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This model exists in its most pure form in several Anglo-Saxon countries and in particular in England & Wales and in New Zealand. In both countries, the construction of a new system was intrinsically linked to a more global reform of the public service and the management of the education system. The context of this reform was an economic crisis and strong criticism of the public service – the public education system in particular. The system of inspection was also criticized: it was accused of being characterized by a heavy inefficient bureaucracy, a derisory impact on school improvement and a body of conservative and individualist inspectors. These criticisms were also fed by more ideological arguments: the ineffectiveness of the supervision system was seen as proof of the ineffectiveness of the State, in particular when it comes to evaluation of its own agents. Evaluation can best be done by an actor outside of the educational administration, which is why autonomous bodies were created. In the same vein, the inclusion of the public in the evaluation process will break internal complacency. These criticisms brought about a profound restructuring of inspection. In New Zealand, a very classical structure was replaced with an independent unit, the ‘Education Review Office’, while local and regional offices were abolished. This Office has a mandate to inform the Ministry and the public of the effectiveness of the system and all its schools.
OFSTED in England and Wales follows to a large extent the same approach.
This model relies on inspection visits and reports as its main monitoring tool. However, because such supervision takes place only every few years, intermediate information is needed to monitor the schools’ performances. This is why in the same countries the exam and assessment test system has generally been strengthened, and the schools’ results on these exams and tests are used as information for the schools and the public. The publication of results in league tables has become probably the best-known and most controversial form of intervention in the monitoring system in a country such as the UK. The use of exam and test results to measure – at central level – the performance of schools and to hold them (and the local authorities who manage them) accountable, is also a key characteristic of recent monitoring reforms in the USA, where the No child left behind Act of 2001 has strengthened in this manner central control over what used to be very autonomous local school boards (Carnoy and Loeb, 2001; Stecher and Kerby, 2004).
Internal evaluation also develops, partly because of the conviction that such an internal process is intrinsic to an effective school. But in countries where this central control model has been implanted, school autonomy in teacher management has also increased and school boards and teachers are obliged to reinforce their control over teachers. In addition, an internal review process forms an integral part of the external supervision cycle. It takes place before an inspection visit and has two objectives: first, to facilitate the inspection process by gathering documents and preparing an initial analysis of the status of the school; second, to get the school ready for this external audit so that it comes out better. Indeed, quite a few schools use this self-evaluation process as a rehearsal for the audit. The OFSTED handbook makes it clear that school self-evaluation, in order for it to be effective and of use to the external review, needs to use the criteria, indicators, methods and techniques developed by the external review body. The situation in Hong Kong is similar. Richards (2004), among other authors, concludes that in such a scenario the internal evaluation process cannot be a recognition of teachers’ priorities and professionalism, but becomes an additional control tool.
OFSTED on the other hand emphasizes that the obligation to prepare an internal evaluation report before the visit has helped the school in developing a culture of self-review, which is helping their improvement.
In this model, two forms of accountability mingle: contractual and public accountability. The schools and teachers are accountable to their employer, the Ministry, which does not intervene directly but exercises control through an independent agency. The schools and teachers are also held accountable to the public. This forms part of a wider trend to strengthen customer choice and control in the public sector (Burns, 2000). The paradoxical result is one whereby the school, in the official discourse, receives more autonomy and does so in reality in managerial and financial matters but where such autonomy is severely restricted by stronger control, in which non-professionals play a significant role. According to several critical authors (e.g. Laval, 2003; Fiske and Ladd, 2001; Simola et al., 2002), this leads to a deprofessionalisation of the teaching body. The publication of inspection reports and exam results are intended precisely to make the school feel directly responsible towards its ‘clients’ and to allow these clients to choose a school and to put pressure on schools. Their conclusions are at the same time used as advertisements by schools: praising quotes decorate their websites and information brochures.
Several countries have adapted certain elements of this model, particularly the institutional audit carried out by a specific corps of inspectors (such audits were introduced a few years ago in several countries, including Guyana, Malaysia or Zambia [check]). These countries have nevertheless kept a classical supervision process, which in principle concentrates more on support than control. The objective of the audit is to reinforce the evaluation of schools and give it a formal structure and character. This allows for a more intensive use of the reports of these audits which remain, however, confidential, in contrast to the situation in for example England.
This model has certain evident assets:
• The role of the supervision service is simple – to control the school in a comprehensive manner. This control covers all pedagogical aspects, administration and management. The inspector or review officers are not confronted with conflicting roles because they are not supposed to offer advice.
• The organization of the inspection service is also simple. Due to the fact that its sole task is to inspect schools every three years or more, it is better for this body to be centralized than dispersed in many small offices. The distribution of functions is clear: the inspection controls;
private service providers offer advice, at the request of the school. This avoids role overlaps and the co-ordination between actors and services causes few problems.
• Inspection visits are meant to provoke schools to assume responsibility for their own improvement through the preparation of an action plan. This model therefore assigns responsibility for improvement to those actors who can make the difference.
