Written by Juliet Kotonya from National Foundation for Educational Research and Daniel Kyasanga and Chesci Horn from PEAS
The Government of Uganda has set an ambitious goal to ‘strengthen the current inspection system and approaches by increasing the frequency of inspection of schools and institutions, with a focus ‘on the quality of leadership and management, teaching and learning process and learner achievement’ (MoES, 2017).
An innovative partnership
To support this, we are working with the Ugandan Directorate of Education Standards (DES) to adapt a well-functioning accountability system from their schools for application in government-run schools. This innovative partnership, titled the Inspect and Improve Programme (I&I), combines the newly improved DES school inspections framework with our model of school management and improvement support. This partnership builds on previous research that found that a foundational aspect of our success has been the strong internal accountability system that encourages school leaders to work towards set performance targets and take data-based decisions (EPRC, 2018) and that PEAS schools are substantially better managed than other school types in Uganda and perform correspondingly better in student learning progress (Crawfurd, 2017).
The pilot for I&I was launched in 2019 in ten schools and concluded in early 2021. The independent evaluation of the pilot, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), confirmed that I&I was successful in improving the quality of leadership and management in all participating schools across all areas of management as measured by the World Management Survey (NFER, 2021). Based on these results, PEAS and DES are scaling up I&I to reach an additional 40 secondary schools across all regions in Uganda, with plans for a further rollout to reach a further 150 schools. This article is based on experiential reflections from PEAS and DES as practitioners, and evidence from mixed-methods approaches in the ongoing collaboration with NFER as the Learning Partner for I&I scale up.
A culture of accountability
This documents the ways in which I&I has successfully built a culture of accountability at the school level, through support to improve school leaders’ core capacity for school management and to therefore drive school improvements. While the link between school management and learning outcomes has been evidenced (Leaver et al, 2019), we provide key qualitative insights that help shed light on the ways in which strong school management links to improved school performance and learning outcomes, as well as the mechanisms by which an intervention, such as I&I, can improve school management. I&I focuses on supporting school leaders to not only have greater knowledge and awareness of management practices and techniques but incentivize structures for school leaders to shift mindsets on the role of management practice in supporting school improvements.
School Improvement Planning
I&I supports school leaders to understand and clarify roles and responsibilities for holding schools to account for performance, while the use of School Improvement Planning emerged as a crucial tool to support this, in which school leaders are supported to develop a tailored plan and track progress over time. We furthermore explore what PEAS and DES have learned thus far about adapting an accountability system from the non-state sector for the state system.
The level of autonomy for school leaders and the decentralisation of decision-making plays a crucial role in translating management practices into decisions relating to school improvement. Furthermore, our findings indicate that nurturing strong working relationships is essential to operationalising accountability across various levels of the education system. This includes displacing a culture of ‘punitive’ inspections with a culture of constructive feedback and support, through which “teachers started wanting to be seen”. Finally, we believe that credible partnerships between non-state sector actors and the state system reinforce capacities for change. The comparative advantage of DES and PEAS’ respective expertise has been crucial to generating ownership and commitment to implementing changes in individual practice, demonstrating that I&I has the potential to contribute to Uganda government’s cross-sectoral efforts to raise accountability for quality public service delivery.
References: Chu, J., Galvis, M.A., and Kotonya, J. (2021). Evaluation of the PEAS-DES Inspect and Improve project: Endline report [online]. Available: https://www.nfer.ac.uk/media/4621/evaluation_of_the_peas_des_inspect_and_improve_project_en dline_report.pdf [16 March, 2022]. Crawfurd, L. (2017).
‘School management and public-private partnerships in Uganda’, RISE Working Paper 17/013 [online]. Available: https://www.riseprogramme.org/sites/www.riseprogramme.org/files/publications/RISE_WP013_ Crawfurd.pdf [12 April, 2019]. Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC) (2018) Evaluation of the PEAS network under the Uganda Universal Secondary Education (USE) programme: Endline Evaluation Survey Report [online]. Available: https://www.peas.org.uk/s/PEAS_Endline_Final_Report__March_16__2018.pdf [12 April, 2019]. Leaver, C., Lemos, R., and Scur, D. (2019). ‘Measuring and Explaining Management in Schools: New Approaches Using Public Data.’ RISE Working Paper Series 19/033 [online]. Available: https://doi.org/10.35489/BSG-RISE-WP_2019/033 [11 June, 2021].
Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES). (2017). Education and Sports Sector Strategic Plan [online]. Available: http://npa.go.ug/wp-content/uploa