What is it about?
A major recent trend has been towards decentralisation and increased school autonomy. Granting schools more autonomy over school practices and organisation, or their use of financial resources, gives them more opportunities to adapt to their specific needs and local context. However, the benefits of autonomy depend on the capacity of schools to plan effectively and manage their own development, as well as how accountable they are to parents, local communities and education authorities. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results show that school autonomy leads to better basic skill achievement when coupled with accountability. The interplay between school autonomy and accountability however calls for strong quality assurance systems.
Quality assurance systems vary greatly across Europe, but share a number of common challenges. These challenges include:
- how to set goals and measure progress for education systems and student learning;
- design quality assurance for increasingly decentralised and multi-level education systems;
- encourage dialogue and a culture of trust among education stakeholders; and
- prioritise human and financial resources.
Building strong quality assurance systems at national and regional level is crucial for more transparency and trust between countries. This is key to facilitating learner mobility across Europe through mutual recognition of secondary education diplomas and the outcomes of learning periods abroad.
The European Commission supports EU countries in further developing their quality assurance systems by facilitating mutual learning. A working group of European experts from Member State governments and stakeholder organisations meets regularly to examine specific aspects of policies linked to quality assurance, discuss shared challenges, and exchange good practice.
What has been done so far?
The EU working group has produced guidance for policymakers on quality assurance for school development. In a Communication on school development and excellent teaching (2017) the European Commission outlines areas for action to improve school education, including quality assurance. An accompanying Staff working document provides useful insights into research evidence and results of EU-level work on school education policies.