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Evidence and policy in education. Tom Schuller University of Brno May 2011. Aims. Provide overview of OECD experience on evidence/policy interface Illustrate from UK Inquiry into the Future of Lifelong Learning Offer a menu for reflection.

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Evidence and policy in education

Tom Schuller

University of Brno

May 2011


Provide overview of OECD experience on evidence/policy interface

Illustrate from UK Inquiry into the Future of Lifelong Learning

Offer a menu for reflection

“There is nothing a politician likes so little as to be well informed; it makes decision-making so complex and difficult.”

John Maynard Keynes,

The context: a widening lens

  • General questioning of outcome measures at different levels, eg on national economic performance

  • Issue of trust in official statistics, and in the presentation of public policies

  • Massive increase in public access to ‘information’

“ Measuring the size of these wider benefits of learning is an important research priority, where progress requires better measures of people’s characteristics in a range of domains and surveys that follow the same individual over time.”

Stiglitz, Sen and Fitoussi 2009

Measuring Economic Performance and Social Progress, p47

Difference between trust in official statistics and trust in national governments

BE – Belgium; BG – Bulgaria; CZ - Czech Republic; DK – Denmark; DE – Germany; EE – Estonia; EL – Greece; ES - Spain; FR – France; IE – Ireland; IT – Italy; CY - Cyprus; LT – Lithuania; LV – Latvia; LU – Luxembourg; HU – Hungary; MT – Malta; NL - The Netherlands; AT – Austria; PL – Poland; PT – Portugal; RO – Romania; SI – Slovenia; SK – Slovakia; FI – Finland; SE – Sweden; UK - The United Kingdom; HR – Croatia; TR – Turkey.

Lessons from OECD educational R&D reviews

General conclusions :

  • Low levels of investment

  • Low capacity

  • Weak research/policy/practice links

Government expenditure on ERD as a percentage of total (public and private, all levels) expenditure on education

Source : OECD, 2009. Data on ERD are for 2007. Data on expenditure on education are for 2006.

Government expenditure on ERD as a percentage of the public expenditure on R&D

Source : OECD, 2009.

Knowledge networks





School boards

Teacher Orgs


Strengths/weaknesses of each link?

Lessons from OECD educational R&D reviews

General conclusions :

  • Low levels of investment

  • Low capacity

  • Weak research/policy/practice links


  • Balancing the research portfolio

  • Accumulation: building a knowledge base

  • Dissemination and brokerage

  • Capacity-building

Methodologies and capacities

Methodological debate:

Scientific ideal(s) vs. best available

Warfare, mutual invisibility or complementarity

Capacity building:

  • deepening vs. broadening

  • producers and consumers


What forms of capacity are most in need of strengthening?

How and by whom should this be done?

Brokerage agencies


  • Dissemination: publications, internet, presentations

  • Promoting interactivity

  • Legitimating rigour/quality

  • Developing cooperation/trust


Rationales: what are the different functions and of brokerage agencies?

Effectiveness: what are their achievements to date?

Aims of the Inquiry

The overall goal : an authoritative and coherent strategic framework for lifelong learning in the UK:

  • Articulating a broad rationale for public and private investment in lifelong learning;

  • A re-appraisal of the social and cultural value attached to it by policy-makers and the public;

  • Developing new perspectives on policy and practice.

Outline of Inquiry Papers

Expenditure on costs of learning provision (£ billion), 2007-08

Proposed re-balancing of expenditure by 4 life stages

Ten Recommendations

Base lifelong learning policy on a new model of the educational life course, with four key stages (up to 25, 25-50, 50-75, 75+)

Rebalance resources fairly and sensibly across the different life stages

Build a set of learning entitlements

Engineer flexibility: a system of credit and encouraging part-timers

Improve the quality of work

Construct a curriculum framework for citizens’ capabilities

Broaden and strengthen the capacity of the lifelong learning workforce

Revive local responsibility….

…within national frameworks

Make the system intelligent

Recommendation 10

Make the system intelligent

  • State of Learning: 3-yearly stocktake

  • Benchmark with other countries

  • Benefit/cost analyses

  • Experimentation

A ‘systemic’ approach to knowledge management

A focus on how the stakeholders:

  • Generate good quality knowledge and information

  • Share that knowledge and information effectively

  • Work together to improve the knowledge base and its utilisation

HERDIS/Tom Schuller

Engineering a stronger knowledge base(from review of educational research in Hungary)

  • Raising the aspirations of educational researchers, with clearer incentives for performance

  • A clearly focused drive to take forward the training of doctoral students

  • Reform of initial and in-service teacher training to make the profession more capable of absorbing research.

  • Strengthening leadership within the sector.

  • Reform HE management structures to promote a more strategic approach to knowledge management in the sector.

  • More emphasis on experimentation and evaluation

HERDIS/Tom Schuller

The nature of ‘evidence’

  • Precision vs ‘certainty’

  • Measurable now vs what should count

  • Timeframes

  • Political demand: narrative and decision

Future challenges

  • Defining an ‘evaluation culture’

  • Selecting key capacities

  • Building social capital into research strategies

  • Complementarity/accumulation: promoting mixed methods to strengthen the knowledge base

ReferencesEvidence in Education: Linking Research and Policy (CERI/OECD 2007)New Challenges for Educational Research (CERI/OECD 2003)www.lifelonglearninginquiry.org.uk


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