A success story? Portugal and the PISA (2000-2015)


Major international studies, such as TIMSS, PISA, PIRLS or TALIS, have become these days one of the main governance technologies in the fields of education and training. In this set of studies, PISA is, surely, the one which exerts the greatest influence on political decision-makers, school administrators or the media. There is a vast international critical literature (e.g. Carnoy 2015; Komatsu & Rappleye 2017; Meyer & Benavot 2013; Pereyra, Kottoff & Cohen 2011) that has questioned this dimension of ‘global governance’. The works on Portugal’s participation in these studies, in particular PISA, are few and very restrict in their approaches (e.g. KNOWNandPOL project; CNE 2010, 2013).

Portugal has participated in PISA since its first cycle in 2000. This being a country of the European (semi)periphery which made a very belated expansion of mass schooling (Teodoro 2001), Portugal presented in all the cycles it participated up to 2012 results that fell below OECD average. In 2015, the results surpassed this average in the three domains analysed (Science, Mathematics and Reading) and Portugal is then presented by the OECD as a ‘success case’ in the context of the European (and developed) countries, with a consistent rise since 2006 (OECD 2016).

The research project analyses all cycles of Portugal’s participation in PISA (and, secondarily, in other international studies in which the country participated), comparing the processes adopted in data collection. Still, the core problem very directly formulated is: what are the implicit and explicit implications of Portugal’s participation in PISA; or, put differently, how have the different national players (policy-makers, school administrators, teachers and their unions, parents’ associations, media) appropriated the process and included the results of that participation in discourses, public policies and professional practices?

Research project funded by FCT – Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (PTDC/CED-EDG/30084/2017)