Download article | By OECD/CERI Secretariat | Published in Demand-Sensitive Schooling, 2006
Based on the evidence from the countries taking part in this study, this article provides insights on how parents and the wider public perceive schooling. This publication shows that the closer people are to schooling provision or the education system, the more satisfied they tend to be about it. For example, parents with children going to school are on average more satisfied with schooling than other parents and the public; parents who are involved in school governance are more satisfied than other parents; women (who tend to participate more in school life) are on average more satisfied than men; and the younger are more positive than older adults.
Since different individuals and groups may have demanding yet incompatible expectations, schools have the problem of accommodating these different agendas. Urban parents voice dissatisfaction more often than rural parents. Unlike rural areas in which there are few schools, urban areas have more schools; thus urban parents have more choice in selecting schools. Moreover, parents with higher educational attainment voice dissatisfaction more often than less-educated parents. Strangely, it is the highly educated parents who are more likely to believe the educational system is fair; meanwhile, the less-educated express satisfaction but experience a greater sense of societal exclusion from the benefits of education. This discussion raises the question of equity. To whose demands will policy-makers comply?
Even where satisfaction is lower – in part because objectively the quality of provision is cause for concern – belief in education’s value tends to be high. This should reassure many working in education, but it can also create the belief that improvement is unnecessary. Schools should be cautious in interpreting these results. Even though the results are generally positive, they do not mean improvements are unnecessary.
The long-term legitimacy of schooling and the willingness to pay taxes to support it depend on the satisfaction of all. One of the ways to improve satisfaction might be to increase the accountability and transparency of school systems in order to communicate the schools’ achievements to the general public. If schooling is to become more “demand-led”, educators and policy makers should know more about groups’ expectations; thus, this review shows the value of understanding perceptions of schooling and suggests the need to strengthen the evidence base.