«2009/ED/EFA/MRT/PI/32 Background paper prepared for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2009 Overcoming Inequality: why governance matters ...»
Background paper prepared for the
Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2009
Overcoming Inequality: why governance matters
School Monitoring Systems and their Impact on
Anton De Grauwe
This paper was commissioned by the Education for All Global Monitoring Report as
background information to assist in drafting the 2009 report. It has not been edited by the
team. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and should
not be attributed to the EFA Global Monitoring Report or to UNESCO. The papers can be cited with the following reference: “Paper commissioned for the EFA Global Monitoring Report 2009, Overcoming Inequality: why governance matters” For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org International Institute for Educational Planning School Monitoring Systems and their Impact on Disparities Anton De Grauwe This paper was commissioned as a background contribution for UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report 2009.
School monitoring systems and their impact on disparities Introduction Among the many steps taken by Napoleon Bonaparte in his efforts to create a unified French nation, is the setting up of a school supervision system1. Indeed, the first French school inspectors, who were also among the first official inspectors anywhere in the world, started working at the end of the 18th century at the creation of the French public education system (Demailly et al., 1998, p.15). This is not a coincidence: most other countries have been preoccupied, from as soon as the first public schools were created, with the control of what went on in these schools and classrooms through supervision visits. Therefore, the origins of the supervision service can in general be dated back to the creation of the public education system. This is true also for countries who gained their independence during the last half century and who continued working with the same supervision service set up by the colonizing authority.
A number of elements which characterized the monitoring of education systems from the end of the 18th century onwards did not undergo much change until today. Firstly, monitoring remains a key concern; the fact that in almost every country there is a supervision service is proof of this concern. In recent years, the interest in this question has probably grown, as can be seen from the popularity of international achievement tests such as TIMSS and PISA and from reforms in areas such as supervision, on which we will comment. Secondly, the monitoring of the effectiveness of public education systems mainly consists of examining what takes place in schools and in classrooms. There is less interest in how the educational administration itself functions, e.g. through audits or institutional analyses of ministries or regional offices. Thirdly, the main tool in a majority of countries to monitor education continues to be the supervision system. And these services continue to operate in a fairly traditional manner, through school visits and reporting. However, notwithstanding these similarities, several fundamental changes have occurred in recent years, inspired mainly by the conviction that the classical school supervision services have increasingly shown their limits in fulfilling their mandate.
This mandate consists, on the one hand, of exercising effective control over schools and, on the other hand, of improving through a mixture of control and support the quality of schools.
As a result, in many countries a range of reforms have been tried out, which aim at strengthening the present supervision services and/or at developing alternative monitoring tools. This has led to a variety of monitoring systems, which can be organised in different “models” in function of the responses they offer to key strategic questions, which relate to their interpretations of the concepts of accountability and teacher professionalism but also to the attention they give to the issue of disparities.
An overall appreciation of the impact of these different monitoring systems on the achievement of EFA objectives would not only be a very heavy task, but it would be an We use in this text the term « supervision » to refer to the service which has as a mandate to control and/or support teachers and schools through regular visits, and which generally forms part of the Ministry of Education. The term « inspection » which is still used in many countries and in particular in French-speaking ones, has acquired a connotation of a service focussing on control, and will be used as such in this paper.
1S extremely intricate one, because the relationship between a specific monitoring approach and these global objectives is very indirect and is mediated by many contextual factors and the presence or absence of specific accompanying strategies. In this article, we will therefore examine the relationship between monitoring systems and EFA objectives with two restrictions. Firstly, our attention will go mainly to the role played by the school supervision or inspection system, which is one of the key monitoring tools used by most governments.
Other monitoring devices – such as examination and test systems, school “league tables” or school self-evaluation reports – will only be considered in function of their relationship to school supervision. When examining supervision, we will focus mainly on the overall system and not on the individual supervision visits, although evidently the two are not unrelated.
Secondly, our guiding question throughout the analysis of the different school supervision systems will be: what attention do they give to disparities between schools, how do they attempt to overcome these disparities and (though this is a question to which no precise and measurable answer can be given) what impact do they have on these disparities.
This article will therefore consist of three sections. We will first analyse the reforms in the area of school supervision which countries have undertaken in the last two decades, in response to the ineffectiveness of this monitoring tool. Some of these have simply tried to improve this particular tool, while others have gone further and have developed alternative monitoring systems, in which supervision may or may not play a key role. In a second section, we will propose various supervision models, which are the result partly of the different “ideological” convictions which inspire these reforms but also of the confrontation of the reform principles with the constraints of different national realities. In a third section, we will examine the impact of these models on disparities between schools.
Section 1 School supervision: an ineffective service, a service under reconstruction While there has been rather little systematic research on the functioning and the effectiveness of supervision systems, the anecdotes in this regard are plentiful. Teachers who are left unsupervised for many years; supervision visits which teachers consider disrespectful, if not demeaning, rather than helpful; supervision reports which are shelved without any action being taken. The research undertaken in various countries (e.g. Carron et al, 1999; De Grauwe, 2001; Hopes, 1992) confirms this anecdotal evidence. What may be most striking is that the nature of the challenges to an effective school supervision system does not differ much in developed and in developing countries, though in the latter they are of much greater magnitude. It is important to go beyond an inventory of difficulties faced by supervision and to organize in a systematic manner the causes of its ineffectiveness. We will briefly do so without entering into many details, as this only forms the background to the reforms which we will examine in more depth.
