Dashboard to track developments in primary education, secondary education and secondary vocational education
The Minister of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) has been providing additional funding for primary education, secondary education and secondary vocational education since 2015. The funding is intended, among other things, to improve the quality of teaching. The House of Representatives wants to be informed of the use of these additional funds and the realisation of the intended goals in the years ahead. At the House’s request, the Court of Audit has developed an instrument, a dashboard, to provide an insight into the progress being made towards the goals.
The introduction of lump sum funding in education gave school boards more discretion over the use of their budgets. Owing to the combination of discretionary spending powers and the great variation in how school boards account for their performance, no direct link can currently be made at macro level between the funds and the goals. Furthermore, the policy information received by the House of Representatives is extremely fragmented. Insight into the relationship between budgets, expenditure and results has therefore disappeared.
Our dashboard makes the relevant policy information accessible and insightful. The additional funds provided by the House of Representatives were intended to be spent principally ‘in the classroom’, chiefly to professionalise the teachers. Professional teachers are a precondition for good education. We have also included other conditions for good education in the dashboard. We identify four conditions for good education that are important ‘in the classroom’: in addition to professional teachers, they are: class size and composition, satisfaction at work and a learning environment. If the dashboard information were to remain available, the long-term effects could also be followed. If this is to be done, clear, multiyear agreements will have to be made.
The dashboard and indicators we developed can help streamline the policy information provided to the House of Representatives and other stakeholders. They would then have a better understanding of the progress made towards the goals. We recommend that the Minister of OCW include our dashboard, along with the ‘quality of education’ dashboard the ministry itself has developed, on the Trends in beeld website. The dashboard would also help school boards select the subjects on which they would like to receive management information and to account to a wide group of stakeholders in their direct environment.
The Minister and State Secretary for OCW agree with our proposal to introduce the dashboard but raise a number of points. In their opinion, for example, the dashboard should focus on output and/or input indicators, and the indicator set should first be agreed with the sector councils. They also noted that there was a lot of overlap between the indicators in our dashboard and those currently being used to monitor agreements. They were critical about the indicators on class size and teacher/pupil ratios as they thought it was not desirable to present them as preconditions for the quality of education. The Minister and State Secretary for OCW have the ambition to develop a robust dashboard that takes a snapshot of the quality of education. They want to introduce it to the public as a robust instrument to monitor the quality of education. They asked the Court of Audit to take a critical look at the development of their dashboard.
The Primary Education Council and the Secondary Education Council responded that our dashboard contained a valuable set of indicators but it required further refinement and would have to be evaluated every year. The Secondary Vocational Education Council said it did not recognise itself in the dashboard and disassociated itself from it. It advised us to confine the dashboard to the primary education and secondary education sectors.
In our afterword we noted that the Minister and State Secretary for OCW had the ambition to develop a robust dashboard that would present a snapshot of the quality of education. This agrees with the thinking underlying our report and the House of Representative’s request that we carry out an audit. A combination of it and the broad set of indicators being developed by the Ministry of OCW would match the goals set for the dashboard and provide the House with a robust instrument to monitor the quality of education and the requisite preconditions. We will follow the government’s further development of the monitoring instrument with great interest. The Court of Audit would be more than pleased to contribute to its development in the near future if it is able to do so.