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Seminar: Time to rethink how we assess Swedish education?


Today, education at all levels is governed by evaluations and benchmarking. Assessments by international bodies, the Swedish Higher Education Authority and global ranking systems provide the evidence for policy makers and administrators.

Thomas S Popkewitz

An upcoming seminar presented by guest professor Thomas S. Popkewitz, currently at Malmö University, will delve into the issues when presenting his lecture, The promise of empirical evidence and benchmarks: the Lorelei's Whispers. Both staff and students are welcome to register for the event which will take place on October 17.

Statistics quoted as scientific evidence, reveal the supposed reality about how Swedish research and education is performing and how it can be improved. But does this evidence, which governs organisations, research and education, reveal the truth?

Thomas S. Popkewitz is a Professor at the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has investigated the lure of using such evidence to control and understand the education system. What does it do to our perception of education, learning, teachers and students?

His work has including co-writing a report for the Swedish Science Foundation, which reviewed the analysis of these assessments; — PISA (the Programme for International Student Assessment) being the most significant.

Thomas S Popkewitz

“Using empirical evidence and benchmarks for improving education is akin to Lorelei siren song beckoning sailors to their impending fate.  It is daunting and enticing; leading policy makers and researchers to find scientific knowledge for formulating models for future success.

“These agencies have a particular way of using numbers, as a way of telling the truth about who you are, who I am, and who we are not, which becomes comparative. Sweden comes out of these things as a country that is in great trouble, but it’s not.

“This exploration is to think about the boundaries to school change and the practices of social inclusion and exclusion in the international performance assessments.  The questions detail the conditions in which the international assessments are made intelligible for policy and research policy and not their internal rigour.”

Part of the discussion will relate to research sponsored by Vetenskapsrådet.

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Amanda Malmquist