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December 10, 2018

Boosting Monitoring in the Basic Education Sector

The basic education sector in Myanmar is experiencing a huge growth in the number of students, schools and teachers. Therefore, apart from increasing the number of school buildings, there is also the need to enhance the capacity of school heads and teachers, the knowledge and thinking skills of students, and the quality of the curriculum, the methodology and teaching aids. To ensure that there are no huge gaps among schools, it is necessary for the school monitoring system to be effective. In the majority of countries, monitoring of schools is conducted by school inspection teams. Wilcox, B. (2000), in his monogram, Making school inspection visits more effective: the English experience), published by International Institute for Educational Planning/UNESCO, defines school inspection as a process of assessing the quality and/or performance of institutions, services, programmes or projects by external agents and he notes that inspection is perhaps the oldest method of supervising teachers and schools. There is no doubt that regular and effective school inspections have a great deal of impact on promoting the quality of schools, and help them solve many of the problems they face.
In Myanmar, school inspections are conducted three times a year by inspection teams from the Departments of Basic Education designated for each level, and the inspections focus on evaluation of three areas, namely, academic, administrative and financial. Evaluation of academic performance of the school is based on assessment of the efficiency of the school head, implementation of the monthly syllabus, the performance of students, and the use of prescribed methodology and teaching aids. Evaluation of administrative matters focus on appearance and maintenance of school buildings, greening of the school grounds and staff administration matters. Inspection of financial matters relate to compliance of financial rules and regulations. The inspection is usually based on records and students’ written work.   The inspectors’ findings are submitted to the education authority of the basic education department concerned in the form of a written report.
The following developments in the basic education sector necessitate an evaluation of the effectiveness of the current system of inspection:
*   questions raised by those with a keen interest in the development of education in the country, regarding the effectiveness of school inspections, the actual number of inspections done each year, and actions taken in response to the findings of inspections
*   rapid increase in the number of schools, students and teachers in order to promote access to education
*   need for the inspection system to be in line with the pragmatic reforms being introduced in other areas of basic education to improve quality
*   need for the appointment of an adequate number of inspectors with the required training, expertise and trustworthiness
*   need to carry out both inspection and supervision at the same time by school inspectors as warranted by the current lack of human resource in the Departments of Basic Education
In response to the above mentioned factors, the following remedial measures are suggested for the enhancement of the role of school inspection in raising the standard of basic education. Proper recognition must be given to the important role that school inspection plays in the general improvement of schools and in raising the quality of teaching and learning. Adequate number of qualified school inspectors needs to be appointed in commensurate with the number of schools to ensure that all schools are inspected regularly. If at present more school inspectors cannot be appointed, then assistance from faculty of education colleges and qualified senior teachers from neighbouring schools should be sought to increase the size of the inspection team. A common checklist for inspection should be drawn along with specific objectives, and additional items added for regions with special needs. It is also important to ensure that all inspectors are carrying out their responsibilities effectively, in a transparent and accountable manner, and that there is no malpractice. Hence, the performance of current school inspectors should be evaluated and they should be provided the necessary training to ensure that they can perform their responsibilities in a professional manner. Necessary financial and administrative support should be provided to inspectors to enable them to travel to schools conveniently and to carry out their tasks without being a burden on schools. Although inspection and supervision are two different tasks, due to current financial and human resource constraints, they may need to be merged. Consequently, inspectors should not just check records of attendance, test and exam performances of students, but they ought to give adequate time to observe teaching, learning, and student work, hold discussions with school heads and teachers to review their performances, and give them feedback, guidance and solutions. On their part, education administrators need to give the necessary attention to the findings of inspection reports and carry out the necessary actions to redress shortcomings. It is also important to ensure that schools are inspected as specified, so that both the authorities and the schools get feedback about the performance of schools. Lastly, monitoring should not simply be to find fault, or to take action against individuals, but to observe the actual state of schools and provide practical solutions to improve individual schools as well as the whole system.
School inspection is as important as administration and teaching, as it can not only identify strengths and weaknesses of schools, but it also provides the necessary opportunity to give guidance and assistance for improvement. At this juncture, when pragmatic reforms are being introduced in the education sector, it is vital that school inspections are conducted in a systematic and effective manner to make certain that all schools are on the right track to improvement and all students receive quality education.

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