This is the first of the Australian contributions to the International Study on School Autonomy and Learning (ISSAL), the seven-country international research project that commenced in May 2014. Related work in Australia is being conducted for Educational Transformations by Professor Brian Caldwell with financial support from the Department of Education and Training (Australian government). This report summarises international evidence on the links between school autonomy and student achievement.
The nature and purpose of school autonomy, school-based management or school self-management continues to be contentious in many circles but of the subjects of contention, this review focuses as unrelentingly as possible on the impact of school autonomy on student achievement in the context of education in the 21st Century.
Researchers from six countries met in Jerusalem in May 2014 to plan an international research project to investigate the strength of links between higher levels of school autonomy and student achievement. Researchers had either several decades of experience in research, policy and practice in this area or were currently working closely with jurisdictions that have implemented a higher level or autonomy or were planning to do so. Countries/jurisdictions represented were Australia, Canada – Alberta, China – Hong Kong, England, Finland and Israel. Singapore has been added to the project since the meeting and the Canadian study now includes Saskatchewan. The focus is on public/state/government schools. The meeting was hosted by the Ministry of Education in Israel where there is interest in developing its policy and practice on school autonomy.
A four-phase project was planned: (1) a report on existing evidence on the aforementioned links; (2) case studies in schools that have made these links along with the design of national/jurisdictional surveys; (3) large-scale surveys, with an extension of the project to address outcomes on what are generally described as 21st Century skills; and (4) extending current professional development programs to take account of the findings in the first three phases. This report is a contribution to the first phase.