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Mapping and theorising the global International Large-Scale Assessment industry


In the last two decades, education policy, practice and research have been transformed by the appearance and growing influence of International Large-Scale Assessments (ILSAs), which are standardized tests administered by International Organizations (IOs) all around the world. The outsourcing of the development and implementation of ILSAs from International Organizations to private companies has created a global ILSA industry. But how does the global ILSA industry operate and how does it shape ILSAs?

Over the last two decades, a small, well-established group of private companies have come to control the global ILSA industry, even as ILSAs expand in scope and reach. Although scholars have extensively studied how ILSAs have impacted on education, the global ILSA industry has not been addressed by scholarship possibly due to its recent emergence and the high levels of access that are necessary.

Drawing on global education policy scholarship on privatization, Critical Data Studies, and Business Studies, and applying a network ethnography approach, this research project aims to: 1) map the global ILSA industry by identifying the actors to whom ILSAs are outsourced; 2) to theorize how the global ILSA industry emerged, stabilised and operates - particularly focusing on the global ILSA industry institutions and relationships, the network functioning, forms of agency, and power practices; 3) to investigate how ILSAs are shaped by the practices, values, profit interests and power dynamics of the private sector. Ultimately, this analysis seeks to challenge unfair practices that have been normalized over the past two decades and aims to make all those developing education accountability infrastructures also accountable and their practices more transparent.
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Campus De La Uab Bellaterra
08193 Cerdanyola Barcelona


Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 160 932,48

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 835479


Grant agreement signed

  • Start date

    1 December 2019

  • End date

    30 November 2021

Funded under:


  • Overall budget:

    € 160 932,48

  • EU contribution

    € 160 932,48

Coordinated by: