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European educational inspectorates meet in the Basque Country to reflect on the importance of research in improving education

2023 November 16
  • The Standing International Conference of Educational Inspection (SICI) holds its General Assembly in Bilbao today and tomorrow
  • It brings together nearly 100 education inspection professionals from 37 European countries and regions

The Deputy Minister of Education, Begoña Pedrosa, this morning opened the General Assembly of the Standing International Conference of Inspectorates of Education — SICI — which was held in Bilbao on November 16 and 17. Organised by the Department of Education of the Basque Government, this year's conference focuses its sessions and presentations on the theme of research in the field of education, under the motto "Education Inspection and Research". Nearly 100 inspectors from 37 European countries were sharing experiences and discussing this year's theme in Bilbao. The Basque Education Inspectorate has been a member of SICI since 2018.

Together with Deputy Minister Pedrosa, the opening ceremony was attended by the Inspector General of Education of the Basque Country, Xabier Balerdi, the President of SICI, Janie McManus, and the Councillor for Education of the City of Bilbao, Eider Bilbao.   In addition to the professionals present in Bilbao, the sessions and debates taking place at this SICI General Assembly are being followed via streaming in the rest of the European countries and regions that make up the organization.

During her speech at the opening of the General Assembly, Deputy Minister Begoña Pedrosa referred specifically to the theme chosen this year by SICI, research and improvement of education, “a really ambitious goal, but necessary when we talk about students' learning and their success. Because that is precisely what we should focus on, when we talk about equality and quality.”

Pedrosa has expressed her conviction that educational policy decision-making in the Basque Country should be guided by taking into account the results of educational research. “We want to know what is effective in education and what is not so effective. Which organizational and pedagogical practices are successful and which are less so. What is the diagnosis of our situation, what are our strengths and where do we need to improve? All of this is based on scientific research criteria,” she said.

For this reason, she highlighted three aspects that should be promoted in education:

“The improvement processes that each educational centre plans and develops within its educational community, the decisions that are generally made by observing and collecting data based on learning moments and results by the teaching teams.” In her opinion, “these small investigations provide an immediate response to the specific demands of schools' needs.”

She also highlighted the strategy that the Department of Education is carrying out with Basque universities, for collaborative research in education, and detailed the “three strategic lines” in which this research is being promoted: STEM education; languages, interculturality and school success; and digitalisation. “These projects bring a new vision to schools to promote up-to-date approaches to research in collaboration with universities, and generate a new awareness among teachers, managers and the inspectorate.” As a third aspect to be promoted, she referred to the “analysis of student results” from both internal and external evaluations.

In relation to educational indicators, the Deputy Minister pointed out that: “In the Basque Country we are very proud of some of these indicators,” and cited, the low rate of early school drop-out, “the lowest in Europe,” and the high percentage of continuing education of the adult population. “We are at the top of Europe. in the schooling rate of students aged 16 and 17.”

Finally, she recalled that scientific research “should not only describe and diagnose. It should also have another objective — to help us design improvement plans. So that the evidence and research findings support our thesis and our previous ideas.” She expressed her conviction that the conclusions of the assembly in Bilbao would be aimed at “improving the quality, equity and inclusion of students in the schools of our educational system. They are the main targets and beneficiaries of these types of meeting.” For this reason, on behalf of the Basque Government, she expressed the pride that organizing this SICI General Assembly represents for the Basque Country.

Inspection and Investigation

Each year SICI works on a theme, previously chosen by the participating partners. This year, with the conference being organised by the Basque Country, the theme chosen is educational research and the role of the Inspectorate. The meeting aims to be a forum to analyse common practices for improving the quality and equity of education systems, and to share best practices and research. Under the theme “Education Inspection and Research”, the conference aimed to improve inspections and professional competencies; partnership and cooperation between inspections at the international level, as well as the participation of all of them in the international debate on evaluation and quality improvement in education. Sessions are conducted in English.

After the opening of the meeting, the first conference was given by the Basque Country Inspectorate, under a title that perfectly summarizes the theme of this conference: The role of inspection: Improving the Educational System by research. The Basque Government's Education Inspection Department shared the Basque Country's experience in this matter.

In addition to the General Assembly, SICI also organises three international workshops throughout the year to work and share conclusions of an international nature in relation to the selected theme. One of these workshops was held in the Basque Country last year, in Vitoria-Gasteiz, during June, on inclusion, equality, quality and educational improvement.

Prior to the start of the General Assembly on Wednesday afternoon, the Department of Education hosted a reception for the participating delegations, which included a presentation on the Basque Vocational Training system and a cultural visit to the Guggenheim Museum. The inspectors participating in SICI's annual meeting come from countries and regions such as Luxembourg, Madeira, Estonia, Austria, England, Scotland, Ireland, Norway, Finland, Georgia, South Tyrol and the Netherlands, among many others.

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Politicians attending the event