Accountability implications of the OECD’s economistic approach to education: A historical case analysis

  • Christian YdesenEmail author
  • Anna Bomholt


Using Australia as a case, it is the purpose of this article to historically investigate the implications of the OECD’s economistic approach to education in terms of accountability in order to add more clarity and body to the concept of intelligent accountability proposed by the British philosopher Onora O’Neill. Such a historical prism offers the opportunity to illuminate past experiences and debates which can then be used as vehicles for gaining insights into the pitfalls and opportunities in terms of accountability in education. The empirical documents under investigation stems from the OECD archive in Paris as well as the national archives of Australia. The material has been selected from a database of OECD archival documents consisting of some 1908 documents on various programmes and activities in education in the period 1961 to 2015. The search criteria in the database has been that ‘accountability’ and ‘Australia’ should occur in the document which has generated some 165 documents. The article argues that a clear distinction can be drawn between accountability to the local stakeholders with the purpose of creating transparency and best practices in terms of running a school in a community versus accountability for external purposes like measuring the performance level of a nation’s labour force, ranking schools, school districts and/or nations against each other. In this light, the article identifies a need for a ‘co-creation’ approach to the development of accountability practices which can serve to establish a fair balance between input and output focus.


OECD Accountability History of education Australia Economization 



The research and production of this article was made possible by Rector’s Research Talent Development Programme, Aalborg University, Denmark.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Culture and LearningAalborg UniversityAalborgDenmark

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