The rise of the PISA standards has taken the educational world by storm, with intense media attention and debate every time they are published. Over the past two decades, they have been gaining an increasing role in shaping educational systems and policies across the world, gaining a ‘canonical status’ among member countries, and becoming a global ‘benchmarker of standards’ (Rinne, 2008). We believe, however, that the transformation of educational systems according to comparative standards based on a universal, standardised test measuring a narrow range of cognitive abilities across cultures and contexts, is problematic in various ways.

The Santander Declaration
We are therefore arguing for a different kind of education than the one emerging from the PISA standards process. We are for a more humanistic, inclusive, democratic, equitable, and holistic education for our children and young people. One which is culturally responsive and addresses the diversity of learners’ needs. One which puts back the school community, including students, staff and parents, at the centre of the educational process, allowing it to adapt teaching and learning according to its needs and particular context. One which moves away from a market economy type of education to a holistic model addressing the physical, social, emotional, spiritual and artistic development of the learners. One which promotes growth and wellbeing and solidarity and collaboration rather than competition, testing, and stress. This vision of education is captured in the declaration which we drafted together in Santander, Cantabria, Spain in April 2014, and which we believe would help to protect our children and young people from the possible dangers emanating from the culture being propagated by the PISA Standards. The following statement is here referred to as the Santander Declaration.

We believe that:

Every child and young person has the right to a balanced, meaningful, holistic, creative and arts-rich education.

In order to advance the above, we commit ourselves to promote the following:

  1. That schools and early years settings provide a learning environment where academic, social andemotional education competences are in creative balance;
  2. That schools and early years settings operate as learning and caring communities in which all students,teachers and parents have the opportunity to experience sustainability and wellbeing;
  3. That educational and learning contexts consciously seek to strengthen students’ connectedness withthemselves, others and the environment;
  4. That social and emotional education be embedded in all initial teacher education and that practicingteachers and educators can access on-going professional education and support to continuouslydevelop their relational and emotional competences;
  5. That schools and early years settings have the autonomy and agency to determine their educational andsocial agenda according to their own respective cultures and contexts.