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A first strategic choice concerns the role of supervision. As we saw, this role is quite complex
and can be summarized in a graph such as Graph 1. Supervision has to combine three roles:
control, support and liaison between schools and with the Ministry. Each role has two dimensions: pedagogical and administrative. In principle, in addition to individual teachers, supervisors can also take an interest in schools as institutions and in the education system as a whole. Each supervision system can be analyzed as to the relative emphasis placed on different aspects and in particular on the choice between support and control.
Control Support Liaison /link This role-definition has a direct impact on the organization adopted by the supervision service, which can be more or less centralized, more or less top-heavy. This offers a second distinction between models.
To monitor the functioning and efficiency of a school, three principal tools are available: the external supervision service; the school’s internal evaluation; and examinations and assessment tests. The relative importance of these tools, their degree of use, and their objectives and characteristics differ profoundly from one model to another and offer a third way of distinguishing between different models. Specific attention has to be given to the relationship between external and internal evaluation (who sets the agenda for the internal evaluation: the school itself or central authorities) and to the main objective of internal evaluation (for accountability or for quality improvement). Saunders (1999) for instance makes a sharp distinction between, on the one hand, an “instrumentalist, action-oriented, rationalistic and managerial” model of school self-evaluation, and, on the other hand, a school self-evaluation process, which integrates “the ethical, affective, non-rational and democratic modes of thinking”. Behind these two models lie different visions of the school: on the one extreme, a rational organization, characterized by clear goal-setting, a bureaucratic distribution of formal authority and easily changeable through the right incentives and, on the other extreme, a living organization with a plurality of visions and agendas, where incentives can have perverse unintended effects.
A fourth option to take, when developing a supervision system, is to offer an answer to the question: to whom are teachers held accountable? This is a crucial issue which is easily forgotten in the present hype around the accountability concept. This concept allows for different interpretations and each interpretation distributes power differently to various actors.
The following paragraphs present, in a somewhat schematic manner, these different forms of accountability, based on a distinction originally made by Kogan (1988).
Contractual accountability: teachers are held responsible to the person or the unit with which they entered into a contractual relationship (their employer), and this is in general the Ministry of Education represented at local level by a school director or inspector. Teachers are seen as civil servants; as such, they form part of a bureaucracy and are in a hierarchical relationship.
The term ‘bureaucratic accountability’ is used from time to time as a substitute.
Professional accountability: teachers are viewed as professionals. They belong to a professional community, characterized by a unique body of knowledge and skills. There are two options: one is that each teacher can only be held accountable to him or herself. This option allows for no external supervision and is nearly non-existent, except perhaps in selected higher education institutions. A second option is that each teacher, as a member of a professional community, is accountable to this community and its code of ethics. In other words, the teacher is responsible to the body to which he or she belongs, and thus control is exerted by his or her colleagues.
Public accountability: teachers are seen as members of a ‘public service’ and are therefore accountable to the public or, in other words, to the clients of the education system. As we already highlighted above, there are two different interpretations of the term ‘client’. On the one hand, the students and parents of a specific school could be viewed as the immediate clients of that school. The teacher is accountable to the local community. Accountability is then enforced through parent meetings or reports prepared for limited distribution. On the other hand, the term ‘clients’ could be interpreted as the public of the education system in general. In this instance, teachers and schools are held accountable to the general public through the publication, for example, of exam results or supervision reports.
Each of the four models that we will present below offers its own response to the issue of accountability and relies on a different mixture of the three accountability types. This is strongly related to a country’s context. This involves, among other things, opinions about the professionalism of teachers, the effectiveness of the government’s bureaucracy or the civil service and the interests of parents and the community in education.
A fifth distinction between models relates to the interpretation of the concept of “teacher professionalism”. This helps us to understand the relationship between the teaching corps and the supervision service, which represents the State. Teachers precisely base their refusal of an external supervision process on the argument that they belong to a professional corps, characterized, according to Larsson (1977) by a corpus of specialized knowledge, a specific training, service orientation, a distinctive professional ethics and the right to participate in their own evaluation. Several authors (Sachs, 1999 and 2003; Hanlon, 1998; Niemi, 1999)
emphasize that in recent years opposing interpretations of the concept have been developed:
on the one hand, an ‘activist’ interpretation, stressing teacher empowerment and professional development; on the other hand, an ‘entrepreneurial’ one referring to public accountability and performance obligation. While the former interpretation leads to stronger teacher collaboration, the latter results in competition between teachers.
The following section analyzes in greater detail each of the four models, beginning with a presentation of the role assigned to the supervision service and its ensuing structure. We shall then examine the importance of the different monitoring tools as well as the interpretations of accountability and professionalism that underlie each model. We will end with a brief discussion of some strong aspects and some challenges.
The classical supervision model
The first model is the ‘classical’ model to which we referred in the first section of this article.
