Dire Straits-Education Reforms: Ideology, Vested Interests and Evidence - cover image


Montserrat Gomendio; José Ignacio Wert;

Published On





  • English

Print Length

362 pages (xviii+344)


Paperback156 x 25 x 234 mm(6.14" x 0.98" x 9.21")
Hardback156 x 28 x 234 mm(6.14" x 1.1" x 9.21")


Paperback511g (18.02oz)
Hardback688g (24.27oz)

OCLC Number





  • JN
  • JNF
  • JNK
  • VSK


  • EDU034000
  • EDU014000
  • EDU040000


  • LB2806.23


  • educational emergency
  • education reforms
  • education policies
  • comparison
  • policies around the world

Dire Straits-Education Reforms

Ideology, Vested Interests and Evidence

  • Montserrat Gomendio (author)
  • José Ignacio Wert (author)
Responding to an ‘educational emergency’ generated largely by the difficulties of implementing education reforms, this book compares education policies around the world in order to understand what works where.

To address the key question of why education reforms are so difficult, the authors take into account a broad range of relevant factors, such as governance, ideology, and stakeholder conflicts of interest, and their interactions with one another.

Drawing on their experiences as policymakers in the Spanish government and as governmental advisors worldwide, Montserrat Gomendio and Jose Ignacio Wert produce a publication like no other, shifting the usual Eurocentric narrative and shedding light on frequently overlooked educational policies from elsewhere. In this context, they dive deeper into details of educational failures and successes, the processes of implementation and investment priorities in different countries. They provide revealing accounts of stakeholder conflicts of interest and the challenges of implementing educational reform during a financial crisis.

The authors also investigate why the evidence from international large-scale assessments (ILSAs) has, contrary to expectation, not generated improvements in most education systems. Gomendio and Wert investigate the evolution of different education systems, closely examining their advances or declines. Gomendio and Wert’s expert voices illuminate the current state of global education systems and the necessary changes to ensure long-awaited improvements. This is a revelatory and informative resource for policymakers, teachers and academics alike.


This is the first comprehensive examination of OECD’s PISA surveys and policy recommendations by insiders that go beyond the ideological battles and mainstream narratives of ‘what works’ to improve our failing education systems. The book is extremely well argued and substantiated with a vast amount of evidence and, without a doubt, will be a critical source for those concerned about the present and future status of education systems not only of the OECD countries but also low-income countries.

Susanne Wiborg

UCL Institute of Education, University College London


From my own experience as an educational scholar in Malaysia, I suspect that many of the book’s insights will resonate with, as well as challenge and surprise interested readers. The book is an engaging read, achieving that oft-elusive balance between (academic) rigour and accessibility. [...] I felt that I benefited most from Chapter 3, on the governance of education systems, where the authors’ close analysis of governance arrangements—the distribution of power and responsibilities between levels of government, financial incentives, etc.—was eye-opening and incisive. In particular, I appreciated the authors’ nuanced intervention in the centralising vs. decentralising education debate, which will no doubt be of interest to many. [...] Chapter 6 then allows the reader to view the task of reform through the prism of front-line policymaking. While framed as the authors’ personal anecdote, this chapter nonetheless vividly illustrates the complex interplay between politics and policy, including the roles of political parties, the media and PISA. It is a sobering account of the political realities of education reform, conflicts of (vested) interests, and the questionable role of non-state actors like PISA.[...] Dire Straits deserves a wide readership, particularly with educationists outside academia, and is essential reading for university courses in comparative education and education policy.

Ngee Derk Tiong

Educational Review, 2023. doi:10.1080/00131911.2023.2252704

Full Review

Additional Resources

[blog]Dire Straits-Education Reforms: Ideology, Vested Interests and Evidence

A blog post by authors Montserrat Gomendio and José Ignacio Wert on the book 'Dire Straits-Education Reforms: Ideology, Vested Interests and Evidence'

[article]PISA: Mission Failure

With so much evidence from student testing, why do education systems continue to struggle? Read this article by author Montse Gomendio



(pp. xi–xviii)
  • Montserrat Gomendio
  • José Ignacio Wert
  • Montserrat Gomendio
  • José Ignacio Wert
  • Montserrat Gomendio
  • José Ignacio Wert
  • Montserrat Gomendio
  • José Ignacio Wert
  • Montserrat Gomendio
  • José Ignacio Wert
  • Montserrat Gomendio
  • José Ignacio Wert