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Policies refer to what the government intends to promote or discourage.. Policy evaluation refers to the means, by which judgments on quality, goal achievement, program effectiveness and its impact on costs are determined. The main objective of policy evaluation is to decide whether a given policy is effective or not. It encompasses the detailed overall plan that is embraced and guided by the goals and acceptable procedures. Any policy evaluation method in education should enable the educators to design, conduct and report the findings of the research adequately in order to address the key issues at hand. It should also address the critical issues of evaluation (Mertens & McLaughlin, 2004). For a long time education has been involved in reproduction of values and knowledge, but it is evident that it also acts as a vehicle for the achievement of larger mobility and socioeconomic changes (Álvarez & Ruiz-Casares, 1998). Basic education is a human right of everyone; and it was meant to change the individual’s perception of the world, as well as developing a person mentally, psychologically and morally. Right now education is the major factor affecting the social ladder. This has led the effort to improve the individual’s living standards to start in classrooms first (The Economist, 1997).
Conducting the scientifically rigorous evaluation of education is always complex in practice. Program evaluations should always be grounded on science-based research and should assist us in making significant decisions regarding the education system (McKay, 2007). Any science-based research employs systematic and empirical methods that draw on the observation and experiment to formulate the findings. This scientific study uses accurate measurements and observations coupled with data analysis to support its general findings, which are the key to the recommendations and policy development. It also ensures that studies and methods involved in the research present sufficient details necessary for systematic development of the research. It should also obtain acceptance by the panel of independent experts through a rigorous, objective and scientific review. Lastly, it uses research designs and methods appropriately to study the problem at hand (McKay, 2007).
There exist many barriers that hinder effective policy evaluation. These barriers include specifying the goals and goal change, measurement, efficiency and effectiveness, values and evaluation, the politics, and lastly, the increasing requirements for evaluation techniques (McKay, 2007). Any educational evaluation policy should therefore address these problems adequately and effectively. This leads to clear cut goals, which do not include political and individual bias and is the main starting point of these evaluation procedures. These objectives should also show a wide range of competing interests and clear understanding of potential policy (Mertens & McLaughlin,2004). Any educational improvement programs should have unambiguous objectives and goals and should ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the allocation and usage of the available resources without the strain to all the parties involved. In addition it should be devoid of any biases and should be addressing the inadequacies in the job market, which are in line with the countries mission and vision.
Although knowledge is the excellent example illustrating the inputs and output of the economy, in development sense it forms an essential point of reference for national policy. Education is valued as an investment, as opposed to expenditure (OECD, 1996). The Indian education commission (1964-66) emphasized the need for quality education and its contribution to national development. The commission observed that the quality, competence and character of teachers are the most notable attributes in any education evaluation policies. Therefore, any education policy method should cater for professional training of teachers as implementers of these policies at the classroom level. This way the efficiency and effectiveness of educational institutions is improved by the teacher education (Mahender Reddy Sarsani, 2006).
Onset of the evaluation process, the initial policy goals should be looked so as to guide the process of evaluation. Every evaluation process should therefore be guided by the dynamics of knowledge, the need of practice, philosophical and ideological precepts (OECD, 1996). In addition, the evaluation method should try to strengthen the capacity of the society as a whole in order to intervene in projects of collective interest in education and those, who determine its destiny. The role of the evaluator in the process should also be re visited to decide how broad or narrow the scope of study is (OECD, 2004). In addition to the above, a good educational evaluation method should be the one that regards ingredients of knowledge, values and utopias as its core to the process. Furthermore, it should strive to reduce the disparity of human resources in the national and international markets, reduce the inequality observed in each of the country involved, and most importantly, it should decrease the obstacles in advancement of knowledge of the learning institutions, which are catering for the young generation.
In any country the young generation is the most important asset for the achievement of the long term development goals, growth and assuring of continued competitiveness in the global market. These young generations are considered to be the most important investment in the society today (OECD, 1996). Therefore, the resources that are availed for these generations and their growth should be given the outmost priority they regard. For example, in the evaluation of teachers the criteria are drawn from the professional practice, current research and the expectations of the society fulfilled by the teacher. And finally, the organization conducting the research and instruments of measures planned to be employed need to be chosen well in advance. It is therefore very important for the educational evaluation policies to cater for the general and specific needs in order to invest in the human capital of the country.
In order to address these issues effectively, evaluation method needs to include monitoring of the effectiveness of these policies. For effective monitoring of these policies some methods of process evaluation have been developed. There are four models of policy evaluation techniques, namely the process evaluation, outcome evaluation, impact evaluation and cost benefit evaluation (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011).
The process evaluation analyses the degree, to which a policy or a program is administered. It tries to determine the reasons why a system is performing at the current state and tries to identify the problems for the case. After identification of the problems, the process evaluation tries to solve it and give the recommendations for improvement of the policy in the present and for the future. This type of evaluation is commonly used by the program managers in determination of improvement process of program implementation and service delivery. It does not address the issues of whether or not the system is achieving the desired results in the general population (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). It’s therefore very important for the process evaluation method to realize its impact on the general population. It should also suggest the ways of dealing with these problems should they arise.
