To aid with the implementation and development of the Quality Assurance System (SAC) for Education in Chile, the Education Quality Agency (ACE) has taken on the challenge of appropriately and timely guiding institutions and key players in the educational system. Their work is based on the results from evaluations made of institutional management processes and the overall learning processes of students.
This article briefly reflects upon different processes relating to school improvement and the role played by the evaluations carried out by the Education Quality Agency on the comprehensive education of students.
Before continuing, it is necessary to mention that the Chilean educational system is currently undergoing a process of structural reform, the main purpose of which is to improve students’ grades and break down the barriers to education created by the cultural and socioeconomic conditions of the students and their families.
Evaluating educational services
The Quality Assurance System states that any school improvement process must assume from the outset that educational quality must be complex, dynamic, and multidimensional. It is then understood that quality includes aspects that range from educational infrastructure and equipment to the emphasis placed by the system on learning achievements and the comprehensive education of the students.
Specifically speaking, the Quality Assurance System has taken on the challenge of guiding the system based on results from evaluations, contributing information useful to the decisions made by key figures from school communities. In this way, the evaluations are understood to be a means and not an end in themselves, they are to be seen as guidelines to promote the improvement plans carried out by management and teaching staff in each educational centre.
For this purpose, the Educational Quality Agency currently carries out three complementary types of evaluations:
- Evaluation of institutional management processes: the Quality Assurance System has determined that underperforming establishments must be visited for evaluation and guidance with a frequency that varies between 1 and 2 years, the purpose of which is to contribute an outside perspective identifying strengths and weaknesses across various areas of academic work, leadership, management of resources, and coexistence at school. In each case a panel of professionals presents the school communities with a set of recommendations to follow. It is worth pointing out that the comprehensive system of visits to educational centres is also aimed at assessing the performance of all centres in one geographical area, as well as identifying good practices within the various areas of school management.
- Evaluation of the individual and social development of students: a deeper look into educational quality has revealed different aspects to the socioemotional development of students, aspects relating to academic motivation, academic self-confidence, coexistence at school, or participation in educational tasks.
- Evaluation of learning: with a longer tradition in the Chilean school system. Standardised tests to evaluate the achievement of learning standards by all students.
As previously mentioned, the evaluations are assessed on their contribution and how they can be translated by the system into concrete guidelines intended for the improvement of educational processes and results. Hence the efforts currently made by the Education Quality Agency to produce clear, precise, and useful information which can instruct administrators, management, and teaching staff, and the school community in general.
Also required is the development of a support system for those who most need it, as well as a scheme of educational policies aimed at strengthening the entire system’s capabilities, across all levels – from policy makers to the teaching staff and students.
Conclusion: challenges presented by the evaluations in relation to the continuous improvement process of educational quality
- One initial challenge for the educational system is the need for a fully articulated and coherent system of evaluation, which incorporates the evaluations made at educational policies level to the evaluation of student learning.
- Consequently the information the system produces via its various evaluation mechanisms can be turned into useful guidelines for school improvement; as well as into educational resources that teachers may use as tools to provide academic feedback to their students.
The information gathered can also be key for decision-making by those occupying roles across other levels of educational management.
- Ensuring quality requires more than institutional coordination between the support, evaluation and audit functions fulfilled by the Quality Assurance System institutions. Firstly, it is necessary to focus on the everyday work carried out in educational centres, especially within the classroom, where teaching and learning takes place – in short, to put governmental institutions (as well as non-governmental) at the service of the school community’s needs.
- Lastly, the Quality Assurance System currently undertakes the challenge of finding a satisfactory balance between high stakes accountability – mechanisms of responsibility and accountability, based on the safeguarding of the right of all citizens to a good quality education – with the incorporation through educational policy of new systems which highlight formative aspects and promote the development of the skills, knowledge and abilities required to advance towards a comprehensive education which takes into account both basic and more complex skills.
Carlos Henríquez Calderón
Executive Secretary, Education Quality Agency – Chile
Raúl Chacón Zuloaga
Assessor, Education Quality Agency – Chile
 For more information about the Quality Assurance System (SAC) see http://www.agenciaeducacion.cl/coordinacion-sac/que-es-el-sac/
 It is worth mentioning that the current design of the Quality Assurance System considers the Ministry of Education to be in charge of teaching evaluation systems.