The Role of the School Inspection System in Demonstrating and Improving the Quality of Compulsory Education

: Exploring Stakeholder Perceptions in Shandong Province China

  • Hong Zheng

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Abstract

School inspection plays a critical role in evaluating, supervising and improving education quality in many countries (Eurydice, 2004; MacBeath, 2006). As the guidance for evaluation, school inspection frameworks stipulate criteria and how school inspections are carried out, which affects the quality of school inspection and its impact on education quality (Scheerens et al., 2003). Given the limited empirical research on school inspection and its impact on school quality in China, this study aims to explore the strengths, weaknesses and overall quality of school inspection policies and practice in China and examine in one city region stakeholder perceptions of inspection purposes, content, processes, outcomes, and context, as well as the potential to improve inspection practice and compulsory education quality in China. Considering educational inequity between schools and teachers professional rank may influence teachers’ views about school inspection, this study also seeks to identify the differences in perspectives of participants with senior/junior professional titles from urban/rural schools. A conceptual framework was developed to guide the research aim and design by synthesising relevant theories and school inspection frameworks that inform the concept of education quality and the practice of school inspection.
A mixed-method empirical research design was employed to conduct research in ten purposively selected junior high schools in Q city of Shandong Province in China. Data collection methods include a survey of 364 teachers and headteachers and 13 stakeholder interviews with headteachers, teachers, city and national inspectors, and an educational officer. Through statistical analysis of survey data and thematic analysis of interview data, this study found that stakeholders considered (1) some inspection indicators are particularly important to demonstrate education quality including student physical and emotional well-being, equity in classroom teaching, and teachers’ motivation; (2) some inspection indicators are unrealistic and unpractical, and this was linked to school context and schools’ fraudulent behaviours to reach inspection criteria; (3) compliance with legal regulations and school improvement were more important than accountability as key purposes of school inspection; (4) equity in student outcomes has not received enough attention from Chinese school inspectorates; (5) currently, it is a challenge to realise student all-round development in the dominant exam-oriented evaluation system. It was also found that inspection indicators regarding innovative classroom teaching and teachers’ professional development, and inspection procedures regarding feedback provided by external inspectors were rated significantly higher by junior teachers than senior teachers. These findings suggest specific ways in which the current inspection system in Shandong Province could be improved, for example by including new indicators to complement the existing inspection framework. This study overall argues that school inspection criteria and methods in Shandong province and more broadly in China could be better improved by taking account of stakeholder views and school contexts and by putting more stress on providing school-based professional guidance instead of intense bureaucratic monitoring.
Date of Award1 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorSally M Thomas (Supervisor) & E V Washbrook (Supervisor)

Cite this

The Role of the School Inspection System in Demonstrating and Improving the Quality of Compulsory Education: Exploring Stakeholder Perceptions in Shandong Province China
Zheng, H. (Author). 1 Oct 2019

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)