Future School Management : Do Plans and Needs Match? A Comparative Study with Examples from Four OECD-Countries
Abstract: The overriding aim of this study is to focus a factor affecting the readiness of the education systems of four OECD countries (or, to be quite correct, three countries and one state in the U.S.) to meet and adapt to changing demands and expectations on educational outcome. The factor in focus is the role, work and competence of local school managers. The countries included in the study are the state of California, England, Norway and Sweden.The study compares the actual plans as expressed in official policy documents such as curricula, national development plans and legislation with what can be derived from literature and interviews with key informants within and outside the education systems. Comparisons are made between the different sources of information within each country, and between the countries. Since a key element in the role of the local school managers that has developed over the last decade is decentralization or devolution, a study of questionnaire data from active head teachers has also been carried out, in order to depict the degree of local responsibility for a number of aspects of management, and the direction of the development - towards more or less local responsibility.One assumption that creates a foundation for the comparison is that there may be discrepancies between what the actual official plans of each country say, and what the development needs are judged to be by literature and the key informants, and that such discrepancies, if they exist, may hamper the coherence of development force.Since the study deals with four countries the ambition can not be a complete coverage of all aspects brought up in the study. The study concentrates on examples from the four countries in the comparison of development plans and assumed needs. The method of the study is mainly qualitative, but with certain elements of quantitative data sampling. Information is mainly derived from relevant research literature in several disciplines, official documents concerning development of education, a rather large number of interviews with key informants from the four countries and the above mentioned questionnaires.Results of the study indicate rather unclear couplings between different organizational levels within each country, from national/state level to the individual school and its management. Many official documents have a content of a surprisingly concrete and trivial level, and many with a primary focus on human resources development of the work force for reasons of national competitiveness in a global economy. The key informants, on the other hand, reveal a much broader perspective on education and its value to society and the individuals.Differences between the countries when it comes to education development are surprisingly small, despite other differences between them. The future needs for competence of local school managers are quite comparable between the countries, with only small differences that can be attributed to national traditions and specific unique situations in certain countries. A set of future competence demands can be described.It is questioned if possibly official documents underestimate the magnitude of possible changes in education in the near future. In several cases there seems to be reason to fear a development of fragmentation of society and a lower degree of shared values, with possible social conflict as a result.
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