Guiding principles for policy development on quality assurance in school education
Quality assurance for school development
Recent research-based recommendations point towards a need for greater coherence and synergy in quality assurance approaches – in particular, the effective interplay between internal and external mechanisms – in order to ensure that they best serve school development and innovation. Conditions for effective quality assurance for school development include ensuring ownership of the process through meaningful dialogue and actions, and an opportunity for ‘out of the box’ thinking and creativity. The challenge for school education systems is to develop and sustain professional learning communities and cultures to support school development, with an emphasis on improvement more than quality ‘control’. Whilst the focus here is on the governance of school education systems, the ultimate aim of quality assurance is to ensure that learners have the best learning opportunities possible.
Quality assurance involves the systematic review of educational programs and processes to maintain and improve their quality, equity and efficiency. While the design of quality assurance mechanisms (tools, processes and actors) varies across national contexts, their common objective is to improve teaching and learning – with the ultimate goal to support the best outcomes for learners.
Quality assurance approaches can include mechanisms that are external and internal to schools. External mechanisms may include national or regional school evaluations and/or large-scale student assessments. Internal mechanisms may include school self-evaluation, staff appraisal and classroom-based student assessments. These mechanisms have different but complementary purposes.
Quality assurance is important for accountability as well as to support ongoing development of schools and of teaching and learning. Well-functioning systems have mechanisms to support and balance vertical and horizontal, internal and external accountability. Quality assurance that is focused on development supports schools to adapt to the changing needs of learners. The focus is not only on improvement but also innovation – that is, the development or experimental testing of approaches in different contexts — to support quality, equity and efficiency.
The eight guiding principles
- COHERENCE: Systems should strive over time to achieve balance and coherence across different mechanisms that have been developed to meet the demands and expectations of stakeholders working within schools and in the wider school education system.
- PROFESSIONAL LEARNING COMMUNITIES: Quality assurance policies should support professional learning communities to make the best use of quality assurance data for school and system development with the ultimate goal of ensuring the best learning opportunities for all learners.
- TRUST AND SHARED ACCOUNTABILITY: Trust and respect between and among internal and external actors are fundamental for effective evaluation and school development.
- SUPPORT INNOVATION: Schools leaders and teachers need opportunities to take considered risks in order to innovate and develop. Careful attention to data on the impact of innovations, including potential unintended outcomes, is essential.
- SHARED UNDERSTANDING AND DIALOGUE: Quality assurance approaches should support the development of a common language and shared understanding among internal and external actors that the fundamental purpose of evaluation is to support school development.
- NETWORKS: Networks between schools and with local and wider communities can support collective engagement, build social and intellectual capital and spark new synergies across school systems.
- BUILDING CAPACITY FOR DATA: Investments in building capacity of key actors to generate, interpret and use data, are crucial.
- DIFFERENT DATA FOR BALANCED VIEW: Different types of data – both quantitative and qualitative, and gathered over time – are necessary for a balanced understanding of school development and learner progress. These data should communicate authentic narratives of schools and provide the information necessary to support decision-making both within schools and across school systems.