Reshaping the 'nation': education, 'performance data' and policy discourses in Scotland

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


The paper considers the use of 'educational performance data' in policy debates under the SNP devolved government in Scotland. It examines how these policy debates have influenced the governance of education and also in 'nation building' under the SNP administration (Arnott, 2016; 2017; Arnott and Ozga, 2016). Following the publication of the PISA survey in December 2016 the international position of 'educational performance' in schools in Scotland with international comparators attracted considerable political debates. Comparisons with overseas countries and also within the devolved UK from the 2016 PISA survey showed a drop in performance compared to Scotland's performance in previous PISA surveys. Political narratives about 'performance data' in education have been evident in debates about nationhood under the SNP devolved administration. This paper critically examines these political narratives about their role in nation building debates within contemporary politics and the importance of education policy within these debates. The use of education performance in wider political debates about the constitutional future of Scotland is analyzed. The paper examines how the result of UK EU Referendum in June 2016 is influencing policy development in education and considers possible implications for the use of education performance data by the SNP administration. In education policy, the SNP have mobilized political nationalism (self determination) with civic nationalism to shape policy debates by 'inward referencing' traditions stressing 'public nature of schooling' and also 'outward referencing ' especially to selected Nordic comparators. Performance data from major transnational actors such as OECD have been evident also in how the SNP shaped education’s role in economic recovery and progress. The paper explores the ways in which the SNP government has used 'education performance data' and how these have influenced policy narratives about the future governance of Scotland. Embedded national traditions in education such as 'public' nature of education; fairness and 'community' have been mobilized to shape wider nationalist debates about the 'future' position of the nation.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2018
EventEuropean Conference on Educational Research 2018 - Free University Bolzano, Bolzano, Italy
Duration: 4 Sep 20187 Sep 2018


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Educational Research 2018
Abbreviated titleECER 2018
Internet address


  • education
  • nationalism


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