In her doctoral dissertation Íris Santos presents an analysis of the complex dynamics emerging from the interactions between global, national, and local actors in policymaking processes. It more specifically analyses how references to international organisations (such as the OECD), their tools of assessment and guidance (such as PISA), and practices of other countries are used in discussions of education in the Portuguese parliament and in the media.
Santos applies qualitative content analysis, rhetorical analysis, and frame analysis as research methods, and uses the complexity thinking approach as the onto-epistemological background to enable the construction of a theoretical framework composed by several theories to analyse references to international elements (externalisation) in local policymaking processes: the multiple streams approach, the epistemic governance framework and thematisation theory. These theories share an understanding of social systems and the processes within them as complex and non-linear.
The study reached several intertwined conclusions.
“The selection of the international elements used in education policy discussions is influenced by several factors, which are largely context-related. These factors tend to emerge from the national or local socio-logic: externalisations are contingent on national and local historical paths, and on the interactions and selections of political and social actors,” Santos says.
Often these actors struggle to earn enough support for their policy proposals and they face emerging needs for authoritative elements to strengthen their arguments and sustain appeals to the audiences’ reasoning and emotions.
“These appeals – policy and social actors hope – may change the audience’s understandings of the issues being discussed and their decisions regarding these issues,” Santos says.
References to international elements bring such authoritative elements to the discussions, as they can be used as knowledge and evidence claims, allowing the depoliticisation of the themes being discussed. Externalisations to international elements are therefore important tools of (de-)legitimation used in attempts to manage the contingency of the policy process and thus reduce the process’s complexity, with the aim of initiating social change.
M.Ed. Íris Santos is completing her Doctoral studies in a Cotutelle agreement between the Faculty of Education and Culture at Tampere University and Institute of Education at the University of Lisbon under supervision of Jaakko Kauko (University of Tampere), Luís Miguel Carvalho (university of Lisbon) and Vera G. Centeno (University of Tampere). Her jury (University of Lisbon) is composed by emeritus professor Bob Lingard, (University of Queensland), assistant professor Estela Costa (University of Lisbon), assistant professor Sofia Viseu (Lisbon University), associate professor Wieland Wermke (Stockholm University), professor Zsuzsa Millei (Tampere University), and Professor Jaakko Kauko (University of Tampere). The Custos is associate professor Nelli Piattoeva (Tampere University).
The dissertation is available online, and the doctoral defence will take place in the auditorium 109 of the Virta building (Åkerlundinkatu 5, Tampere, Finland) on 17.03.2022 at 12 o’clock. The event can also be followed via remote connection.