Schools in industrialised countries have become more autonomous, but no one model of decision making tends to produce better results than others, according to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
An OECD study looked at decision-making in education systems in 14 member states - 12 in Europe plus the US and New Zealand. It identified a division between those countries with a strong federal system (notably Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and the US) and those where national governments exercise greater authority.
It found wide variations in the powers of schools to take decisions. Lower secondary schools in Switzerland, for example, took only 10 per cent of decisions while in Ireland the proportion was 73 per cent and in New Zealand 71 per cent.
By contrast national government had no input into decision-making in Switzerland (where decisions are largely the province of local government ) while the Portuguese government took 57 per cent of decisions, with the schools taking 40 per cent and local government hardly any.
The report says that what works in one country may not do so in another. "Those countries whose nine and 13-year-old pupils demonstrated the highest reading ability - Finland, France and Switzerland - have very different systems of decision-making."