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Reforming Education Management Systems

Dr. Kirby Yung Minister of Education

Our host, Singapore Minister for Education, Dr. Radm, fellow Ministers of Education, Senior Officials, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is my great honor to introduce this afternoon's first theme for discussion through this short presentation. Reform in Education Management Systems is something we are all involved in as we work from month-by-month to operate and improve the education systems in our respective economies. This issue of reform in education received special attention in APEC last January, when our Education Forum representatives held an international seminar in Santiago, Chile on the theme "The Relationship Between Education Reform and a Changing Economy." Following that inspiring and profitable seminar, the members of this forum considered the contents of these inspiring presentations and discussions to be worthy of our attention here at this ministerial meeting. Due to their close involvement in holding the seminar, Chinese Taipei and Chile accepted the responsibility to prepare the paper for this sub-theme. I have, thus, been selected to present the main points to you for our discussion.


The information revolution and keen competition in the global marketplace present challenges to our education systems which we are all striving to comprehend and respond to. The goal of education systems in APEC economies is to provide a good education to all citizens and to contribute to a "learning society". The way in which we manage our systems has a large impact on whether we attain that goal: that all students are enabled to participate both economically and socially in their economies and to be lifelong learners.

Among our APEC economies, exchange of educational experiences has been beneficial despite our differing situations. Education has to focus on adapting to novel and unforeseen circumstances in different regions, hence we all benefit from sharing our experiences as policy-makers and practitioners.

There are three broad perspectives from which education management systems and goals may be viewed. First is at the school level. Then, we can look at management at the level of the system, region or even the whole economy. Finally, there is the international level. At every level, quality control plays a critical role as we all bear the responsibility of seeing that our systems meet the standards we have set in our respective economies.

School Level

The school level is our starting point, as a strong education system is one made up of strong individual schools. At the school level, education management systems are focused on school appraisal. Appraisal should measure results and outcomes, as well as the effectiveness of the processes we employ to achieve these results. This holistic approach to appraisal provides reliable feedback, so that those involved in managing and delivering education at the school level can adjust and improve their input and processes to achieve the desired results. Besides tracking and adjusting, a monitoring system also is necessary to track and evaluate the effects of system-wide or regional education policies and reforms at the school level.

The experiences of APEC economies are instructive in this area. First, Hong Kong, China operates a quality assurance program, which includes internal self-evaluation by teachers, parents and students and external quality assurance inspection by the Education Department. Second, the Ministry of Education in Singapore introduced a new approach to school appraisal this year which will involve the school doing its own self-appraisal, as part of a collaborative approach aims to foster a thinking culture and facilitate continual improvements. Third, the Philippines is currently incorporating customer and market focus into goal-setting for technical and vocational education to provides an appraisal of how well the training programs are doing in achieving their standards. Fourth, the US school report card program provides a means to generate dialogue about how schools are doing. Currently, there is an education network project underway, led by the US and China; "Achieving High Performing Schools" examines the use of performance measures for improvement at the school level.

Systemic Level

At the level of the education system within each of our economies, which may be state or provincial, or the economy-at-large, education management systems need to achieve efficiency, effectiveness and equity. In this presentation, we will focus on the efficiency reforms related to structure and organisation, such as the degree of centralisation or decentralization. Under effectiveness reforms we highlight the importance of the development of school leaders, professional training for teachers, student support and curriculum planning. Equity reforms focus on ensuring that all students can enjoy quality education suited to their needs and abilities. This draws attention to education funding and quotas, for the provision of education opportunities to all the citizens we serve.

In regard to efficiency, in the US, through the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education, charter schools in the US have gained increased autonomy from the local education system in return for increased accountability. In Japan, independent school management is currently being pursued as a means to develop distinctive schools in all locales, and benefit from the opinions of parents and local citizens. In Singapore, independent and autonomous schools have been given more autonomy to try out innovations, which are then shared with the wider school community. Various models for jointly running schools including initiatives, taxation, donations, fees and investment are gradually being formed in China.

Helping teachers to learn how to acquire, process and fully utilize information and information technology (IT) is one component of effectiveness getting a lot of attention these days. In Korea, teachers are encouraged to use IT in subject-centered education with software and other multimedia instructional materials are being developed and distributed to each classroom. Hong Kong, China began a five-year strategy for teachers' IT training in 1998-99, with the goal of intermediate level of IT competency for all and some reaching advanced level competency.

