Regulatory frameworks: shifting frameworks, shifting criteria

Baxter, Jacqueline; Grek, Sotiria and Segerholm, Christina (2014). Regulatory frameworks: shifting frameworks, shifting criteria. In: Grek, Sotiria and Lindgren, Joakim eds. Governing by Inspection, Volume 1. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 74–96.



This chapter draws on the idea of ‘an infrastructure of rules’ in order to discuss the regulatory frameworks that guide the work of inspection in the three systems in our study. As we pointed out in our introductory chapter, embodied knowledge risks being ‘dismissed as irrelevant’ (Fourcade 2010: 571-2) unless there is a presence of an infrastructure of rules and conditions of collection and centralised reporting systems that structure personal observations so that they are not dismissed as ‘merely a mass of observations’ (Fourcade 2010). Inspection frameworks are such an infrastructure of rules. They regulate the inspectors’ practice through prescribing what and how information is to be systematically and/or deliberately collected, as well as what type of relation and distance there should be between inspectors and those inspected. The discussion of the inspection frameworks in our three countries also provides a picture of the types of knowledge that are valued and preferred when judging education quality in schools. What has to be measured and assessed, in order for the inspections to be regarded as valid and reliable and in order for the schools to improve? Assumptions about what counts as a solid basis for judging quality in schooling, of what is a reasonable process for supporting improvement, and about what provides resources for the successful governing of schooling, may be highlighted by studying inspection frameworks.

Inspection frameworks may also tell us something about how neo-liberal agendas (see chapter 2) and their pre-occupation with ‘steering the future’ are operationalised in practices requiring a variety of data, information and knowledge, or as Hayek puts it: ‘this planning, whoever does it, will in some measure have to be based on knowledge which, in the first instance, is not given to the planner but to somebody else, which somehow will have to be conveyed to the planner.’ (Hayek 1945: 520). But these projects also need the work of a nation state trying to preserve a balance between the market and the public interest (Wilkinson 2013). This balancing act directed at the future reflects a tension played out in school inspection in the three countries over time, as we illustrate through discussion of the constant change in the frameworks of inspection.

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