In recent decades, several Latin American countries have implemented national standardized tests to assess student learning. Yet, this implementation has been accompanied by a cross-national variance of the policy purposes of the tests and their degree of legitimation. For instance, in Chile, the national assessment is a pillar of the educational system. In Colombia, although well established, this test is just a school reputation-building instrument with limited use in the policymaking, and even less utility as a tool to provide sanctions or incentives to schools. Finally, in Argentina, the accountability purpose of the recently created evaluation system has been consistently rejected and diluted. Why and how the global expansion of national educational assessment varies across countries that come from similar education system traditions? My study seeks to answer this question by identifying the mechanisms by which national tests are adopted in three countries, and the way in which assessment policy ideas have been translated into different instruments across these nations.
World culture theory suggests that international organizations have disseminated the “need” to test, by coercive and normative means such as conditional aid or technical assistance. Although this kind of policy transfer actually occurs, this approach poses risks of overstating policy convergence across countries. Indeed, world culture theory pays little attention to the domestic path-dependent logic that a foreign prescription must face, once it arrives at a specific country. Existing national arrangements on evaluation and education traditions prov...
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...s restrained the political use of this assessment. Finally, Argentina did not have any tradition of testing, and similar to Colombia, the NPM reforms introduced in the context of a democratic government faced the consistent opposition of the teacher union exhausting the legitimacy of the tests.
This study challenges the world culture theory’s description of ‘taken-for-granted’ global ideas. In doing so, my research joins the purpose of comparative education scholars studying local enactments of world-level phenomena. The study also provides a systematic account for the role of path dependent logics and their derived domestic actors, interests and power relations in the translation of global ideas. In this way, my paper collaborates to advance the understanding of the role of domestic power constellations and policy conflicts in the globalization of education policy.
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