Standardizing Competences and the Ideology of Assessment

On Dissociated Knowledge and Dispossessed Actors in EU Language Education Policy


  • Aline Gohard-Radenkovic University of Fribourg


ideology of evaluation, Council of Europe, dissociated knowledge, dispossessed actors, assessment systems


The following article addresses the issue of evaluation, and more specifically the “ideology of evaluation,” as it affects all sectors of society through standardization. This article will first recount the true story of a foreign student, a scholarship holder in the Swiss Confederation, whose assessed language level decreases over the course of a series of successive tests, with conflicting results from diverse institutions. His status thus changes from an evaluated student to a devaluated one. I will then enumerate the evaluation procedures claiming to be “self-assessments” in this context, mainly designed in the form of “grids” that organize the rhetoric and products of the Council of Europe (specifically the Common European Framework of Reference, or CEFR, and the European Language Portfolio or ELP). I will attempt to highlight their limitations, recognizing social and intercultural competences. Finally, I will evaluate the consequences of this systemic phenomenon of evaluation for and among the diverse actors of the institutional landscape. Throughout, I will try to identify the abuses of the assessment system as a whole, which not only dominates institutional discourse, but also controls and even supplants teaching and other institutional practices, to the point of dispossessing the actors concerned and the main evaluation bodies responsible for promoting language learning.