Educational quality

Educational quality
What does the research say?

How do we look at the quality of education?

You can look at the quality of education in many different ways. You can look at the quality of the education system in even more different ways. The perspective with which you look at it largely determines the outcomes. Is it mainly about the quality of teachers, how happy pupils become, what pupils learn or how well they manage in secondary education or on the job market? And are we then looking at efficiency, or also at freedom of choice or the fairness of distribution? This paper describes a conceptual framework on educational quality and education systems.

Four functions and four criteria

We apply a system theoretical approach by looking at the functions that education performs in society, and then assess these functions using a number of criteria. We distinguish four functions of the education system: the qualification function, the selection function, the allocation function and the socialization function. Each of the four functions can in turn be assessed on the basis of several criteria. Here we distinguish four criteria: effectiveness, efficiency, justice and freedom of choice. Some functions and criteria are at odds with each other. In other words, an exchange can take place whereby optimization of one function or one criterion is at the expense of optimization of another function or another criterion. This trade-off leads to sub-optimal outcomes.

How do undesirable outcomes arise?
  1. The different functions and criteria are sometimes at odds. There is regularly a trade-off between the different functions or criteria.
  2. There may also be trade-offs between the different levels. Is it about teachers in the classroom, the school, the region or the situation in the Netherlands?
  3. In order to make effective policies at schools, it is important to have some insight into what does and does not work in education. Fortunately, there is more and more information about effective interventions and effective policies.
  4. Restrictions can also lead to undesirable outcomes, even if the policy is in principle promising. The professionalization of teachers, for example, is not very promising if there are not enough capable teachers at a school.