Title: Who Reforms the Reformers? The Limits of Present Accountability Policies and a Possible Way Out
Citation: The Journal of Education vol. 186 no. 3 p. 71-85
Publisher: Trustees of Boston University
Publication Year: 2006
JRC N°: JRC31505
URI: http://publications.jrc.ec.europa.eu/repository/handle/JRC31505
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: In modern societies, the role of Governments in education is a matter of extensive debate and research (Glenn, De Groof, 2004); understanding which policies are best fit for improving school quality leads the public attention to swing from resources (Hanushek, 2003) and rigid control of the State on the organization of education to accountability (Hanushek & Kimko, 2000; Unesco, 2005; Bishop & Woessmann, 2001). With respect to the latter, recent studies have shown that school quality, as measured by test scores in basic competences (literacy and mathematics), is directly related to individual earnings, productivity and economic growth. The same studies underline that school quality is better in institutional settings characterized by strong accountability systems and by school autonomy on school planning, staff hiring policies, and drafting of the curricula. The depicted landscape suggests the creation of quasi-markets in education where a plurality of providers manages the educational offer while the State (that may still be one of the providers) finances the service provision and controls its quality. However, two inefficiencies hinder this approach. The first inefficiency is organizational; in fact, the State’s inherent organizational complexity and slowness results in the system’s impossibility to adapt to individual needs. The second inefficiency structural. Schooling is influential to the whole people; if the State only is responsible for the quality and the characteristics of the service, schooling will necessarily be shaped around the State’s vision of education. Even if it aims at the common good, the State is still one specific institution whose influence on the service may result in a bias in favour of some specific points of view. Thus, an alternative is necessary. The present contribution looks at the reasons why any alternative must still fall within the range of accountability; then it considers the possibility of creating an accountability structure responsive to the stakeholders rather than to the State but still producing data on student achievement comparable through space and time.
JRC Directorate:Space, Security and Migration

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