Education reform: what gets measured gets managed

by The Educator27 Jan 2015

Question: what good is education reform if its impact isn’t being considered?

A new report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that Governments around the world are failing to examine the affects that their own education reforms are having on students.

The OECD report, which examined 450 education reforms across 34 countries between 2008 and 2014, found that only one-in-ten education reforms were analysed for their impact.

Pasi Sahlberg, Finnish education expert and visiting professor of practice at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, said the report showed reluctance by governments “to spend significant amounts of money to evaluate something that was a failure”.

But Pasi also pointed to the fact that research into education reform is going on outside of government.

This trend suggests that governments may be taking a back seat in this crucial area and are instead leaving the data to NGOs to study.

So how does our Government rate in this respect?

However, when it comes to enhancing the teaching profession and school leadership, Australia is on point.

The OECD commended the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) for its work on the Australian Professional Standards for teachers and principals, an initiative which has improved the quality of teaching.

However, the report showed that not enough emphasis was being put on analysing how education reforms correlate with student learning outcomes.

While it doesn’t sound like the most glowing reference, Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and skills, says there is a good reason behind the shortfall.

Schleicher said the reluctance to evaluate was due to the fact that the trajectory of education reforms is very long and their educational outcomes for children are difficult to entangle.

Nonetheless, Schleicher stressed that analysing the impacts of education reform is crucial to student learning outcomes.

“Too many education reforms are failing to measure success or failure in the classroom,” said Schleicher.

“While it is encouraging to see a greater focus on outcomes, rather than simply increasing spending, it’s crucial that reforms are given the time to work and their impact is analysed.”

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