A network, a family, a playground: An analysis of ILSA contractors’ history, rationales and market dynamics

3.00 pm—4.30 pm (CET), Wednesday 7 December 2022.
Online (Zoom) – Register here.

Download poster (PDF, 3.4mb)

This is the very first presentation to critically analyse International Large-Scale Assessments (ILSA) contractors and contracting. ILSA contractors have remained invisible despite profoundly shaping ILSAs and ILSAs being scrutinised extensively in academia.

The presentation is three-part, each part dedicated to a question:

  • How did ILSA contracting emerge and evolve?;
  • Why are contractors keen to develop ILSAs when they appear to make no financial gains?; and
  • What are the dynamics of the ILSA contracting market?

The aim is to understand how ILSA contractors and contracting shape ILSAs and feed into the growth of ILSAs and their prominence in the global education agenda.

The presentation draws on 35 interviews with staff at the OECD, IEA and ILSA contractors, document analysis (of ILSA Technical Reports), and extensive Internet searches. It uses theories of policy borrowing and lending, business studies, and path dependency.

The presentation shows how government interests, emotional bonds, and personal struggles determined the earliest ILSA contracts; and how emotional bonds and capitals developed by the first contractors continue to shape ILSA contracting today. The presentation identifies contractor rationales on an organisational level that relate to developing improved or new products and processes, gaining access to networks, managing human capital, and creating direct business opportunities. It adds individual rationales, whereby contractors are driven by professional opportunities, lifestyles, and emotional bonds.

Finally, the presentation seeks to understand a market of big contractors, poor competition, highly specialised assessment services, and a client constituted by international organisations, global experts and governments who struggle to reach consensus. Together, the three parts suggest the history, rationales, and current dynamics of ILSA contracting limit the potential for educational assessment to transform education.


Camilla Addey

Camilla Addey (Presenter)

Camilla Addey is a Marie Curie Fellow at GEPS – the Globalisation, Education and Social Policies – research centre at the Department of Sociology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Spain. Formerly, Camilla was a Lecturer in Comparative and International Education at Teachers College, Columbia University (USA), and a researcher at Humboldt University in Berlin (Germany). She has published in Comparative Education; Globalization, Societies and Education; Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education; Critical Studies in Education; and Assessment in Education: Principles, Policy and Practice.

Antoni Verger (Respondent)

Antoni Verger is Professor of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona and Research Fellow at the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA). His research examines the relationship between global governance institutions and education policy – i.e. how education policies are internationally disseminated and enacted in different institutional settings, and what effects this has on education quality and equity. In recent years, he has specialized in the study of public-private partnerships, and school autonomy and accountability policies in education. He is one of the lead editors of the World Yearbook of Education and the Journal of Education Policy. 

Mary Hamilton

Mary Hamilton (Chair)

Mary Hamilton is Professor Emerita of Adult Learning and Literacy at Lancaster University,

UK. She is a founding member of the Lancaster Literacy Research Centre and the Research and Practice in Adult Literacy group. Her research focuses on literacy policy and governance, academic literacies, digital technologies and change, using concepts from science and technology studies.