Understand The Meaning, Nature and Significance of PoIicy Evaluation
Policy process is quite long and arduous. As noted in the previous units, the policy process comprises of various key stages. It begins with the identification of problems and issues for policies, chalking out various solutions and alternatives, analysing and comparing the possible alternatives, selecting the best possible,.putting them into the concrete forms as,’policies’, and implementing them effectively, and finally assessing their outcome and impact. In this process, policy evaluation plays a significant role. A modified emphasis on the policy process points to a renewed awareness and sensitivity to the importance of those value-choices, which shape public priorities and commitments to governmental action.
During the mid and latter half of the twentieth century, we witnessed intense concern towards evaluative studies with the help of better methodologies,use of scientific methods, inter-disciplinary approaches, and use of electronic data processing systems. Many observers of the functioning of government tend to think that policies may be improved upon, and inefficiencies and maladministration an be corrected on the basis-of scientific policy evaluation. However, a viable evaluation of policies and action is a difficult exercise in itself. Sometimes it is fraught with political implications. In this Unit, we will discuss the significance, types, criteria, approaches, and methods of policy evaluation. In addition, we will explain the role of various agencies involved in policy evaluation, and problems in evaluation.
Nature and Significance
The term evaluation embraces a wide range of activities. Evaluations are undertaken in all spheres of life, in informal or formal ways. A distinction is made between the activities of appraisal, monitoring and evaluation. ‘Appraisal’ is usually taken to mean a critical examination of a programme (or policy) normally before the latter is approved for implementation and funding. Both monitoring and evaluation are undertaken to find out how a programme performs or has performed. Monitoring primarily covers issues of finance, and quality pertaining to inputs and outputs as well as actors, and time used in implementation. Usually, monitoring encompasses some current assessment of the progress of project, including difficulties in obtaining the expected results; these may possibly I be analysed more thoroughly in some subsequent evaluation. ‘Evaluation’ is a more systematic and I scientific attempt with emphasis on impacts and efficiency, effectiveness, relevance, reliability and , sustainability. Rossi and Freeman (1993) specify it as a systematic application of social research I procedures for assessing the conceptualisation, design, implementation, and utility of social : intervention programmes.
Policy evaluation can be briefly described as a procedure that appraises the worthwhileness of a policy and considers the special context and politics and economic variables of the.situation. For example, evaluation research may pinpoint the extent to which the goals of a policy are achieved besides identifying the constraints associated with it. Poor result ts obviously imply lack of effectiveness and efficiency. However, policy evaluation may suggest changes in policy to obtain desired results. Evaluation research also assumes that the programme can be scrapped, if it is not effective.
For a policy maker, policy evaluation is a means of getting the relevant information and knowledge regarding policy problems, the effectiveness of past, and prevailing strategies for reducing or eliminating the problems so as to improve the effectiveness of specific policies. Thus, uncertainty and risk in policy-making are reduced because of such knowledge and information, administrative accountability is enhanced, and administrative control over policy is appropriately increased. Policy evaluation, thus, plays a significant role that starts right from the identification of various policy issues and selecting of the best course out of the various alternatives. Over the years, public policy evaluation has become more sophisticated. From simple analysis of the outcomes and cost-benefit analysis, it has developed its own methodology. Built on the basic principles of maximising income minus costs, new methodology is also focusing on non-monetary policy outcomes, measuring retarding factors, equity, effectiveness, organisational and human factors and so on.
Policy evaluation has also become more proactive rather than reactive. Sometimes, it is too late to wait for the outcome of policies after their implementation. As a result, there is an increasing trend towards using preadoption projections or deductive modelling rather than just post-adoption before and after analysis. Moreover, policy evaluation is becoming increasingly inter-disciplinary, drawing on a variety of disciplinary sources for ideas as to means or policies for achieving given goals. Policy evaluation is increasingly using the components of political science, economics, sociology, psychology, law, public administration, business administration, statistics, social work and so on. Thus, there has been an increasing use of behavioural sciences as well as technology.