However these assets rapidly reach limits, particularly with schools facing difficult
circumstances. The following are the most significant weaknesses:
• Schools receive too little support. As we will see in the last section of this article, this is particularly detrimental for weaker schools, who feel demoralized rather than strengthened by this process.
• The process puts too much pressure on the schools and above all on their principals.
Principals complain about excess responsibility due to the fact that they are the last in line, and of excess work, in particular regarding administrative tasks, to the detriment of their pedagogical role (Cusack, 1992; Ferguson, 1998).
• The inspection visit conditions the future of the school. A critical report, especially if it is published, can create a vicious cycle that brings about the downfall of the school. Before the visit, the preparation period is one of great anxiety, which causes conflict among teachers and in some cases kicks off a process that deteriorates more than it improves. Various researchers (Wilcox, 2000; Burns, 2000; Osler, 2001; Watson, 2001) as well as school staff have expressed doubts about the validity of supervision reports, which makes their high-stakes character even more of a concern.
Interestingly, Scotland, which has adopted several key characteristics of this model, such as the central inspection unit (HMI - Her Majesty’s Inspectorate), the comprehensive school “audits” and the publications of these “audit” reports, has to a large extent been able to avoid the sharp criticisms leveled at OFSTED in England (De Grauwe, 2006, p. 246-259). The main reason is that there is a better balance between support and control, because of two factors in particular. Firstly, the elected Local authorities, who generally have an important education section, offer support to schools and in many cases show strong interest in the least successful schools. Secondly, the fairly intimate relationships between the staff of HMI and the school principals and teachers (partly a result of Scotland’s relatively small size), make for a less menacing and less distant supervision exercise, with more space for dialogue and therefore a report which is more nuanced and arguably more helpful.
The close-to-school support model
The third model also starts off, as did the second model, from a criticism on the classical model, but draws very different conclusions. It is based on the following reasoning: the main weakness of the classical model (and of the central control model) is to consider all schools as rather similar units. The supervision system can therefore treat all schools as equals and use the same strategies towards all. But schools have very different characteristics: their environment, pupils, teachers, parents, resources and so on are all specific to each school.
And, because they have different characteristics, they also have different needs. While the best performing schools can function without any external support or supervision because of their internal strengths, this is not at all the case for the weaker schools. The supervision system should take those diverse needs into account. What those ‘weaker’ schools need is not control alone but consistent pedagogical support and therefore regular visits by supportoriented supervisors.
In this model, the core role of the supervision service is to assist the weakest schools by offering them advice and guidance on how to improve. With such a purpose in mind, each school will need to be treated differently and supervision will have to adapt itself to the needs of each school. The drawback of the ‘classical’ model is precisely that by trying to cover all schools without distinction, it fails to give due attention to those schools most in need of its intervention.
These points have implications for the supervisory structure. To enable supervisors to make regular visits, most are based as close to the schools as possible, while central and provincial officers no longer visit schools, but are in charge of policy-formulation and training respectively. To avoid supervisors spending too much time on administration, a specific cadre of administrative controllers may be created. And to ensure that they focus on the schools most in need of their support, a database identifies a fairly limited number of schools with which each supervisor has to work. The following structure is thus developed.
The purest example of this model was developed in Chile, after the end of the Pinochet regime, when a new democratic government came in power. While under Pinochet the overall performance of the education system had improved, this had been accompanied by an increase in disparities. By giving attention to equity, the democratic government tried to strengthen its legitimacy. Its equity-focussed policies were not limited to supervision, but guided social policies as a whole, though some remnants of Pinochet’s ideology could not be abolished, for instance parental free choice of school, which worked to the detriment of equity (Baeza and Fuentes, 2003; Avalos, 2004).
Supervision visits, in this model, are an important monitoring tool. However, the character of these visits is very different from the previous models: the supervisor visits a few carefully selected schools and tries to develop a close relationship with them. The visit includes classroom observation, workshops with the school staff, discussions with all teachers and with the school community. The aim is to develop together projects and plans to improve teaching and school functioning. While few countries have adopted a system such as Chile’s, several projects have integrated the key principles of this model, namely a flexible developmentoriented support to the most disadvantaged schools. This is the case for instance of programs in Sri Lanka (Perera, 1998), Bangladesh (Govinda and Tapan, 1999) or Kenya (Anderson and Nedritu, 1999). In all these examples, there is a close linkage between the external supervision and the school’s self-evaluation. The supervisor, when in school, works with the school’s staff on identifying its strengths and weaknesses and on developing a school improvement plan.
Supervision becomes thus a stage in the process of school self-evaluation and improvement, while in the preceding model the school’s self-evaluation is a phase in the external inspection process. In other words, in this model external supervision helps the school undertake its own evaluation, while in the central control model self-evaluation helps the external inspectors to carry out their inspection. Exams play an important role, namely to allow the Ministry and the supervision service to know which schools to focus on and to monitor the reduction of disparities. Their role in monitoring schools is thus very different from in the previous model, where exam results are public information and parents use them to choose a school.