Curriculum Standards: Performance and Competence

David Scott


The development and use of standards has become integral to educational practices in Europe, and makes possible certain forms of teaching and learning and excludes others. It works through fixing a particular representation of knowledge in those texts, tools, technologies, protocols, ethical desiderata and norms which constitute the educational practice, and it is increasingly being understood as global or at least extra-national. However, we should be aware of the inherent instability of standards and standards-delivery processes. In this article I examine current curricular forms in European countries by focusing on standards and the different models in use. I then contrast the dominant model (exemplified by the type of knowledge produced of an individual’s or a group’s capacities, i.e. nation, age-cohort or category, by international comparative systems of testing such as the Programme for International Student Assessment – PISA; and by quality assurance mechanisms), with a model that prioritises learning over performance.

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