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Industrial relations in global educational governance

Globalisation
Governance
Knowledge
Tore Bernt Sorensen
University of Bristol
Susan Robertson
University of Cambridge
Tore Bernt Sorensen
University of Bristol
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Abstract

This paper provides a critique of the unfolding relations between state authorities, capital and labour in global education governance. Like in other public policy areas, education has become a subject for global governance over the last decades, raising the issue whether and how civil society and social partners like unions and professional associations are included in decision-making. So far, little research has been produced in this area. The paper focuses on the case of the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). TALIS is coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the survey programme targets teachers and school leaders with questions concerning school leadership, teacher education and professional development, appraisal and feedback, pedagogical beliefs and practices, job satisfaction and self-efficacy. The TALIS programme represents a pinnacle so far in the unprecedented political attention directed towards teachers internationally, and the design and implementation of the programme involved a range of policy actors, including the European Commission and the global teacher union Education International, along with state authorities, research institutions and business interests. TALIS thus reflect a major transformation under way aimed at reframing and rescaling where and how decisions are made around teachers’ work and the nature of the profession more generally. This paper draws on critical realism and the emerging research agenda of critical cultural political economy and is based on an empirical material of documents (reports, policy papers and conclusions, meeting materials, news items, websites) and ten theory-laden qualitative interviews conducted in the period September 2014 – September 2015 with personnel from the OECD Directorate for Education and Skills, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education and Culture, Education International, and business interests. We show that government, labour and capital are all entangled in the expansion of a common space of measurement for the purpose of unifying and administering education systems on a global scale. In particular, we show the distinctive ways the OECD and the European Commission attempt to frame teachers’ work; why and how Education International became engaged in TALIS and thereby legitimated the programme; and that private enterprises and foundations are very active in trying to make business on the basis of TALIS data. Most importantly, our analysis shows that the practical enactment of industrial relations in the TALIS programme are embedded in soft governance mechanisms, not subject to legal regulation and without a third party to be called upon. Due to its strong engagement in TALIS, especially labour as represented by Education International is highly visible in TALIS. Yet, while they have the right to speak there is not any guarantee that that they will be listened to.