Building a theory of intellectual capital for schools.
In, 2005 European Conference on Educational Research (ECER 2005), Dublin, Republic of Ireland,
07 - 10 Sep 2005.
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It is difficult to measure effectiveness in not-for-profit organisations like schools: there is no ‘bottom-line’ against which to gauge performance and policy-makers struggle to make meaningful comparisons between outcomes and targets. Opportunistic attempts have been made by successive governments to establish - some would say impose - sets of criteria against which success can be gauged. Most have been subjective - the percentage of inspected classes regarded as ‘good’, the extent of staff involvement in decision making, the appropriateness of the leadership shown by senior managers, and so on – but this is not to fault the aspiration to measure necessarily, though initially at least it created an apologist culture among commentators that failed to do justice to the arguments for and against this type of inspection.
Government rhetoric, using a lexicon borrowed from Business and Economics, lately suggests a willingness to move to a new system of reportage centred on improvement rather than blame; on critical friendship more than on confrontation. It appears that there is no longer the puritanical tendency among policy-makers to adopt measures that cause pain in the belief that they alone can be right, but do the new policies constitute, as critics like Thrupp suggest, a random collection of well-intentioned but poorly theorised measures, or are they (or can they be) cogently conceptualised?
Previously, school improvement policies judged schooling in terms of external stakeholder outcomes, but failed to capture the essence of what it is to be, or what it takes to become, a successful improving school. This paper suggests that current government policies, perhaps unknowingly, are essentially describing school improvement from a different perspective - an internal perspective of ‘Intellectual Capital’. The paper knits together government policy statements on school improvement with a re-conceptualisation of Intellectual Capital specifically designed for education, offering an imposed coherence to government policy that could potentially change the way we think about inspection.
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