School inspection of Czech schools

You can download the full paper here.

The external control of the schools has a long tradition in the Czech lands and was linked to the modern form of education organised during the second half of the 18th century, with the first centrally organised institution for the control of schools being founded in 1759. It was entitled the Court Educational Commission (Dvorská studijní komise) and its task was to provide uniform administration and control of the Austrian school system and to ensure its improvement and development. In 1869, the Austrian Education Act introduced a uniform system of state supervision over schools to replace the supervision formerly carried out by the Church. District school inspectors became the main inspection body with functions of control, consultancy and launching new initiatives. This inspection system remained even after Czechoslovakia gained independence in 1918.

In the communist era Inspection was mainly normatively oriented and it served primarily communist ideology. Inspection activities covered both administration and teaching and they concentrated primarily on ensuring that the educational process did not deviate from teaching documents which were largely binding both in terms of content and timing. The organisation and goals of school inspection and the rights and duties of school inspectors were laid down by a decree issued by the Ministry of Education of the Czech Socialist Republic in 1979. The evaluation of the education system as a whole was always a political matter and was carried out by highlevel authorities. Before 1989 these were primarily the bodies of the Communist Party or education bodies under the leadership of the party bodies. We shall bear in mind that in the era of communism, all schools were state run and were directed centrally. Schools were not legal entities and no autonomy was granted to them. The main task of inspection then was monitoring instead of evaluation, and inspection findings could not endanger a school’s existence. The main focus of inspection was on individual teachers rather than institution focused inspection.

After 1989, with a significantly changed conception of school administration and increased autonomy of schools, a new concept of inspection was sought. The Česka školní inspekce (Czech School Inspectorate – hereinafter CSI) was transformed as a result of the Act on State Administration and Self-government in Education in 1991. This was an independent institution separated from the administration of education. The 1995 amendment to this law defined the role of the Inspectorate more precisely and introduced modifications to its operation reports. The Czech Republic was the first Eastern – European country that developed and installed an inspectorate that did “full inspections” of schools – already in 1994/1995. That Inspectorate also was one of the eight founders – inspectorates of SICI in 1995. As in more Eastern – European countries, the development in this area of school inspection was not linear – due to political changes and the complicated change – processes in schools and education. In the Education Act of 2005 and accompanying documents the tasks and responsibilities of the CSI are crystallized now in a clear and stable way. The core task is the evaluation of all schools, once in three years, against a broad set of quality indicators in a group of eight quality domains. The inspections are planned and done from the fourteen regional offices of the CSI. Inspectors analyze school – documents, take interviews, and observe lessons. Self – evaluation by schools is obliged since 2005 and inspectors take the resulting documents as a starting point for their gathering of information. There is no type of risk – based inspection. And even though the report prepared by the CSI for the SICI states that “there is no proportionality with the intensity or coverage of the external inspections” (CSI 2009, p. 4), interview with a head of a regional inspectorate revealed that due to financial constraints and decreasing numbers of inspectors as well as the stress on quality of school inspection leads to more proportionality being used. Reflecting the size of the school and results of preparation phase of inspection process the size of the inspection team may differ as well as a time spent in school. School phase of inspection process thus usually takes between 2 to 5 days.

Inspection is part of the system in the Czech Republic for years, and it is constantly changing since 1990s’. To be able to fully understand the importance of the inspection of school in the Czech Republic we shall stress two important characteristics of the Czech education. Firstly, Czech Republic till now had no national assessment at any level of education system. In May 2011 it is the first year when state final upper-secondary leaving examination (maturita) is organized using nationally administered tests. However till now, upper secondary leaving examinations were main responsibility of individual schools with no use of national tests. At the lower levels of education there is no single national testing. In this context the CSI is the only external evaluation in Czech education system. One of the evaluation criteria for inspection are educational outcomes, however as revealed by the interview with inspector, the lack of national objective data on student results/achievement is seen by inspectors as a limit to effective school evaluation by inspection. In this days CSI is trying to overcome this shortcoming and they want to introduce national assessment at the end of primary (grade 5) and lower secondary (grade 9) education. Secondly, autonomy granted to schools in Czech Republic during the 1990s’ is seen as one of the largest in European context (Čerych 1997, Greger, Walterová 2007). The National programme for the development of the education in the Czech Republic from 2001 (White book – see MEYS 2001, p. 97) thus directly states that “the higher level of school autonomy in decision making has to be balanced by systematic evaluation of results to assure their quality and effectiveness”. White paper directly stressed the role of CSI to assure the quality of education and also proposed to introduce national assessment in grade 5 and 9 as well as national assessment at the end of upper-secondary school.

Having in mind that Czech school inspectorate is the only form of external evaluation in Czech education system it is quite surprising that educational research has paid no attention to its functioning, its effects and possible side-effects till date. We could not find single research paper that would evaluate the work of inspection since 1990s’. The main aim of the present paper is thus to reconstruct and analyze the intended effects and possible side-effects based on analysis of methods currently used by CSI. For the analysis we have used program theory analysis based on legislation and other documents regulating/describing the work of CSI and its purposes as described by Ehren et al. (2005) and Ehren (2011).

You can download the full paper here.