23 SES 08 C, Inspection and Regulation
Parallel Paper Session
Within a global context, Norway has been a late-comer in applying accountability devices in education. The turning point in Norwegian educational policy came with a centre-conservative government (2001-5) which introduced national assessment policies and evaluation tools, such as standardised tests (Skedsmo, 2009).
The mediocre results achieved in PISA 2000, 2003 and 2006 brought about a new direction for Norwegian education policy, which can be described as a shift from input based school governing towards a stronger emphasis on performance and outputs (Skedsmo, 2009). At the same time as the assessment policy implied increased focus on national performance tests, the responsibility to follow up the schools on their achieved outcomes, lies with the municipalities. Not surprisingly, the extent to which schools meet national policy expectations during the 2000s, vary from municipality to municipality, which has turned into a political problem for the national government.
In 2005, The Office of the Auditor General of Norway reported on large differences between municipalities and the lack of consistency in evaluation systems. This office, which is mandated by the Norweigian Parliament, demanded for increased national control in the education sector. Since then, national school inspection has become an emerging policy issue.
This paper provides an overview of governing structures in Norwegian education, which are important to understand current inspection devices and practices. The overall problem of analysis is how modernizing trajectories in the national school inspection system are changing along with new methodologies of policy.
In Norway, school inspection has for many decades been conducted in terms of advicement, organized by national authorities to support municipalities and schools in their effort of structuring and developing their educative programs and activities. Historically, this practice has been highly regulated but at the same time decentralised, motivated by municipalities’ need for guidance to assure that education is in accordance with the overall legislation (Sivesind, 2008). Today this institutional practice is reorganized; new tools and methods are introduced, like school auditing and self-evaluation.
In the first part of the paper we describe differences between tools and methodologies applied in current systems for school inspection, like auditing, monitoring, supervision and advicement. Thereafter we discuss implications of introducing school auditing within the Norwegian context. Drawing on Pollit and Bouckaert (2004), we examine differences between compliance-oriented audit, which is heavily legalistic, and performance-audit which focuses on observed outcomes.These two forms of auditing is not contradictory but correspond to opposite accounts of trajectories. A related problem, discussed in the last part of the paper, is how different froms of inspection conceptualise norms through applied methodologies; wether inspection focus on norms as devices for action and/or norms as descriptive standards, detailing civil and individual rights. The paper concludes on how justification of legal norms depends on applied tools and methodologies in national school inspection, reflecting modernizing trajectories within a European policy context (Ozga, 2011).
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