Quality data Dutch Inspectorate of Education scarcely affect school choice

2 February 2012

Reports published by the Dutch Inspectorate of Education on the Internet about the quality of primary schools scarcely influence the choice of parents for their child's school. This is apparent from NWO-funded research by professor Victor Bekkers.

The reports from the Dutch Inspectorate of Education include data about the scores achieved in the final tests at all primary schools in the Netherlands. A study by public policy researcher Bekkers reveals that more than 60% of parents never look at these quality data about schools. Only 2% of parents thoroughly consult this information from the Dutch Inspectorate of Education and allow it to influence their choice of school. The remaining group of fathers and mothers take a brief look at the figures but do almost nothing with them.

Atmosphere

Parents were found to make more use of other sources of information when choosing the right school for the children, such as school prospectuses and websites, personal contact with school staff and information from other parents. Also the atmosphere and image of the school play an important role in their consideration.

The Dutch Inspectorate of Education assumes that parents benefit from the quality information being made public. 'They want to serve parents with objective figures and in so doing they assume rational choosing behaviour,' says Bekkers. 'However, subjective considerations are clearly more important for parents. They place greater emphasis on a visit to the school than on browsing the Inspectorate's website. They also base their choice on practical considerations such as the distance between home and school.'

According to Bekkers the outcomes of his research do not mean that the Dutch Inspectorate of Education should stop publishing the quality data. However, they should think about other ways of reaching parents. 'For example, they could encourage schools to place a link on their websites to the Inspectorate's quality reports, as the school websites are well consulted by parents.'

The vast majority of parents indicate that they are glad the Inspectorate is there to safeguard the quality of education. However, they also state that their view of quality is far broader than the Inspectorate's. Parents also consider the social and creative development of children to be important aspects of educational quality. The Dutch Inspectorate of Education’s quality data do, however, exert a considerable influence on school directors and boards. They indicate that the Inspectorate's report does have a bearing on the policy decisions they take.

The research report of Bekkers was published this week and can be downloaded from www.nwo.nl/bopo [in Dutch].

Bekkers works at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. The research was done on behalf of Policy-oriented Research in Primary Education (BOPO) and was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for scientific research (NWO).

About NWO

The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) is the national research council in the Netherlands and has a budget of more than 500 million euros per year. NWO promotes quality and innovation in science by selecting and funding the best research. It manages research institutes of national and international importance, contributes to strategic programming of scientific research and brings science and society closer together. Research proposals are reviewed and selected by researchers of international repute. More than 5000 scientists can carry out research thanks to funding from NWO.

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Further information:

Source: NWO