Also under the banner of effectiveness, integrated curriculum has been implemented in several economies to achieve greater productivity for learners. Chinese Taipei set up a project in 1998 to design a 'Nine-year Integrated Curricula' which integrates various disciplines to enhance the students' overall learning skills and competencies in languages, mathematics, humanities, sociology, morality, literacy, IT, and global views of different cultures and societies. Thailand has placed emphasis on local schools incorporating the wisdom of the local community into the curriculum. In Canada, the focus is on integrating IT with the curriculum, improving the ratio of students to computers and enhancing partnerships with the private sector.

Equity policies focus on targeted funding and improvement for the financially poor and socially vulnerable schools, and support for needy students. In Korea, special quotas encourage special students, such as the disadvantaged, the handicapped and students from rural area, to access higher education. Vietnam has worked to achieve equitable education for all children, so that currently 95% of school-age children are enrolled in the general 12-year education system. One of Chile's main points of focus in the 1990's has been to even out the imbalances for schools of various sizes in different locations, leading to significant subvention for rural schools and adult education centers.

Good evaluation and assessment systems are necessary in order to check our management performance, in other words, 'Is our system performing efficiently, effectively and equitably?' Quality assurance schemes are implemented in several economies, with a move towards establishing and managing desired outcomes. Goals of quality assurance programs currently being operated include improving the levels of educational attainment among students in schools, and building up a lifelong learning system by providing various opportunities for education to citizens of all ages and stages in life. Japan's education system has implemented a new program to respect the diverse needs of students, particularly emotional and enrichment needs.

International Level

Certainly, we believe there are benefits to us from greater sharing of information and diffusion of best practices among economies. If we didn't believe this to be true, we would not be gathered here for this meeting. In the area of management of education systems, we believe that co-operation and sharing of information among APEC economies should be continually strengthened. From our perspective, the shift in recent years toward an emphasis on education results, requires a new approach to management of education systems. Potentially, we have a lot to gain from sharing our experiences and trials as we work with new approaches.

Another project we might benefit from on the international scale is developing and maintaining a short but comprehensive list of suitable educational indicators among APEC economies. These indicators which measure various dimensions of effectiveness and efficiency could facilitate comparisons and learning among APEC economies. Several scholars note that, due to their capacity to signal what requires further analysis or action, indicators make it possible to improve the way in which problems are defined and help design action plans. At the same time, we bear in mind the APEC principle of "recognizing that member economies will have the flexibility to take into account their diverse circumstances in implementing policy framework". For a start, it is suggested that the six educational indicators we see here on this slide be examined. You may find more details of the indicators in the annex of this paper.

  1. Educational expenditure relative to Gross Domestic Product (GDP);
  2. Government support for education relative to total pubic expenditure;
  3. Educational expenditure per student;
  4. School expectancy;
  5. Statutory salaries of teachers;
  6. Classroom practices and working conditions for teachers.

Forming a Learning Society

Given the rate of change in the contemporary society and economy, lifelong learning is now viewed as an essential activity for all citizens. People, workplaces and societies must engage in lifelong learning for personal development, to compete successfully in a global economy and flourish as learning societies in today's rapidly changing world. Education management systems have the responsibility to promote lifelong learning, as human capacity building is essential to social progress and sustainable economic development.

Looking at examples from our economies, in Canada, the business community is encouraged to develop partnership with schools to open learning opportunities to workers. The USA has found that quality lifelong learning reaps benefits for both employees and their employers in increasing productivity. In China, adult and cultural schools have being set up based on the principle that educational opportunities should be distributed over one's life span. And, the qualification and certification program in the Philippines recognizes and rewards work-based or experience-based learning to encourage on-going learning and upgrading.


I close with some recommendations for our consideration. Forming a learning society plays an important role in guiding the future vision of an economy. In order to strengthen the effort among APEC economies to form a learning society, the following recommendations are proposed:

a. APEC should be a forum for research exchanges between economies to share experiences, so that the quality and influence of learning may be enhanced throughout our societies;

b. APEC economies can share and learn from one another regarding school appraisal models, the development of school leaders, and good education management schemes and systems; and

c. APEC economies can maintain a database of key APEC educational indicators to provide benchmarks for progress and achievements in education management systems.