Outcome evaluation concerns with the impact of the policy on the general society. Its measures how the society and its circumstances change and whether the policy experience has been a factor in causing this change. Depending on the extent of the policy implementation, Outcome evaluation can be conducted either by use of randomized controlled trials, or by using comparison groups, or by employing the pre-post comparison. Among the three, randomized controlled trials and comparison groups and designs are relatively more resource intensive and complicated to conduct in relation to pre-post comparisons. They also provide us with rich information that is useful for policies in the other areas of the economy (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). The only limitation to the outcome evaluation is the availability of resources. It should be noted that the purpose of the research determines the choice of the education research methodology to be used (Bliss & Emshoff, 2002).
The impact evaluation is meant to determine whether a given public policy is achieving its intended purpose as visualized earlier by the policy makers. The goals evaluated should include the tangible and intangible ones. This kind of evaluation mainly deals with the theoretical and actual goals of the policy. It also looks at the objectives and compares them to the policy results. Any additional gains not envisioned are noted and recorded. Any impact evaluation in the education system should consider all the stakeholders involved.
Lastly, the cost-benefit analysis is involved in the comparison of the cost incurred during the policy evaluation to the benefits generated by the policy. These costs can be analyzed in terms of tangible and intangible loses. The cost benefit analysis is generally accepted and widely used since the actual costs of the policy can easily be obtained, quantified and evaluated. On the other hand, the intangible results can be seen either immediately or many years after the study. The intangible results are the ones that cannot be quantified using any known physical means but can be looked at as the value added to the end product while it is passing through the system (The Pennsylvania State University, 2011). Therefore, any evaluation method should look at the end products value as the evaluator of the systems success or failure.
As the education reforms proposals continue to be undertaken and implemented, the role of the government changes from that of the administrator to that of an evaluator and policy maker (Mertens & McLaughlin, 2004). If the country does not have an effective education system, then it will not have the competent, productive, and competitive workforce necessary to maintain and improve economic performance and prosperity (Guthrie, 1991). Policy evaluation in the education sector should thus be performed, when there is the need to address the greater concern not envisioned earlier in time by the current policy. The policy evaluation method should therefore include the unforeseen changes in the country’s economy. It is necessary to note that the commitment of the government to provide cognitive skills for its citizen should not be limited to transient adjustments made to education systems, but should incorporate long term effects on the pattern and distribution of resources and responsibilities (OECD, 1998).
The changing trends in the global economies act as the catalysts for the need to undertake the education policy reforms. In order for any economy to be competitive, it has to keep itself up-to-date with these changes in form of improving the quality of the education systems and, therefore, upgrading its human resources (Álvarez & Ruiz-Casares, 1998). Policy discussions about economic growth and national competitiveness focus on the importance of human capital and highly educated workforce (Plank, 2009). Consequently, any policy evaluation method should cater for the countries’ workforce in terms of the needs today, tomorrow and the anticipated workforce in the future.
Another major concern of the development of education policy evaluation is the relation of accountability to schooling. It is widely known that high accountability rates lead to high retention rates, progression rates and relatively higher performance. The study on the states with accountability indicated that states with high accountability ratio show higher performance compared to the the states with low accountability or no accountability at all (Ravitch, 2005).The only misunderstanding about accountability is the case of failing schools and students, where the blame is mainly levied on the teachers and administration, which is not relatively the case. It should also be noted that for the policy to be more effective, the period between actual policy evaluation and the implementation should be relatively short. It is also crucial for the policy to have the strong policy commitment and its objectives to be real (OECD, 2004). In relation to the above, it is therefore vital for the policy to be implemented immediately, right after the assessment and recommendations have been generated.
Classroom evaluation can be summative or formative. In summative evaluation description is done without reference to treatment, while in formative it is used for diagnosis, monitoring and guiding remedial actions. The outcomes of schooling system need a definite method, by which they can be assessed. The national assessments are considered necessary in the addressing of the factor of the system’s efficiency (Mertens & McLaughlin, 2004). In cases, where the problem of increasing enrollment perseveres, it is usually necessary to obtain the information in terms of inputs and corresponding outputs. It is therefore essential that the education evaluation method is designed to cater for the different aspects of learning other than just the classroom learning.
In conclusion, the evaluation of education plays a pivotal role in the learning mechanism of nations. This is in terms of competitiveness in the global market, positioning itself in the path of continued growth and improved human capital. Evaluation also acts as the instrument of social learning and behavioral modification. Therefore, any policy evaluation method should address all the issues mentioned above. It should also address the issues of significance and social usefulness, orientation towards the future; it needs to be precise, too. The quality of evaluation is the indispensable prerequisite for its reliability and use (OECD, 1998).