On March 18, six ministerial departments, including the Ministry of Education, the Organization Department of the Central Committee of the CPC, the State Commission?Office for Public Sector Reforms, the National Development and Reform Commission, the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, jointly issued the Guidelines for Evaluating the Quality of Compulsory Education?(“Guidelines”). The Guidelines have come at an opportune time, considering that the existing evaluation system is becoming increasingly less relevant as China’s compulsory education enters a new development stage. The MOE held a press conference to present further details about the new document.
A three-tier evaluation system involving educational departments, schools and students
When it comes to compulsory education, quality evaluation can be a complex issue, as it involves multiple actors, dimensions and factors. According to Lv Yugang, director-general?of the Department of Basic Education under the MOE, the new evaluation system focuses on the performance of county-level educational departments, schools and students, with 12 key indicators and verification criteria. “One of the highlights is that county-level educational departments will also be evaluated against set targets, in addition to schools, students and teachers,” said Dong Qi, President of Beijing Normal University. Holding educational departments accountable will help address challenges encountered in the effective implementation of quality education at its source. The performance of educational authorities will be assessed against five indicators: value orientation, organization and leadership, teaching conditions, staffing, and balanced development. Schools will be evaluated against five different indicators: mission and purpose, curricula and teaching, teacher development, school management, and student development. Students will be assessed on moral development, academic performance, physical and mental development, aesthetic literacy, and labor and social skills.
According to Zhu Dongbin, deputy director-general?of the Basic Education Department, the new evaluation system is a substantial improvement on previous versions. “Even in terms of students’ academic performance, more emphasis is put on students’ learning habits and creativity, in order to lay the foundation for their comprehensive and lifelong development. Moreover, students are evaluated holistically, with moral, academic, physical, labor and aesthetic aspects included,” said Zhu.
Making evaluations more relevant, targeted and effective
In order to make educational quality evaluations more relevant, targeted and effective, the Guidelines require striking a fine balance between four sets of indicators: improving outcomes and adding value; comprehensive performance and specialized capabilities; self-assessments and external evaluations; online evaluations and offline appraisals.
The Guidelines?also set out clear requirements for implementation. According to Lv, self-evaluations by county-level departments and schools will be followed by reviews at municipal and provincial levels, supplemented by monitoring and spot checks by ministerial-level departments. Evaluations will be conducted every three to five years, depending on the number of schools in a jurisdiction. Competent educational leaders and headmasters will be evaluated at least once during their terms.
The Guidelines underline the role of evaluations in encouraging all stakeholders to improve the quality of compulsory education. “Evaluations are not an end in themselves, but a means to improve the quality of school education and teaching,” Lv said. Results of school operation evaluations will serve as an important basis for rewards and penalties to schools, policy support, resource allocation, and performance evaluation of headmasters. The overall results of a county will inform the assessment of competent leaders’ fulfilment of their administrative functions, and will be used to determine whether quality and balanced development of compulsory education is realized in that jurisdiction.
Effective implementation through an inclusive, participatory process
The Guidelines require that a participatory mechanism involving multiple sectors and stakeholder should be established to ensure effective implementation. Local governments are encouraged to produce detailed, county-specific implementation guidelines. “The joint issuance of the Guidelines by six ministerial departments means that implementation is a matter of cross-sectional collaboration. It’s not just the duty of educational departments, but has to involve other government and Party departments,” said Dong. “A focus on synergy within and outside the education system is another highlight of the Guidelines.”
In terms of organizational safeguards, the Guidelines underline the importance of establishing qualified, stable quality evaluation task forces, composed of educational inspectors, administrators, researchers, headmasters, teachers and other interested parties. Members should have the required expertise, professional competence and extensive experience in education-related laws, regulations and policies, education and teaching, school management, and supervision and evaluation.
The Guidelines also encourage local governments to procure the services of third-party professional organizations to help carry out quality evaluations.