A LEVER FOR IMPROVEMENT OR A MAGNET FOR BLAME? PRESS AND POLITICAL RESPONSES TO INTERNATIONAL EDUCATIONAL RANKINGS IN FOUR EU COUNTRIES

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Abstract

Educational performance rankings elicit extensive press coverage and varied political responses. To investigate how the negativity of press coverage was related to the rankings results and political response, we compared the domestic press coverage of two educational rankings (the 2006 editions of the OECD's Progress in Student Achievement (PISA) and the IEA's Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS)) in four European countries (Germany, Finland, France, and Britain). We found negative press coverage in all four countries. Strikingly, Finland had the same percentage of negative articles as Germany, despite much better performance. British politicians received far more personal blame for poor results than their French or German counterparts, but the political response was strongest in Germany and Britain. We discuss our findings in the context of the effects such rankings might be expected to have, and argue that these rankings alone do not provide sufficient levers to improve educational performance.

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