International comparisons have become central to education governance in Europe and globally; however, they are not just a contemporary phenomenon. On the contrary, governing by comparison in education is historically as deep-rooted as the founding of the European nation-states themselves. When it comes to education the earliest modern examples of systematic comparisons of education and learning outcomes are the late 19th century World fairs’ educational exhibitions (Dittrich 2010, Lundahl & Lawn 2014 Sobe & Boven 2014, Lundahl 2016). One important function of international comparisons today as well as from a historical perspective, is to use it for various forms of accountability. Today we often understand accountability as measures, league tables, and formal responsibilities. However, the late 19th century seems to present us with a different view on accountability. In this aspect we are inspired by Ghertner´s (2010, 2011) concept aesthetic governmentality, as well as Simmel’s notion of exhibitions as (crowded) spaces pushing forward a competition of aesthetics ideals (1998). In this paper we will especially focus on what was considered learning outcomes, during the early phase of international comparison that started with the World fairs and national exhibitions such as school museums in late 19th C. For this we use archive material that we have found in our earlier research on World fairs (e.g. Lundahl & Lawn 2014, Landahl 2014). We have also investigated objects displayed at the early 20th C national school museum. For instance we have traced accounts on learning outcomes in the shape of handicraft (sloyd), gymnastics drill exhibits, drawings, pupils writings etc.
Ghertner, A. (2010). Calculating without numers: aesthetic governmentality in Delhi's slums. Economy and Society, 39,2, 185-217.Lundahl, C., & Lawn, M. (2014). The Swedish schoolhouse: a case study in transnational influences in education at the 1870s world fairs. Paedagogica Historica, (ahead-of-print), 1-16.Sobe, N. W., & Boven, D. T. (2014). Nineteenth-Century World’s Fairs as Accountability Systems: Scopic Systems, Audit Practices and Educational Data. Education policy analysis archives, 22, 118.
European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2016), Dublin, Ireland, August 22-26, 2016