Governing Autonomy: from Curricular Policies to Quality Assurance and Student Assessments

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This is the executive summary of our research report. The Report focuses on how measurement and evaluation gradually became important issues on the Hungarian educational policy agenda. It summarizes the findings of the research conducted between September 2007 and July 2009.

The Report starts with discussings the debates that evolved around the National Core Curriculum in the 1990ies, since this was at the time one of the most debated topics on the educational agenda. Later it gradually lost importance and the discursive space became “filled” by notions such as educational quality, and finally educational measurement. The Report presents the origins of the contemporary knowledge regime of measuring education and its scientific traditions and it also introduces the two major scientific communities that became influential in conceptualizing the political use of educational measurement in Hungary since the second half of the 1960ies. The main knowledge producers and knowledge brokers in the field who contributed to the development of the Hungarian measurement policies in the last decade are also presented. The emergence of the concept of “quality” and the way it became a widely used tool by decision makers to tackle the problems of governing the decentralized system is also analysed. A model of soft quality assurance, the Comenius Model program is discussed with a special focus on the proliferation of experts and advisors whose task was to take quality assurance know how to schools. This model program was a central element in the educational policy of the government in office between 1998 and 2002. However, eventually this form of institutional quality development remained only a “second best” regulation tool, and the student assessment system has gradually gained more importance. Various expectations expressed by the next government, first and foremost the creation of a system of institutional accountability, indicated a turn to this tool. Therefore, the evolution of the Assessment of Basic Competences (ABC) is also presented in the Report. The main conceptual dividing lines within the scientific schools and actors who contributed to the fabrication of the ABC are analysed. Several signs of the blurring of the boundaries between “the political” and “the scientific” field in the process of the creation of the assessment system are also presented, and it is argued that the fabrication of the ABC was a process of “bricolage”.

The fabrication of the ABC and further elements of a system of “quality management” took place in multiple scenes: in scientific workshops, ministry maintained research and development institutions, in supra-ministerial and ministerial scenes as well as consultative bodies. With the analysis of the Round Table for Education and Child Opportunities the prevailing, emerging and ignored discourses in the field are discussed. This Round Table is critical in terms of the emergence of a comprehensive vision that reinterprets measurement and evaluation as a system of accountability inspired by the logic of economics.

As a conclusion, the Report states that throughout the last 15-20 years, the discourses on monitoring and regulating educational institutions have fundamentally changed both in terms of the enacted knowledge regimes that legitimize the knowledge construction in education policy and in terms of the type of actors who can contribute to this process of knowledge construction.


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