[Archive] Education Commission Report No.7 Quality School Education - QUALITY ASSURANCE
3.1 The consultation document recommended a two-pronged approach to quality assurance : internal quality assurance by schools, and an external quality assurance mechanism. The spirit of the proposal received wide support during consultation. While many respondents agreed that internal quality assurance should be achieved through school-based management, participation of parents and teachers, and self-evaluation by schools, there is much controversy over the status of future external quality assurance bodies.
3.2 We recommend that internal quality assurance should be achieved through :
- school-based management;
- co-operation of key players in the school system; and
3.3 Quality assurance within schools can best be achieved through practising school-based management, which allows key players of school education to participate in setting school goals and developing quality indicators which best meet the needs of schools and students. The School Management Initiative (SMI), since its introduction in 1991, offers a school-based management framework for continuous school improvement geared to the delivery of quality education. We endorse the spirit of the SMI as a key factor in the enhancement of quality school education.
3.4 The consultation document recommended that all schools should practise school-based management. We note that some schools, especially those which have established their own management practices, find the SMI not flexible enough to meet their needs and pace of development. During consultation, some respondents suggested that the ECR7 should state clearly the features of school-based management for flexible application, not compulsory enforcement of SMI.
3.5 In the light of public views, we recommend that all schools should have put in place school-based management by the year 2000, so that they can develop quality school education with greater flexibility in the use of resources, and according to the needs and characteristics of their students. School-based management should comprise the following key elements, in line with the spirit of the SMI :
- development of formal procedures for setting school goals and evaluating progress towards these goals;
- provision of documents to outline the schools' profiles, development plans and budgets, and means of evaluating progress;
- preparation of written constitutions for the school management committees;
- participation of teachers, parents and alumni in school management, development, planning, evaluation and decision-making; and
- development of formal procedures and resources for staff appraisal and staff development according to teachers' needs.
3.6 The funding flexibility to be enjoyed by schools which practise school-based management will be discussed in Chapter 4 on funding flexibility. We appreciate the achievement made by schools which have adopted the SMI, and urge them to help disseminate good management practices to other schools. We are of the view that when all schools have put in place school-based management, they should no longer be differentiated into or "labelled" as SMI or non-SMI schools since all of them will have built a quality culture which is student-centred, school-based, open and accountable.
Co-operation of key players in the school system
3.7 We need the co-operation of key players in the school system to play their roles properly in order to achieve quality school education. In the following paragraphs, we define the roles and relationship of various key players in order to ensure that they complement one another in the pursuit of quality education.
Teachers, parents and students
3.8 Education is not the sole responsibility of the Government or schools. Co-operation between schools and parents is vital. Participation of teachers, parents and students in school management and school activities is conducive to the development of quality school education. This principle received wide support during consultation. It was generally agreed that this would not only help the balanced development of students and gain the support of parents, but would also enable schools to effectively draw on the views of teachers, parents and students. Participation of teachers in school management can help enhance the quality of education from a professional point of view.
ED and School Sponsoring Bodies (SSB)
3.9 Today, many good quality schools are operated by experienced SSB whose laudable efforts should be recognised and whose roles are irreplaceable. At present, through exchange of letters, the SSB is required to agree to a set of conditions before ED will consider its application for allocation of an aided school. These conditions include the general maintenance of the school premises, appointment of staff and admission of students, which have to a certain extent set out the role and duties of the SSB in the administration of the school. We recommend that such conditions be revised to set out more clearly the role and duties of the SSB in the administration of the school and the pursuit of quality school education.
SSB and School Management Committees (SMC)
3.10 At present, Regulation 75 of the Education Regulations stipulates that D of E may require the school managers to prepare, execute and submit for approval a written constitution in accordance with which the school can be managed. The constitution defines the powers and duties of the school managers. D of E has the power to dismiss any SMC member found unsuitable. We recommend that these constitutions be modified to form the basis of a "service agreement" or "letter of intent" between the SSB and the SMC, through which the SSB can monitor the performance of the SMC.
3.11 To enhance the quality of operations of the SMC, we recommend that school managers should be given appropriate training, in particular in administration and resource management.