The most preoccupying characteristic of the supervision service in many countries is its almost complete lack of impact on the teachers, the schools and the system. Ideally, the supervision visit should form part of an improvement cycle. Such a cycle starts with the selection of the schools and teachers in function of their needs, a profound examination of the school’s or teachers’ profile and a helpful visit. This leads to a pertinent report which is distributed to several actors who can take action including the school itself, the supervision service, the central administration and teacher training colleges. Their action leads to improvement within the school and in the education system as a whole. This ideal scenario however is the exception in both developed and developing countries. In many schools in France for instance, principals and teachers go through a supervision visit as if it is an ancient initiation rate which has lost all sense and is forgotten as soon as the supervisor leaves (Pair, 2001; Chassard and Jeanbrau, 2002). Research on school supervision in Africa (for instance, De Grauwe, 2001, Diarra et al, 1997, Garforth, 2004, Gumbi and Dlamini, 1997, Lugaz et al, 2006 or Solaux, 1997) shows the lack of satisfaction among teachers and supervisors with the impact of supervision on the classroom. Similar criticism can be found in reports on several Asian countries (Carron et al, 1999). In Québec, teachers’ lack of satisfaction with the impact of supervision was a key factor in the abolition of the service in the 1960s (Pelletier, 2005).
Systematically, where teachers are asked to compare the impact of supervision on their performance with that of their colleagues or the principal, supervisors score less well. The impact on the education system is, if possible, still weaker: the findings of the supervision visits very seldom feed decision-making at regional or central level, which is particularly deplorable when we consider that supervisors are among the rare, if not the only ministry representatives regularly to visit schools.
This lack of impact is the result of a complex series of factors, which can be organised around three key issues. Firstly, there is a profound conflict between the mandate of the service and its resources. The mandate is very demanding: to exercise control over and offer support to all schools and teachers, while informing schools of ministry policies and bringing school realities to the attention of decision-makers. The expansion in the numbers of schools and teachers has not been accompanied by an equal expansion in the numbers of supervisors, the evident result being that each supervisor has so many schools under his or her charge that they simply cannot visit all schools more than once or twice a year, if at all. Research at the end of the 1990s in five Asian and five Southern African systems showed that a supervisor was on average responsible for over 150 teachers (see Table 1). The situation in West-Africa a few years later was similar (Lugaz et al, 2006). Table 1 presents data for a few countries which research has made available over the last decade. Surprisingly maybe, the situation is not much better in OECD countries for which such information is available. In France, there are on average 240 teachers per supervisor (Barroux, 2000, p.27); in Ireland, in 2000 only 604 teachers out of a total of about 21000 underwent a supervision visit. At the same time, in many developing countries, the weak professional profile of volunteer and contract teachers makes their need for regular supervision more urgent.
To make matters worse, supervisors can seldom spend much time on school visits, because of their administrative tasks. In addition, because supervisors are also in many cases the local representatives of the Ministry of Education, they are given many other duties, few of which have anything to do with their mandate, as Table 2 shows. A significant part of the resources of the supervision service are moreover taken up by its rather bureaucratic structure, copied from the educational administration as a whole. As a result of its deconcentration, a rather limited number of supervisors are spread over many regional and district officers, each of which needs some support staff and an operational budget.
This category includes, in Korea: research on supervision methods; in India: distribution of
scholarships; management of school feeding program; population census operations; in Botswana :
handling disciplinary cases; in Namibia: management of non-teaching personnel, participation in PTA meetings; in Zimbabwe : investigations, participation in school fairs.
Secondly, precisely because supervisors have many tasks and many schools but are expected to cover all schools (the number of schools supervised may play a part in their performance evaluation), they tend to spend little time in each school. Their visits lead almost unavoidably to superficial reports, which have little credibility in the eyes of teachers. Principals and teachers do not only criticize visits for their superficial and artificial character (can one judge the performance of a school or teacher on the basis of a single visit a year?), but object in particular to the attitude of supervisors, which many feel is disrespectful of their
professionalism. Behind the “attitude” issue lie three deeper conflicts:
- A conflict between support and control, both of which are tasks of supervisors but which are very difficult to combine into one approach. Monitoring in general should be a combination of these two tasks, but regularly the pendulum swings towards strengthening control. A Kenyan researcher concludes that school inspection is foremost a control process to ensure respect of rules and regulations and loyalty to authorities (Wanzare, 2003, p.3).
- A conflict between the recognition of teachers as autonomous professionals or an emphasis on teachers as ministry officials who have to respect rules and regulations.
- The most fundamental conflict relates to how to evaluate an exercise as individual and personal as “teaching”. Is a standardized process acceptable? Can judgment be made on the basis of the students’ results? It is surely not our intention to offer any response to these complex and nearly eternal questions here. The main point is that the lack of agreement within the education community makes it very difficult to enforce action upon the findings of a contested evaluation.