Governance and Administration of Education

What position do the state, school governing bodies, teachers, parents and other stakeholders have in the education process? What division of responsibilities is appropriate? The Education Council is an advocate of clear, balanced relationships, as little administrative pressure as possible and variety in forms of governance.

The Education Council puts forward five key views in its recommendations on this subject (see also Goede raad over bestuur en organisatie? (Good advice on governance and administration?):

  1. provide variety and freedom of choice;
  2. keep vertical supervision and horizontal accountability in balance;
  3. make the role of teachers clear;
  4. avoid administrative pressure;
  5. ensure balance in the relationships within the school.

1. Provide variety and freedom of choice

In the view of the Education Council, the education minister has a unique and inalienable role to play in monitoring variety available in the system. The Education Council favours variety in governance structures and the corresponding freedom of choice. The government could vary the autonomy enjoyed by school governing bodies (for example, by linking autonomy to the policymaking capacity of schools), by allowing education institutions to choose their governance structures and legal forms, and by giving them the freedom in their relationships with parties outside the school. Variety in the educational offering could be promoted in a number of ways: through the introduction of a merger check in areas where school governing bodies are at risk of becoming a monopoly, by relaxing the planning and establishment rules (for example by broadening the interpretation of the concept of ‘persuasion’ (Dutch: richting) to include more than just religious denominations), and by allowing variations in internal and external demergers of parts of schools possible (‘opting out’). Legislation on good governance needs to be tested against criteria of freedom of establishment and decentralisation.

Opting out is a form of creating autonomy in primary and secondary education. It may involve a school or a separate unit of a school decoupling itself from the administrative organisation or the main school. It may also involve a group of teachers working on their own educational concept, on a project basis for instance, within the administrative organisation of a school. 

Again, within the administrative organisation, the question is also relevant to the balance between centralised and decentralised control and the degree of autonomy enjoyed by the various units of the school. This is especially true for larger school governing bodies. Criteria to determine the right balance focus on the primary process, on the ownership and the identity of the units, the freedom of choice, the internal programme variety and effectiveness/cost (What schools are capable of, 2002; Educational governance, 2004; Sustainable educational relations, 2006; Onderwijsspecifieke medezeggenschap (Co-determination in education), 2006; Diversity in scale, 2005; Hoe kan governance in het onderwijs verder vorm krijgen? (How can we shape governance in education?), 2006; Leraarschap is eigenaarschap (Teaching needs ownership), 2007; De bestuurlijke ontwikkeling van het Nederlandse onderwijs (Development of governance in Dutch education), 2008; Verzelfstandiging I (Autonomy I), Verzelfstandiging II (Autonomy II), 2010).

2. Keep vertical supervision and horizontal accountability in balance

Horizontal accountability (informing all stakeholders in education) cannot replace vertical supervision (by the state). As well as pupils, parents and staff members, schools should also give external parties a formal role in the participation council. This would do justice to the increased substantive cooperation with society and the local community (for instance, local companies, the neighbourhood association or a religious community). For primary and secondary education and senior secondary vocational education, non-negotiable standards should be established which should be examined by the Education Inspectorate. Supervision of horizontal accountability is an explicit task of the school’s internal supervision body, for example, a supervisory board (What schools are capable of, 2002; Wetsvoorstellen modernisering medezeggenschap (Legislative proposals to modernise co-determination), 2002; Sustainable educational relations, 2006; Vigorous supervision of education, 2006; Onderwijsspecifieke medezeggenschap (Co-determination in education), 2006; Hoe kan governance in het onderwijs verder vorm krijgen? (How can we shape governance in education?), 2006; De bestuurlijke ontwikkeling van het Nederlandse onderwijs (Development of governance in Dutch education), 2008).

3. Make the role of teachers clear

The position and the responsibilities of teachers within the new educational governance parameters need to be clear. Teachers should be able to exert influence on educational processes: they need to reclaim ownership – in line with the objectives and responsibilities of the school as a whole. Teachers should organise themselves in national general professional associations. Within schools, they could set up a teachers’ council or a teacher’s convention (What schools are capable of, 2002; Waardering voor hoger onderwijs (Appreciation for higher education), 2005; Waardering voor het leraarschap (Appreciation of the teaching profession), 2006; Leraarschap is eigenaarschap (Teaching needs ownership), 2007; Minimum leerresultaten, interventie en intern toezicht (Minimum learning outcomes, intervention and internal supervision), 2009; Naar doelmatiger onderwijs (Towards more effective education), 2009; Verzelfstandiging II (Autonomy I), 2010).

4. Avoid administrative pressure

Good governance means: demarcating and assigning powers to safeguard prudent administration and combat any abuse of power. In essence, the education system does not need new supervisory bodies, such as the Enterprise Chamber. If any new supervisory body were needed, for instance an Education Chamber at the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMA) responsible for merger checks, others would have to relinquish their role (What schools are capable of, 2002; Vigorous supervision of education, 2006; Hoe kan governance in het onderwijs verder vorm krijgen?  (How can we shape governance in education?), 2006; De maatschappelijke onderneming als rechtsvorm in het onderwijs (The social enterprise as a legal form in education), 2007; De bestuurlijke ontwikkeling van het Nederlandse onderwijs (Development of governance in Dutch education), 2008).

5. Ensure balance in the relationships within the school

The Education Council believes that education institutions are primarily social organisations in which stakeholders often have parallel interests. This means that no single party wields more power than any other (parents, pupils or teachers), and powers and responsibilities must be allocated in a balanced way. School governors need to operate within a culture of service and modesty, bearing in mind that education itself is the core business of schools. When exercising their responsibilities, teachers should also be aware of the objectives and responsibilities of the school as a whole. For parents, further legalisation and formalisation of their relationship with the school is not desirable, and it would be better to invest in facilitating a partnership between the school, parents and parent communities at various levels of the school organisation. Making the expectations and responsibilities of both parties explicit is an important prerequisite (What schools are capable of, 2002; Hoe kan governance in het onderwijs verder vorm krijgen? (How can we shape governance in education?), 2006; Leraarschap is eigenaarschap (Teaching needs ownership), 2007; De bestuurlijke ontwikkeling van het Nederlandse onderwijs (Development of governance in Dutch education),2008; Naar doelmatiger onderwijs (Towards more effective education); Parents as partners, 2009).