Doctoral dissertation

Dissertation: How schools can mediate national performance-based quality control – evidence from Russia

Student performance in examinations and tests is often equated with the quality of education. Following the global trend, Russia has recently introduced a system that holds schools and teachers accountable for their students’ achievements. The dissertation explores how local authorities, schools and teachers deal with this policy.

The state can control and manage schools in different ways. Traditionally, it used regulations, inspections and reports. More recently, governments started to use such mechanisms as performance-based pay, contests and rankings. A globally widespread practice is to measure performance of schools by the performance of its students in tests and examinations. Tests and rankings are gaining great influence internationally, they impact public opinion and state policies in education. Their proponents argue that without tests you cannot know what happens in schools, and that schools and teachers need to be controlled and stimulated so that they do their best.

Critics say that this way of managing schools has many negative effects. First, preparing students to the tests becomes more important than teaching the usual education programme. Second, student performance depends greatly on the students’ social-economic background, so schools that teach students from poor families are in a disadvantaged position. Third, teachers complain about the increased bureaucracy and find competition with other teachers harmful for common work.

Both advocates and critics of this policy claim that it makes a big difference for how schools work. The dissertation by Galina Gurova checks this claim by closely examining changes in Russian schools, where performance-based quality assurance policy was introduced in 2000s. The research methods are ethnographic observation and interviews at schools and local authorities. The study was a part of a larger comparative research project "Transnational Dynamics in Quality Assurance and Evaluation Politics of Basic Education in Brazil, China and Russia".

Previous research in this field mostly views schools and teachers as 'objects' or 'victims' of the national policy. The perspective of Galina Gurova’s dissertation is to explore how teachers, schools and local authorities interpret and use the policy, contribute to it or resist it.  She found that local authorities still rely mostly on the familiar instruments: reports and inspections, and they use new performance-based instruments as complementary to the traditional ones. Also, a school's administration has a significant impact on how much the policy influences the school. These findings have implications both for further research and for the practice of managing schools.

Galina Gurova (36) comes from Moscow, Russia. She has a degree in Sociology from the Lomonosov Moscow State University and MA in Education and Globalisation from the University of Oulu, Finland. She has been part of the EDUKNOW research group at the University of Tampere since 2014, and currently is also an analyst in the field of school education at the Moscow School of Management SKOLKOVO.

The doctoral dissertation of Master of Arts (Education) Galina Gurova in the field of education policy titled Quality Assurance and Evaluation as a Mode of Local Education Governance: The Case of Russian Schools will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Education and Culture at Tampere University. The Opponent will be Dr. Antoni Verger, Autonomous University of Barcelona. The Custos will be Associate Professor Nelli Piattoeva, Tampere University, Faculty of Education and Culture.

The dissertation is available online at the http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-0991-6