PISA, international comparisons, epistemic paradoxes


  • David Scott Institute of Education, University of London

Palabras clave:

PISA, international comparisons, Knowledge, epistemology, discourse, performativity.


This paper critically analyze the forms of knowledge that are tested in PISA from a critical realist
perspective. After a initial and fundamental differentiation between two forms of knowledge,
unmasks false beliefs or assumptions about the characteristic features of these two forms of
knowledge and about the problematic relationship between knowledge and its assessment. The
relationship between knowledge and its assessment is further aggravated by various ‘examination
technologies’ such as whether an incentive is attached to the taking of the test, the students’
motivation to take the test and the test format, which might favour some groups in comparison
with others. International comparative student assessments (like PISA) face the additional
difficulty of trying to construct curriculum-free tests underpinning the idea of a universal form of
knowledge. This notion makes a number of reductionist assumptions and does not account properly
for cultural differences which might affect test performance in several ways. The final criticism is
directed at the way PISA results are published in comparative national tables thereby putting
emphasis on position rather than score.