This report focuses on the Programme for the International Assessment of Adult Competencies (PIACC) to exemplify how standard setting in adult learning influences the public debate – through the highest circulating newspapers, which inform policy in selected European countries.
Standard setting is seen as the process involved in the establishment of common rules for states, which implies: 1) normative action (or the entitling of some actions as good, desirable, or permissible), that is never value-free; and 2) the agreement on common goals to be pursued through normative action. Moreover, this report acknowledges the growing use of social indicators and benchmarks for monitoring progress in adult learning.
On this basis, we claim that both the data generated through PIAAC and the ‘implicit’ benchmarking of Level 3 in adults’ literacy, numeracy and problem-solving skills that come with it, contribute to standard setting in adult learning within the European Union. Despite this, too little is known about how PIAAC influences the public debate through national media.
Hence this report presents the methodology applied to, and the results of, a coverage and content media analysis performed on a total of 116 news articles, published between 2012 and 2019 (July) in Estonia, Denmark, Italy, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom.
The results highlight that the national press presents and represents the PIAAC Survey very differently, and connects PIAAC data to other subject matters across, as much as within, countries. Such differences connect to the wider context of reference at the time of publication (i.e., the government in power, the socio-economic situation, and on-going or foreseeable education and labour markets reforms) but also to the typology of Welfare State Regimes – as developed by Roosmaa and Saar (2017), to which each country belongs. Regardless of such differences since 2014 the weight of PIAAC as a subject matter has gradually decreased, while reference to PIAAC data by the press has persisted and has acquired political, ideological, and ontological functions.