University of Sussex
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School self-evaluation for quality improvement: investigating the practice of the policy in Kenya

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posted on 2023-06-08, 18:09 authored by Akihiro Fushimi
This thesis investigates the emerging policy vision and assumptions underlying the promotion of school self-evaluation (SSE) as an innovative strategy for school improvement in Kenya, and the ways in which they are understood and practiced by various stakeholders. My professional involvement in SSE policy development led me to think that too little was known about its practice. Therefore, I specifically explored the acceptability, feasibility and effectiveness of this evaluation process, focusing on social interaction and contextual factors at the school/community level through an exploratory qualitative case study and continuous professional reflection. By critically questioning linear, top-down policy assumptions, I sought multiple stakeholder viewpoints within contextual specificities in order to capture and understand the realities – complex, diverse and organic processes – on the ground. Accordingly, I employed interactionist and constructivist paradigms, and utilised interviews, observations and documentary analysis as sources. The findings suggest that there is a considerable gap between SSE policy expectations and its practice on the ground, while also highlighting some positive experiences and future potential. Stakeholders at all levels largely understand and accept the idea of participatory, inclusive and democratic SSE conceptually, but they have not yet embraced it practically. The education authority’s monopoly on the power to evaluate schools is identified as a key systemic bottleneck that effectively restricts meaningful SSE practice on the part of school-level stakeholders who follow instructions from above in a regime of professional legitimacy. Conversely, study findings indicate that both collective and individual SSE approaches promoted in Kenya are feasible, policymakers’ paternalistic concerns notwithstanding. Teachers were found to demonstrate their collective ability to apply the prescriptive SSE tool to fit their unique contexts and assess school quality. They also successfully engaged with individual SSE (action research) which, the thesis contends, can initiate a ‘positive spiral of change’ through which teachers build their confidence based on small but real successes, transform perspectives and professional attitudes, and ultimately engage in self-reflective practices for school improvement. However, the thesis concludes that the Kenyan policy assumption of evidence-based school development remains largely theoretical, schools tending to engage in ad-hoc improvement through unsophisticated planning in the absence of systematic SSE. Overall, I argue that it is important to acknowledge and utilise the education authority’s power and influence (i.e. the leadership of the Ministry of Education, and its Quality Assurance and Standards Directorate) in a positive manner that will lead to a more realistic and pragmatic approach to SSE promotion. Contending that institutionalising a ‘culture of learning’ is the way forward, I present a scenario whereby SSE may lead to sustained school improvement with two key strategies: (i) merging individual and collective SSE; and (ii) combining internal and external school evaluation. Moreover, I argue that the education authority’s monopoly on school evaluation should also be tackled so that an integrated system for quality improvement can be realised in Kenya. Based on the study findings, the thesis presents a number of policy recommendations including formal utilisation of the SSE tool; substantial stakeholder participation; enhanced teacher training; external quality assurance to validate SSE results; strengthened district-level peer learning and school leadership; and improved policy coordination and dissemination. Finally, I reflect on my professional position with renewed commitment to contribute to the achievement of quality education for all children.


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  • doctoral

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  • eng


University of Sussex

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