbers" is the UK (England and Scotland) component of FabQ.

Activities that produce evidence about the performance of education systems in Europe, both nationally and internationally, have been increasing considerably in recent years. Audit, inspection, evaluation and regulation along with decentralisation, devolution and deregulation have become the key principles of the restructuring of education systems in Europe. Indeed, the development of indicators and benchmarking as modes of education governing may contribute to the ‘Europeanisation’ of education. This, then, is a major policy development that requires investigation, both through empirical enquiry and theoretical development.

We aim to:

develop understanding of quality assurance and evaluation as a form of governance of education at school, local, national and trans-national levels, drawing on empirical investigation, theory and current social science approaches to the relationship between evidence, data and governing;

develop new methodological and theoretical approaches to comparative education in Europe, combining perspectives on global policy development and their mediating effects on national and local practices.

Our research methods consist principally of documentary analysis, interviews with policy-makers, examination of specific case studies of data construction and use and a web-based survey of teachers and head-teachers.

We will produce reports on the findings relating to the national cases, three separate reports for the overarching collaborative project, journal articles, conference papers and at least one book. We will also disseminate our research findings to policy makers at all system levels, including to schools as well as to researchers and the broader public.

Research Tasks

The project work falls into four main tasks:

1. Mapping of the data collection and flows (Scotland and England, Sweden, Denmark and Finland): we will do this by (i) reviewing relevant literature and policy texts on the national contexts of quality assurance and evaluation and their trans-national influences on national policy contexts, with particular attention to Europeanization, and (ii) interviews with ‘key’ agents/policy-makers, who play a role in ‘brokering’ this kind of knowledge and data from the international to the national level.

2. Mapping quality assurance and evaluation at a local level: we will do this through (i) case studies of Education Authorities (Scotland) and Local Education Authorities (England) in order to map local quality assurance and evaluation policy and its interaction with the national/trans-national, and school levels.

3. Quality assurance and evaluation and the teaching profession: we will do this through a large scale survey of teachers in the compulsory school system in each national study. The survey will explore how teachers experience the implementation of quality assurance and how it affects teachers and pupils in their school work. The survey will map teachers’ experiences across the different systems, and allow for comparisons both internally and across systems.

4. Developing comparative methodology and theorising educational governance: We will do this through analysis and synthesis of all stages of the work, and through interrogation of key theories of governance, drawn from a variety of disciplines.

Further information

If you would like further information about the work of the project, or if you have worked or are working with education data and would be interested in making a contribution to this research (for example by being interviewed) please get in touch with the project administrator, Carolyn Newton

e-mail: c.newton@ed.ac.uk or phone no: 0131 651 6243

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