Conceptualization of Education Indicators at System and at School Level
Usually policymaking at national level is seen as the major source of application of indicators (indicator systems as policy-information systems). This view on the application of indicators should be enlarged, however, since consumers and “third parties” like private industry, are also seen as users of the information that indicator systems provide. Likewise, the education system at local administrative level and
even individual schools could also use indicators to support policymaking (indicator systems as management information systems). During the last decade various types of collections of indicators, usually referred to as indicator-systems, have been proposed and a part of these have also been developed and actually used. Van Herpen (1989) gives a comprehensive overview of what he calls "conceptual models of educational indicators". For our purpose it is sufficient to discern some major developments in these various approaches to conceptualizing education indicator systems. Economic and social indicators are the origin of educational indicators. “Social indicators of education” describe educational aspects of the population, whereas educational indicators describe the performance of the educational system (Van Herpen, 1989, p. 10). The first trend in the development of educational indicators was the transition from descriptive statistics to measuring performance, or, more generally, a shift towards statistics of evaluative importance. When looking at developments in educational indicators at the National Center for Statistics of the US Department of Education, a second trend can be discerned. At first the Center offered descriptive statistics on the state of the educational system, including data on inputs and resources. Since 1982, “outcome” and “context” data were given a more prominent place, and in a proposal to redesign the education data system, “process” aspects of the functioning of educational systems were also included (Stern, 1986; Taeuber, 1987). This second trend can thus be characterized as a movement towards more comprehensive indicator systems, first adding output measures and context measures to the more traditional measurement of inputs and resources, and secondly by a growing interest in “manipulative input factors” and process-characteristics. The third trend is somewhat related to the second one, as far as the interest in process characteristics is concerned. Traditionally indicator systems have concentrated on macro-level data, such as national illiteracy rates, the proportion of pupils that have passed their final secondary examinations, school etc. When we think of process-indicators as referring to the procedures or techniques that determine the transition of inputs into outputs, interest in process-indicators naturally leads to an interest in what goes on in schools. So, the third trend in conceptualizing indicator systems is to measure data at more than one aggregation level (national system, school, perhaps even the classroom), for examples see Scheerens et al. 1988; Taeuber, 1987). Implicit in the above is the notion that a context-input-process-output model as introduced in Chapter 2, and somewhat further elaborated in Figure 9.1, is the best analytical scheme to systemize thinking on education indicators. In the next section this basic scheme will be related to the classifications used in World Bank documents and the OECD-INES project. In the ensuing sections a closer look will be taken at education process indicators, particularly when these are used within a context of program evaluation.