From accountability to digital data: the rise and rise of educational governance



Watson C (2019) From accountability to digital data: the rise and rise of educational governance. Review of Education, 7 (2), pp. 390-427.

Research interest in educational governance has increased in recent years with the rise to prominence of transnational organisations such as the OECD and the importance attached to international comparison of educational systems. However, rarely do educational researchers consider the historical antecedents that have attended these developments. Yet to more fully appreciate where we are now it is necessary to examine the national and global events that have shaped the current policy context. This paper presents a review of educational governance in the UK from the 1970s seeing in this a trajectory from the emergence of accountability to today’s overriding concern with digital data. In doing this, the paper aims to go beyond providing a historical account, rather its purpose is to shed light on educational change; and further, to analyse the contribution of educational research to an understanding of events as they have unfolded over the past five decades. While it is necessarily rooted within the particular historical context of the UK it can be read as an analysis of the factors influencing educational change in the context of globalised policy spaces more broadly. A recurrent theme is the appearance of the ‘unanticipated consequence’, one of the most important issues the social sciences has to contend with. Thus a tentative theory of ironic reversal as a source of policy failure emerges which is not only of relevance to educational policy but of wider significance.

Review of Education: Volume 7, Issue 2

Publication date30/06/2019
Publication date online07/09/2018
Date accepted by journal28/06/2018

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Professor Cate Watson

Professor Cate Watson

Emeritus Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences