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School self-evaluation is an increasingly popular strategy in OECD countries (Eurydice, 2004; MacBeath, 1999; Solomon, 1997) and many developing countries have also adopted similar schemes, taking for instance the form of the preparation of school improvement plans, based on an identification of strengths and weaknesses by the school community. However, in many countries this process has been limited to a simple demand by ministries for schools to prepare a plan, without any assistance or guidance, with mixed success (De Grauwe, 2005). A more structured program exists in Botswana: staff development committees in secondary schools evaluate the professional development needs of the staff and prepare professional development sessions, relying on internal or external resource persons. Primary schools, through clusters, get jointly involved in evaluating and supporting their staff (De Grauwe, 2001, p.46). In many OECD countries, still more comprehensive programs exist. In the Netherlands for instance, every school has the legal obligation since 1998 to prepare a yearly school plan or project and a school prospectus, which is a public document containing key objectives and indicators. The school must also set up a complaint mechanism for parents (Hendriks et al, 2001, p. 597).
This emphasis on school self-evaluation accompanies the higher level of school autonomy which characterizes education policies in many countries. It is also a response to the increased diversity between schools and therefore their need for a less standardized approach. There are many differences in the policies developed by countries and in their actual implementation in schools as the term “self-evaluation” allows for many interpretations. What is of particular interest is the way in which the inevitable differences and disparities between schools will be responded to by the supervision system, an issue to which we will return later. While the theoretical advantages of an internal evaluation process are beyond doubt, its actual potential has been less evident. Three factors play a role. Firstly, many schools simply do not see such a process as a priority and teachers are given little incentive to participate in it, especially when they are aware that the resources may be missing to implement whatever recommendations may come out of the evaluation. Secondly, school principals rarely have the necessary authority and profile to lead such a process. They may not be eager to do so in any case, because it does put them on the spot as it makes them more directly responsible for the school’s performance (Thrupp, 1998; Petzko et al, 2002; Chapman, 2005). Finally, selfevaluation is a delicate political exercise which creates conflicts among the school staff and demands a collaborative approach which is absent in many schools.
The existence of internal evaluation and the difficulties which schools face in this process oblige the supervision service to rethink its own role. Without such rethinking, they risk to become irrelevant or in conflict with these internal processes. These responses form a third group of reforms.
A first response consists of focussing supervision on the school as a whole and not on the individual teacher. This is again the case in OECD countries (Solomon, 1997; Eurydice,
2004) as well as in developing countries. In Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe in Southern Africa (De Grauwe, 2001) and in Nigeria (Ajayi et al., 2002), supervisors’ tasks now include the organisation of conferences with all school staff, including at times parents, or assisting the school with the preparation of an improvement plan. In South-Africa, the government at federal level and in many provinces attempts to undertake whole school evaluations, but this encounters severe resistance from teacher unions, who feel that such evaluation should be preceded by comprehensive teacher professional development programmes (De Grauwe, 2006). A second response is to give supervisors a greater role in the evaluation of the education system as a whole. Such changes demand new competencies from supervisors and also new practices, for instance the need to work as a team, which is not among their habits. These two responses change the supervision object.
A different response to the existence of internal supervision is to transform more comprehensively the relationship between supervision and school, by asking external supervision to steer, influence or support the internal evaluation process. This again can take two different forms. One option is to standardize the internal process, for instance by developing guidelines and manuals which reflect the priorities of the authorities or by demanding that the internal report be validated by external supervisors. This is the case for instance in Austria (Posch, 2004) or several Australian states (Gurr, 1999). Such approaches evidently limit the autonomy of the school’s action. As such, they are illustrative of the inherent conflict of many recent governance reforms, which on the one hand emphasize in their discourse the autonomy of the local actors and on the other hand control this autonomy through stricter steering instruments.
A second option is quite different as it consists of demanding that external supervisors support the internal process through advice and guidance to this internal process, but without imposing a specific set of rules. (This is similar to the first set of reforms, which changed the supervision mandate through for instance an emphasis on support, but it is different nonetheless because the support here is to an internal evaluation process and not to the teachers). This is the case for instance in Morocco, which has set up pedagogical support groups (groupements d’appui pédagogique) whose role is to help schools use their increased autonomy in an effective manner by giving them advice through global school visits (Yekhlef and Tazi, 2005). The project in Sri Lanka on which we commented earlier fits also to some extent in this trend (Perera, 1998). Similar approaches are followed in developed countries (see Mintrop et al, 2001, on the State of Kentucky; Demailly et al., 1998, on the department of Lille in France). This demands a difficult balancing act from these supervisors who have to set up a collegial relationship with the teachers and respect the internal process, while making sure that genuine school improvement occurs. The Morocco groups have not yet proven their value precisely because they continue to play a control-oriented role, including in financial matters. This option also demands from the service as a whole to adapt its interventions to the needs of the school, by focussing more on the schools who need such support and by changing their advice in function of those needs. The difference with the standardization agenda is quite evident as is the possible impact on disparities between schools, an issue to which we will return. A more radical example comes from the Bahamas (Miller, …). Since 1995 the Ministry of Education has introduced a new system of accountability which dispenses with school inspection but relies on schools assessing themselves in terms of targets they set within the framework of overall goals set for the school system by the Ministry of Education. Each school develops goals and objectives annually in relationship to the overall targets for the school system. The teachers’ evaluation instrument, namely the Annual Confidential Report is being modified to include goals and objectives set by each teacher annually with respect to the goals and objectives of the school.
All the reforms so far concern education professionals, i.e. teachers, principals or supervisors.
A fourth set of reforms is significantly different, because it brings into the picture a new group of actors, namely the parents and the public. It reflects an important reform within the public service as a whole, which consists of allowing the customers of a service a certain form of control over its quality and effectiveness. The task of school evaluation is no longer in the hands of the education “establishment” but is partly taken over by non-professionals. The ideological background to this reform is offered by the principal – agent theory. This theory argues that the Ministry officials (i.e. the agents) who work on behalf of the Ministry (i.e. the principal) tend after some time to start working for their own interests rather than those of the Ministry if they are not supervised by an external actor, who represents the interests of the Ministry but is not part of the administration.
The reform can nonetheless take two very different forms. A first one interprets the “public” as the parents who are close to a particular school. This reform attempts to strengthen the relationship between parents and teachers, so that together they strive to improve the school.
The many community participation programmes developed in the 1970s and 1980s and more recently the creation of school management committees, in which parents form a majority, are examples of this first interpretation (see for instance Holland and Blackburn, 1998; Shaeffer, 1994; Uemura, 1999). This can also be interpreted as an expression of greater democratization. The 1991 Education Reform Strategy of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States for instance argues: “to achieve democratization, a management board should be established for each primary school. The board, which would be linked to the National Education Advisory Council, would be mandated to foster closer links between the school, the homes and the community it serves." In many schools, these boards, committees or parent-teacher associations have some form of control over teacher management, because some teachers are paid through their funds. Their existence however does not automatically lead to stronger community power. In South-Africa, for instance, it seems to have led mainly to strengthening the position of the school principal, who generally is secretary of these committees (Naidoo, 2006). Neither does community power automatically translate in better decisions: the fact that at times unqualified family members are recruited or that funds are managed without any transparency is proof thereof (Lugaz et al, 2006).
A second interpretation of the concept of public accountability considers that all potential parents of a school are its public and that they all have the right to be informed about the performances, the characteristics and the quality of all schools, so as to be able to choose the school most fitting for their kids. The scenario here is the one of a marketplace for schooling, which, to function well, needs to provide the public with relevant information. As such, several countries have started publishing examination results by schools while some have done so for school supervision reports. The latter is the case in England, Scotland and New Zealand, but also in Iceland or the Czech Republic. The public’s reaction to bad school results in these two scenarios is very different: in the first case, parents are expected to support the improvement of “their” school. In the second, parents, or more correctly those who can afford to do so, will “vote with their feet” and move to what they consider a better school. It is useful to point out that the emphasis on public accountability characterizes education policy in both developed and developing countries, but that two different motivations are at their origins. In many OECD countries (especially in those of an Anglo-Saxon culture), governments have transferred certain management and monitoring tasks to the public, as part of an overall policy to increase transparency and in response to a feeling that the State was taking too many responsibilities and is not effective in controlling its own agents. In developing countries, it is precisely a feeling that the State is absent or that it is not performing its basic task of providing public services, which has led communities to fill the gap, a move which afterwards the national authorities have promoted because it lightened their workload.
Section 2 Four models of school supervision
These sets of reforms have been implemented in a great number of countries, but they have not led to the development of a single model that all countries try to adopt. Admittedly, the New Public Management theorems have strongly influenced thinking and practice almost at a global level, with some authors talking of a policy epidemic (Levin, 1998). This could lead to the belief in a strong convergence of education policies and the absence of any alternative policy paths. However, a deeper study shows that profound differences in school monitoring systems and in school supervision services continue to exist. This leads to phenomena of superposition, métissage and hybridation (Popkewitz, 2000; Barroso et al., 2002). This is linked to two major factors. Firstly, the NPM policy precepts carry different interpretations, as we highlighted already above: somewhat sloganistic concepts such as “accountability”, “school based-management” or “competition through choice” can be used as arguments behind a great diversity of reforms. The same is true for the very general statement that there is a need to reformulate the role of the State. Secondly, the actual implementation of these principles depends as much if not more on the specific context within which they will be implemented than on their theoretical potency. A particularly important factor in the context is the position of power of different actors, some of whom may benefit from these reforms while others oppose them. The overall result is that even in countries which have adopted similar reforms, quite distinct systems exist. We can nevertheless behind this wide range of systems discover different models, which reflect significantly different policy options. These
options concern the following questions:
• What role should be assigned to school supervision?
• How can the service best be organized?
• What is the role of two other monitoring tools (examinations and tests; internal school supervision) and what is the relationship between internal and external supervision?
• What type of accountability inspires the model?
• What interpretation is made of the concept of teacher professionalism?
We will in the following paragraphs present and analyse each of four such models by systematically examining their responses to these questions. Later on, we will analyse their impact on disparities. Let us first though look at some of these questions more closely.