Transnational governance is a particularly productive field for the study of the role of numbers as tools in governing societies. The role of numerical technologies is twofold. On one hand, International Organizations set up ambitious and seemingly unachievable goals, thus creating a vision of an unknown utopian future that can only be mastered through the production of knowledge. On the other, it is precisely the construction of a governable, manageable world that paradoxically, or inevitably, leads to production of non-knowledge: in such a world, actors that participate in its making, must be selective and actively and purposefully ignore inconvenient data, or, as this chapter illustrates, systematically disregard the development of some measurement tools versus others. Indeed, the rise of a global metrological field rests precisely upon the making and un-making of new political problems that become technicized, institutionalized and eventually legitimized as gaps in search of new, relevant knowledge for action.
This chapter will not examine the full assemblage of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) education data-production machine; instead it will focus on the ‘Reviews of National Policies for Education’, in an attempt to show that the OECD’s both quantitative and qualitative work are mutually reinforcing and dependent. It will show that the OECD’s technocratic legitimacy is only possible through a great amount of local, national, face-to-face and deeply contextual work, in order to maintain the reputation of the global knowledge producer and mediator – perhaps more crucially, in order to sustain its role as critical friend. Familiarity here is key, and so is the attention to local political battles and disputes. It is precisely the OECD’s ability to work directly and closely with member states that has allowed it to secure the brand of unequivocal education policy player.