The Pull of PISA: Uncertainty, Influence, and Ignorance

Sharon Murphy


If participation rates are any indication, the Programme for International Assessment (PISA), sponsored by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is increasing in influence, and the OECD plans for further expansion of the scope of PISA. Following a discussion of some validity issues in relation to PISA, several reasons are postulated for the popularity or “pull” of PISA, among which are: borrowing from other jurisdictions in the face of the uncertainties of globalization, the political leverage nation-states may obtain because they can compare themselves to others both in terms of PISA as well as economically, and the common discourse that surrounds PISA, which is the product of the professionalization of educational assessment. It is argued that the influence of PISA may jeopardize the democratization of education policy insofar as it allows elites to pursue their own agendas with little public input.