Context-Specific School Improvement Plan
Individual difference in teaching-learning is quite a common term in educational literature. It implies that students are different from each other in terms of their ability and capacity to learn and that they learn differently, hence should be taught with different teaching strategies. Teachers are encouraged to adapt to a variety of teaching strategies in order to fulfill the needs of individual student in a classroom. At a macro-level the concept of individual differences is equally applicable in terms of individual schools to improve.
There are different ways of school improvement or school reform strategies. In many countries a system-wide reform is in use. In system-wide reform process, all schools are treated at the same scale and reform is planned and implemented on the bases of a uniform standard approach. In such an attempt, schools’ individual needs usually get ignored and so the intended change is either short term or no change at all. Sometimes such a reform has proved counterproductive in school improvement efforts especially in schools which are in challenging circumstances.
Educational literature on school improvement suggests to analyse the individual needs of a school and then apply a specific planned strategies based on the needs of the school. Each school is different in terms of their socio-economic status, composition, and their external influencing factors and so on and so forth. Treating schools differently to bring improvement in schools can solve half of the problem of educational inequality. It will also help in improving education quality in a step-by-step process rather than jumping onto a universally acceptable solution. The later approach can bring a short term change but the step-by-step process of treating each school differently can bring a sustainable long term educational change. How is such a sustainable change possible in our society? Or even if such a change possible?’
The public education system in developing countries is quite criticized for its low quality and effectiveness. Given the low performing status of our schools, the educational system needs to be more localized. Once localized, the education department of each jurisdiction/region/area can compile facts and figures about the schools in their area. These schools can then be classified into ‘High performing, Average school and low performing schools’.
For the High Performing schools a national standard plan can be applied. In this plan the policy makers and academics along with the local system and school can develop and implement a standard plan with a set criteria can be implemented. In such a plan the schools will be accountable to the set standard. School monitoring and evaluation can be standard reference and norm reference. In standard reference school performances are assessed based on the national standard set. In the norm reference assessment, school performances can be crossed referenced i.e schools’ performance can be compared with other highly performing schools.
For the low performing schools, a very different approach of improvement needs to be adopted. First of all an analysis of the context and need analysis can be carried out. The situation analysis can be used as a based to develop a locally context-specific school improvement plan. It may look at the physical structure of the school, the resource requirements (material and human), the leadership requirements, teachers’ professional development requirement, students’ family background, an analysis of the community and their needs and so on. Since there can be many diverse needs of each school in difficult situation, more than one plan needs to be developed. The plan may advise on the physical repairing of the school, reduced class sizes, need of expert teachers, resilient leadership, parents and community involvement strategies, specified training needs for teachers/leadership etc. In doing so, the local education system will develop a locally owned school improvement system by involving the local stake holders such as the community and the school. Monitoring and evaluation of such schools need to more locally suited i.e assessing school performance with the school’s past performance rather than comparing them with other schools. Such an exercise will help in improving the school through a step-by-step process and will not assume the status of low performing schools for competing with high performing schools.
An integrated approach of improvement planning can be adopted for average performing schools. These schools can be assessed on standards and comparing performances with other schools, however these schools should also be assessed based on their previous performance. The planning would also integrate some standard based set criteria and also merging the local needs of the area.
If schools improvement plans are implemented based on a classification of schools and meeting to the needs of each category of schools, a system reform is not far away.