Figures and indicators turned into symbols of objectivity and credibility, “and provided opportunities for simplification of the problems of endless competing interpretations in order to provide a basis for action” (Grek et al., 2013, in Ozga, 2014, p.22). According to Carvalho (in Ozga, 2014, p.23), “this simplification removes the need for attention to context” “and its appearance of validity” reinforces comparisons in the government of education. “Comparison frames knowledge-governing relations through establishing three key principles
(i) that regular and systematic assessments are truthful practices for improvement of educational systems;
(ii) that such improvement has to be analyzed in relation to the pace of change of other countries;
(iii) that international comparison of student performances develops the quality of national education systems, while capturing educational complexity and diversity".
Comparative data became a landmark in the education systems' evaluation and the essential criteria for schools' accountability, as if the “magic” of the figures could be enough to turn numbers into evidences, and the evidences into truth, to which media give a huge contribution and have a great responsibility. Therefore, the numbers play a fundamental role in the discourse of inspectors and administrators, besides parents and the general public, when comparing the students' results in standardized tests, and classifying a school’s improvement as “above/below the expected value”, based on the school’s results in national exams. The school administrators' discourse becomes familiar to the school agents, but less and less accessible to external partners.
It must be underlined the inspectorates' effort that has been made towards a common written discourse, more descriptive than judgemental, following common criteria and methodology. However it seems that the accountability practices have contributed for the introduction of an academic jargon that may allow comparisons at a surface level, though very often the complexity of the discourse may reduce the real meaning of data describing students' learning and the extent of schools' improvement. The technicalities of the method are excluding an effective participation of stakeholders and partners in the analysis of a codified discourse, which needs to be made readable and meaningful to all, including the school professionals.