It came about as a result of the adaptation of the supervision service to the expansion of the education system and to the deconcentration of the administration that accompanied it.
Supervision retains the role it was first assigned: that is, to control and provide support in pedagogical and administrative areas. In addition, coverage is supposed to be global: each school and teacher has a right – or could be submitted – to supervision.
In order to undertake this ambitious mission, supervisors find themselves in all the echelons of administration: at district level, where, in general, they exercise control over primary schools and provide support to teachers; at regional level, where they have the same tasks but in secondary schools; and at central level, where their role might include an evaluation of the evolution of the education system, as the General Inspectors in France do or a used to be the role of the Standards Control Unit in Zimbabwe.
This model can be called ‘classical’ as the essence of the supervision exercise has little changed since its creation. Even though there have been some reforms in response to some demands of teachers – for example the creation of pedagogical advisors, in addition to inspectors or greater transparency by announcing visits and systematic debriefing sessions – these innovative elements have not profoundly modified the service.
This model was implanted in most developing countries, particularly in the previous British and French colonies. Tanzania is a good example, among many others (De Grauwe, 2001). A supervision service in the Ministry is responsible for the definition of policies and training.
Seven zonal offices organize supervision in their zone, supervise secondary schools and supervise the operation of the district office. The district offices, which are expected to have nine primary school inspectors, undertake the genuine school inspections. Alongside these inspectors, there are resource centres that organize training sessions in schools and in the centres. At a level closest to the school are Ward Education Officers. They were originally in charge of supervising adult literacy classes, but are now helping inspectors in particular with the control of school finances.
In its pure form, this model places a strong emphasis on the external supervision service, which is the most important monitoring tool. The internal evaluation of the school is weak and exam results can be used to inform the supervision process, but play no further role in controlling schools. This reflects a strong trust in the capacity of the State to control schools effectively. Countries such as Cuba and Viet Nam have kept this model without much change, partly because of the easy integration of its key principle – careful control by the State over the implementation of central rules – into the existing structures. The concept of accountability that underlies this model is clearly contractual accountability: the teacher is accountable to his or her employer, the Ministry of Education, and is controlled by this body – through the intermediary of ministerial agents, the body of inspectors.
As we discussed before, this model has two assets: firstly, its global coverage: in principle, all schools have an equal chance of being supervised and none is forgotten; and, secondly, its comprehensive role: the inspectors accompany their control and evaluation with support and advice.But the model has a number of weaknesses: its cost, its complex structure and the heavy mandate, characterized by role conflicts and task overload. In fact this model was originally developed in countries where the services of the state were effective and well financed and was then in some cases implanted into an almost totally different environment: a weak state without resources. The model works best in countries that have a competent public service, with civil servants that are rather well paid, such as Botswana, Malaysia or Viet Nam.
However, it is important to emphasize that even though this model remains the main inspiration in many countries, almost everywhere reforms are put in place that aim at integrating other tools than the inspection service in the monitoring process. The publication of exam results and the preparation of school improvement plans are the best-known examples. And these tools reflect an accountability that is not purely contractual. Precisely for this reason, their integration will not always go smoothly. At times, there will be conflict between the internal and external evaluation processes. This is the case mainly in countries where the preparation of school development plans is being officially encouraged but not taken very seriously by the supervisors who stick to business as usual. This situation is possibly harmful because it only widens the gap between supervisors and teaching staff. Both parties might well end up by using totally different frameworks and criteria for making judgments about school practices. It could be argued that the promotion by ministries of education of school self-evaluation serves objectives which have very little to do with school improvement, but are a reaction to the Ministry’s weak capacity to regulate the whole system.
In those developing countries, where school improvement programs have gained in popularity, they represent more the agenda of international agencies or NGO’s than a change in culture within the education system.
The central control model Weaknesses of the ‘classical’ model were a source of inspiration for reforms, which have led to the development of what we will call the ‘central control’ model. This model is based on
the following convictions:
• supervision should concentrate on one task – control. It is harmful to ask supervisors to combine support and control as the conflicting roles that this entails renders ineffective their interventions in the two domains;
• the heavy bureaucracy that characterizes the classical model is not only expensive, it also prevents it from functioning effectively: there are too many small offices and the different levels lengthen the time between the supervision visit and follow-up to its recommendations;
• external supervision cannot on its own lead to school improvement. This is the responsibility of the actors at school level (the principal, the teachers, the board, the parent association). But school inspection can be an incentive to start internal school reform, by informing the school and the public of the school’s progress and weaknesses.
The role of the supervision service is therefore fairly simple: to inspect each school from time to time and to publish a public report. Such an inspection and its report examine all the aspects of the school’s functioning and could be considered an ‘audit’. The structure of this model, which is presented in table 4, reflects its role: strong central control and few, if any supervisory actors at lower levels, while support is made available through private providers.