3.12 In the long run, we recommend the BoE to review the role and operations of the SMC, and the duties of school managers, with a view to achieving more effective school management.
SMC and School Executive Committee (SEC)
3.13 While maintaining that individual schools should be allowed to decide on the school management structures that best suit their needs, we recommend that to facilitate efficient school management, schools may consider to establish a School Executive Committee (SEC) under the SMC, to decide on school matters and be answerable to the SMC.
3.14 The consultation document proposed that the SEC be chaired by the principal. During consultation, we received mixed views on whether teachers, parents and alumni should participate in the SEC or the SMC. We are of the view that the composition of the SEC should be decided by the schools themselves, in accordance with the open and school-based management concept.
3.15 Self-evaluation should be conducted annually by schools to review and evaluate their progress, identify areas for improvement and plan for necessary follow-up action. We recommend that all schools should produce documents which outline the long-term goals and priority development areas, set out specific targets for implementation, evaluate progress of work during the school year, and set improvement or development targets for the coming year. The documents should be disclosed for parents' and students' information. Schools may refer to the sample document proposed by ED at Appendix D. Through an annual reporting process, schools can be more open and accountable to students, parents and the community at large.
3.16 As suggested in Chapter 2, we recommend that schools with similar background or nature should be encouraged to form quality circles, through which they can share one another's experience in quality assurance and development. In this connection, we note that a number of major sponsoring bodies have formed quality circles among their schools, and we strongly encourage other schools to do likewise. Individual school's performance in major educational domains when compared to other schools within the same quality circle may also be reflected in the documents mentioned in paragraph 3.15 above.
External quality assurance
3.17 The consultation document recommended the setting up of a Quality Development Committee (QDC) to advise D of E on all matters relating to quality school education. During consultation, we received different views on the development of quality assurance mechanism. Many respondents supported the need for a dedicated body to advise on and disseminate good quality assurance practices. However, the status of the QDC was a major concern. There was some apprehension that if the QDC was not a professional body independent of ED, it would not be able to provide impartial and objective advice to the Government. Educators in general felt that its membership should comprise full and part-time education professionals and experts, academics and lay members. Some respondents suggested that EC should re-consider the setting up of a Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) as recommended in the report of the Working Group on Educational Standards.
3.18 The consultation document also noted the proposal by ED to adopt a whole-school approach to inspection, and to designate and reorganise the staff concerned as Quality Assurance Inspectorate (QAI) in the provision of quality education. While there was wide support during consultation for this proposal, some respondents suggested that the QAI should develop guidelines with input from front-line educators, release inspection reports for public reference, and assist improvement in school performance. There was also concern over the qualifications and training of the inspection staff and the transparency of findings. Some respondents suggested that the QAI should be independent, or be part of an independent QAU, in order to increase the credibility and transparency of the inspections.
3.19 Taking into account the above public views, together with the public concern over the large number of education-related advisory bodies, their roles and relationship with one another and with relevant executive bodies, and the need to effectively channel the efforts of various education-related bodies towards the provision of quality education, we recommend that EMB should commission a study on the way forward for a quality assurance mechanism, as part of a wider review on the education-related executive and advisory structure (see Chapter 7). The study should consider the desirability and feasibility of establishing a separate quality assurance body, answerable to the Secretary for Education and Manpower (SEM), to monitor the quality of school education.
3.20 Meanwhile, we welcome the plans of ED for an integrated inspection team to carry out quality assurance inspections using the whole-school approach which are open and transparent, with a view to identifying the strengths and weaknesses of individual schools, recommending improvement measures and taking appropriate action to assist those under-performing ones. We note that ED's inspection process involves self-evaluation by schools, whole-school inspection and post-inspection support by ED, with assistance from a panel of experts comprising practising teachers and other education specialists, and periodic external evaluation of ED's inspection process and practices. Inspection reports will be provided to schools for information and follow-up action. Appendix E provides a sample outline of the inspection report by ED.
3.21 The operations of quality assurance inspections, and their interface with the overall quality assurance mechanism should be reviewed in the light of experience and the recommendations by the study mentioned in paragraph 3.19.