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Posted on December 6, by Mervin Teo. This movement has sought to manage more effectively through goals, targets and performance measures, all predetermined and quantifiable. This language of evaluation, what we might term the language of managerial accounting, has benefited from a great deal of investment of brainpower, time and money. It poses great risks for projects like Reggio Emilia. What are the risks? To use an incommensurate language of evaluation like managerial accounting involves measuring predetermined standards and outcomes, decided on by those who are unaware of or uninterested in the singular identity of the pedagogical work in Reggio Emilia or elsewhere.

The speakers of this language of evaluation will apply their own epistemological, philosophical, political and ethical choices to an educational project that has made its own, very different choices. In this process, much of what is so singular and important about that local project will be totally missed; evaluators only seeing what they want to see and what they can see from their perspectival position.

Evaluation understood as a statement of fact can reduce a project to a number; evaluation understood as a judgement of value requires a far more complex, conditional and provisional conclusion. Technical languages of evaluation, like managerial accounting, with their desire for quantification and their belief in objectivity and certainty, can be harmful in other ways. For applying a particular system of externally and predefined categories and classifications to projects with distinct identities, such as Reggio Emilia, does not respect the otherness of the subject of evaluation. For as Gunilla Dahlberg has written,.

To think another, Gunilla continues, whom I cannot grasp is an important shift and it challenges the whole scene of pedagogy. It poses other questions to us pedagogues. Questions such as how the encounter with Otherness, with difference, can take place as responsibly as possible. The IELS follows in the wake of PISA the Programme for International Student Assessment , the well-established comparative assessment of year-olds undertaken by OECD since , and which at the last round of evaluation in included over half a million students in 72 countries.

The first round of IELS is due to begin in , and will involve the testing of samples of children in participating countries, using standardised measures of a range of cognitive, social and emotional skills. The IELS will, in effect, be an evaluation project, evaluating not only children but early childhood education systems in participating countries.

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These concerns have been expressed from New Zealand, where many years work has produced a distinctive early childhood pedagogy. In a recent article, Mathias Urban and I wrote that. This would be to the detriment of 'the Aotearoa New Zealand early childhood sociocultural and bicultural curriculum…[which] has established a set of priorities for teaching and learning that are different from most of the other OECD countries.

But other countries might still join the first round at this late stage, and more may feel impelled to participate in a future second round.

Gunilla Dahlberg Peter Moss

Then the concerns will mount. A second example of the risks of applying an incommensurate language of evaluation is closer to home. Such examples make the need for languages of evaluation that are commensurate with the positions adopted by Reggio Emilia and many other projects as well all the more pressing and essential. Languages that can provide not only more understanding, but that are ethically responsible in their relationship to what is evaluated.

SAGE Books - Practice and provision in Reggio Emilia

But what might those languages of evaluation be? In the chapter that Gunilla and I have written we explore one possible language that we believe would be suited to evaluating the early childhood education in Reggio Emilia and its municipal schools. This might be termed the language of democratic accountability, and one way in which this language can be expressed is through pedagogical documentation. Those others may be children, teachers, other school workers, parents or other citizens. The combination of making the subject of interest visible through materiality and then working to make meaning of that subject, leads first to constructing and deepening understandings; but then, if wanted, can move on to making judgements of value — or evaluations.

They differ greatly in their paradigmatic position, their suppositions and their ways of working, and in particular, in their understanding of what evaluation is.

As I have said, the widespread language of evaluation epitomised by OECD or the economists wants to make statements of fact, expressed in numbers. It treats evaluation as an essentially technical practice, about measuring performance against externally derived standards; it expects to achieve a definitive representation of what is evaluated and to make a categorical statement of fact. By contrast, the language of democratic accountability, working with pedagogical documentation, treats evaluation as a judgement of value and an essentially political and ethical practice.

This involves: understandings constructed and judgements reached in relation to political questions and choices; and relationships of respect for otherness expressed through listening and dialogue. It views evaluation as inherently provisional there is always more to be understood , partial there are always other perspectives, other ways of looking and understanding , and participatory a wide range of people should take part.

Can it, for example, respond to the questions often asked by visitors to Reggio Emilia: what difference does the network of municipal schools make to the city and its citizens? Does the early childhood education leave traces on children as they move into and through compulsory schooling? A commensurate language of evaluation needs to be able to accommodate and work at all of these levels. Similarly, a commensurate language of evaluation needs to be wide-ranging. But the schools have other purposes: for example, being places for democratic practice, for creating culture, and for building solidarities within the community.

A language of evaluation must be able to encompass these and other purposes.