Tore Sorensen presents a paper on OECD TALIS at NERA 2016

Tore Bernt Sorensen – doctoral researcher in Centre for Globalisation, Education & Social Futures, Graduate School of Education, University of Bristol – will present a paper on the role of the state in global education policy at the 44th Congress of the Nordic Educational Research Association (NERA) 2016.

This year’s Congress will take place in Helsinki on 9-11 March, and the papers will focus on the theme: Social Justice, Equality and Solidarity in Education? For more information about NERA 2016, please visit

Tore will present the following paper:

The state in the global educational policy field: Finland, England and the OECD TALIS programme

This paper discusses the changing roles of state authorities in the global educational policy field. The paper compares the engagement of state authorities in Finland and England in relation to the OECD programme Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS), one of the most ambitious efforts so far to launch a global debate on the role of school teachers and leaders in knowledge societies. Finland and England both participated in the second round, TALIS 2013. TALIS is coordinated by the OECD and engages a range of policy actors with overlapping horizons of action, such as the European Commission, teacher unions, private enterprises, and state authorities.

Drawing on critical realism, the paper combines literature review and critical discourse analysis of policy actors’ practical argumentation, on the basis of an empirical material consisting of policy documents and 20 theory-laden realist interviews. The interviews were conducted between September 2014 to September 2015 with policy actors engaged in TALIS. The paper analyses the practical argumentation of Finnish and English state authorities for taking part in TALIS, considering the institutional trajectories of the Finnish and English school systems and the associated roles of state authorities in ensuring notions of social justice and equality. Moreover, the argumentations of Finnish and English state authorities are discussed in relation to those of other policy actors engaging with TALIS.

The paper highlights the complex pluri-scalar nature of the TALIS programme. TALIS contributes to the creation of a common space of measurement for the purpose of unifying and administering education systems on an international scale. However, the diversity of policy actors engaged in TALIS is not easily reconciled with the “one-size-fits-all” human capital theory endorsed by the OECD. In this respect, the practical argumentation of state authorities in Finland and England suggest that they chose to take part in TALIS 2013 for different reasons linked to their domestic school policy contexts. These state authorities insist that participation in programmes like TALIS does not challenge the fundamentally national character of education systems and the associated institutional arrangements for teachers. Yet, the paper argues that this argumentation cannot stand alone. The TALIS debate on teachers is framed by the historical influence of the US government on OECD’s indicator development as well as the strong working partnership between OECD and the European Commission. The discussion of what the thickening of the global educational policy field means for the role of state authorities in education governance should consider such gradual and long-term developments.

Main references:

Fairclough, I. & N. Fairclough (2012). Political Discourse Analysis: A method for advanced students. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Lingard, B., & Rawolle, S. (2011). New scalar politics: Implications for education policy. Comparative Education, 47(4), 489-502.

Nóvoa, A., & Yariv-Mashal, T. (2003). Comparative Research in Education: A Mode of Governance or a Historical Journey? Comparative Education, 39(4), 423-438.


For more details about his research, you can contact Tore directly at:

Tore’s attendance at the conference has been made possible thanks to funding from the University of Bristol Alumni Foundation.