A survey funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and conducted by the University of Zurich and the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland surveyed 270 school heads in all of the cantons in French and German-speaking Switzerland. Their findings reveal that school boards remain extremely important. 86% of the respondents report that their school communities have such boards. Moreover, 80% of school boards retain decision-making powers.
These Swiss school boards, composed of volunteers, have held responsibility for the management of compulsory schools but as greater autonomy has been granted to the schools, school boards have come under pressure. If primarily male heads running schools of primarily female teachers overseen by a board of non-experts feels like America of 100 years ago, it is. It's also the America of today, and plenty of other countries.
45% of those surveyed believe the boards to be unnecessary, while 60% think it is partially or completely incorrect that boards decide on human resources matters. Americans are intrigued other countries get to vote on HR matters at all. No matter how bad a teaches in America is, their job is never getting critically reviewed and they can never be fired - as long as they achieve the minimum standard for a few years.
However, almost 50% do think it is a good idea for school boards to have financial oversight. Ambivalent? No, practical. They believe school boards have value but don't need to control what is outside their competency. Plus, says sociologist Carsten Quesel, principals and supervisors may recognize that if school boards are gone, someone is going to do all of the work boards now do.
What about parent councils instead?
Only 40% consider parent councils to be a useful link between the school and parents, which should tell you what school heads think about parents.But they have a point. In small volunteers groups, loud voices have a big impact and so they feel parent councils might be hampered by a lack of commitment or hijacked by individual interests. Respondents to the survey were unanimous in their view that parent councils should have no decision-making powers in respect of school management.
The school heads believe the role of parent councils should lie in promoting a dialogue between parents, children and teachers, and in enriching the life of the school by organizing events. “School heads welcome the volunteer effort of parents, but are concerned about formalizing this in the parent council, since this can lead to people getting bogged down in protocol.”
Citation: C. Quesel, D. Kübler u.a.: Schulkommissionen und Elterngremien im Urteil professioneller Schulleitungen. Kurzbericht zu einer Erhebung an obligatorischen Schulen der Deutschschweiz und der Romandie, 2014. Source: Swiss National Science Foundation