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Governance by Comparison – How Ratings & Rankings Impact National Policy-making in Education
How can international comparisons have an impact on one country while others are not affected at all? This paper examines the power of ratings & rakings (R&R) using the example of the OECD’s PISA study (Programme for International Student Assessment) and its differential impact on national education policy making. We argue that R&R have an impact if the evaluated topic is framed as crucial for national objectives and if, at the same time, a substantial gap between national self-perception and the empirical results can be observed. After assessing the media impact of PISA on 22 OECD countries, we illustrate our theoretical argument through the use of examples of two poorly performing countries who demonstrated entirely opposite reactions: Germany and the U.S. While the German system of secondary education was strongly affected by the international comparison and underwent comprehensive changes, the U.S. did not respond to its below-average ranking at all. The theoretical concepts of self-perception and framing offer explanatory power to delineate the different reaction patterns.
No. 139/2010
Kerstin Martens
Dennis Niemann

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