Design and use of management accounting and control systems in Norwegian primary and lower secondary education
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The overall objective of the thesis is to study design and use of management accounting and control systems in Norwegian schools. The main focus is whether and how management accounting has or could contribute to management control in schools and education. The thesis consists of four essays. In the first essay management accounting research on schools and education is compared to school economics research, and the communication structure between the two disciplines is analysed. This essay finds that management accounting research has paid limited attention to schools and school-related issues. Furthermore, the limited research does not examine issues expected to be focused by management accountants, for instance performance and cost measurement and management. In addition, the study reveals that there is almost no communication between management accounting research on schools and school issues and school economics research. The remaining essays study design and use of management accounting and control systems in Norwegian primary and lower secondary education. These essays give an impression of management accounting and control systems used in Norwegian schools and education as simple and insufficient. To avoid budget deficit seems to be the main objective for schools and local school authorities and little attention is paid to evaluation or control of pupils’ learning and upbringing. The services or activities actually produced are neither controlled by the headmasters nor by their local and central school authorities. The types of school performance measures used by superior authorities to control schools provide limited information with regard to schools and employees’ actions and efforts to achieve valuable school objectives such as pupils’ learning and upbringing. In addition, these studies indicate that reforms intended to enhance school efficiency have caused apparent changes in schools and local school authorities, but the changes seem to be designed to have no effects. This thesis contributes to management accounting research on schools with regard to knowledge on design and use of management accounting and control systems in schools and education. Also, it contributes to the knowledge on and understanding of effects of reforms and why reforms might not have the expected and intended effects. The discussion of school activity measures as supplements to school output measures, as well as the knowledge of management accounting and control systems in schools and the limited effects of recent school reforms might have potential policy implications, for instance with regard to future school reforms and superior authorities’ control of schools.