Teacher accountability policy and sociocultural context: A cross-country study focusing on Finland and Singapore
Sabates Aysa, Ricardo
University of Cambridge
Faculty of Education
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Hwa, Y. (2019). Teacher accountability policy and sociocultural context: A cross-country study focusing on Finland and Singapore (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.55349
In this thesis, I address two polarised debates in education policy: how teachers should be held accountable, and whether ‘best practices’ from high-performing education systems should be adopted in other countries. I construct a conceptual framework that maps the intended effects of teacher accountability instruments on student outcomes, via changes in teacher motivation. In this framework, the efficacy of any teacher accountability instrument depends partly on its compatibility with sociocultural context. This is partly because an accountability instrument will only influence a teacher’s motivation if the teacher regards the instrument as sufficiently meaningful, legitimate, or otherwise persuasive—and perceptions of meaning and legitimacy can be shaped by sociocultural patterns. To test this framework, I draw on two sets of empirical sources. Firstly, I use multilevel modelling to analyse cross-country survey data on education (e.g. PISA) and culture (e.g. the World Values Survey). I find that the relationship between teacher accountability instruments and student outcomes in these datasets varies with one aspect of sociocultural context, i.e. the strength of adherence to civic norms. Secondly, I analyse semi-structured interviews that I conducted with 12 lower secondary school teachers in Finland and 12 in secondary school teachers in Singapore. I find that teacher accountability instruments can have considerable effects (and side effects) on teacher motivation. However, interview participants’ responses to accountability instruments are strongly influenced by sociocultural context, and Finland’s and Singapore’s contrasting but comparably effective approaches to teacher accountability are each compatible with their respective sociocultural contexts. Based on these findings, I argue that the efficacy of teacher accountability instruments is contingent on sociocultural context (among other factors). Consequently, an accountability instrument from a top-ranked education system may have null or negative effects if transplanted elsewhere. Instead, teacher accountability policymaking needs to accommodate local sociocultural patterns. To my knowledge, this is the first study to combine cross-country educational and cultural surveys to explore the relationship between teacher accountability and sociocultural context. It is also the first study to conduct a fieldwork-based comparison of teacher accountability in Finland and Singapore.
teacher accountability, teacher motivation, sociocultural context, Finland, Singapore, PISA, TIMSS, World Values Survey, education policy
This PhD was funded by the Gates Cambridge Trust, with additional fieldwork and conference funding from the Faculty of Education and the Tunku Abdul Rahman Fund, St Catharine's College.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.55349
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