Unsustainable measures? Assessing global competence in PISA 2018





PISA, sustainability, survey encounters, global competence, science and technology studies, international large-scale assessments


In the context of rising fundamentalism, urgent threats to the environment, and the persistence of poverty and deep inequities in the world, 193 nations have pledged to work towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) crafted by UNESCO in 2015. Education is seen as key to attaining all the other SDGs. Within the ‘education goal’ (Goal #4), there is an explicit target, SDG 4.7, which focuses on ‘sustainable development and global citizenship’. Nations are expected to incorporate a focus on SDG 4.7 into their curricula, policies, teacher education programs, and student assessment. PISA has now developed an assessment of ‘global competence,’ which is presented as a way to assess SDG 4.7. Through this assessment, it seeks to inform policy, curricula, and pedagogies and catalogue ‘best practices’ for developing students’ ‘global competence’. Given this ambition and the centrality of ‘sustainable development and global citizenship’ within the globally endorsed SDGs, it is important to analyze the extent to which the PISA assessment of global competence is usefully able to inform policy and practice and contribute to fulfilling SDG 4.7. We build upon the work of other scholars examining this question, taking a material-semiotic approach inspired by Science and Technology Studies. Empirically, our study is based on documentary analysis, interviews, and ‘survey encounters’ in which we administered a curated part of the assessment to 15-year-olds and followed this exercise with interviews. We explore how the hard-won stability gained around the notion of ‘global competence’ through its inscription into the standardized survey instruments is again threatened when the survey instrument encounters diverse 15-year-olds. The survey encounters provide an opportunity to ‘test the test’, and we conclude that the PISA test of global competence is not as yet in a position to provide useful direction to policy or practice in the promotion of SDG 4.7.


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Author Biographies

Harsha Chandir, Deakin University

Harsha Chandir, PhD., is a research fellow at Deakin University. Her areas of research include international large-scale assessments, education policy and curriculum design.

Radhika Gorur, Deakin University

Radhika Gorur, PhD, is an Associate Professor at Deakin University, and a Director of the Laboratory of International Assessment Studies. Currently, with a grant from the Australian Research Council, she is researching the role of global policy networks and the new accountability practices in the Indo-Pacific, with an empirical focus on Cambodia and India to develop principles for sustainable, participatory accountability practices.

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How to Cite

Chandir, H., & Gorur, R. (2021). Unsustainable measures? Assessing global competence in PISA 2018. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 29(August - December), 122. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.29.4716



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