International Seminar on: Demand, Autonomy and Accountability in Schooling
May 15 & 16 2006
Flemish Ministry of Education, Brussels
The International Seminar on “Demand, Autonomy, and Accountability in Schooling explored how mechanisms affecting parental choice, school autonomy and system accountability can help to improve the quality and equity of schooling. As its starting point, the seminar drew on the outcomes of CERI analysis on Demand for Schooling. The seminar also provided an important input to the upcoming work of the Education Committee on Parental Choice, School Autonomy, and System Accountability.
63 participants from 20 countries participated in the seminar (this included the Flemish and French communities of Belgium, and the Department for Education and Skills and the Scottish Executive of the U.K). The plenary sessions consisted of:
A summary of key findings from the Demand for Schooling Report (David Istance, OECD & Anne Sliwka, University of Trier);
Reflections on how those findings related to the larger issue of how current preferences and demands on education relate to the longstanding aims of education (Peter Mortimore, former Director, Institute for Education, University of London);
An analysis of evidence from international surveys on the relationship between parental choice, school autonomy and accountability systems (national testing), on the one hand, and the quality of schooling outcomes as measured by PISA on the other hand (Ludger Woessmann, Institute for Economic Research, Germany);
A speech by the Flemish Minister of Education on quality and equity of schooling outcomes; and a concluding session on implications for policy and further research.
Workshop sessions addressed issues of demand; autonomy; and system accountability.
Plenary presentations and discussions as well as the workshop sessions made clear that the issues of demand, autonomy and accountability are on the agenda in almost all countries. The seminar also made clear that there is a great need for further conceptual clarification and a shared recognition that existing concepts may not suffice to capture the complex shifts in governance that are taking place in education. Several participants raised the issue that these concepts may lead to oversimplification or value judgments.
The report by CERI on Demand for Schooling was recognised as offering a piece of the puzzle, both empirically and conceptually and as offering a starting point for further research. The participants thus confirmed the importance of the upcoming work by the education committee. However, they stressed that any such work needed to acknowledge the complexity and multidimensional nature of demand, autonomy and accountability.