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Autonomy and capacity at decentralised levels

Promising policy options

Promoting education decentralisation through deconcentration, devolution, and delegation

Deconcentration is the transfer of decision-making from the central government Ministry of Education (MOE) to either the regional/local offices of the MOE or the regional offices of the central government.  This entails increased autonomy both in terms of recruiting, evaluating, and promoting personnel and in terms of allocating and reallocating budgets.  It may include some degree of political decentralization, too.

In order to enhance decentralisation, ministries should strengthen functions and capacities at a local level. Particular attention should be placed on the following areas: policy analysis and formulation, data collection and use, monitoring and evaluation, school inspection, and advisory services to schools.

Furthermore, there is a need to substantially reorient the mission of the central MoE, from the day-to-day management of teachers and schools to provide the services that facilitate and support decentralisation. For example, Tanzania, with the assistance of the World Bank, has been supporting the reorientation of the education ministry.

The shift in autonomy structure goes beyond strengthening, restructuring and reorienting central government ministries. It goes towards capacity building for strengthening the regional and sometimes sub-regional offices of the ministry and shifting the centre point of some functions, such as teacher recruitment, promotion, and training, to deconcentrated offices. Examples include improving regional inspection teams in Rwanda, improving audit capacity in Guinea’s regions and prefectures, and increasing the management capacity of Ghana’s District Education Offices.

The devolution of education planning is the transfer of decision-making from the central government to popularly elected regional or local governments. Key management decisions, including naming school principals and allocating regional/local education budgets lies with the governor and legislature or the mayor and city council. 

The delegation is the reversible assignment by the central or region government MOE, or in rare cases the municipal department of education, to public school principals and/or (usually elected) school councils. The powers of these school officials differ from country to country.  In some cases, they are in charge of only the physical infrastructure, while at the other extreme school councils may name school principals, help prepare and approve school development plans, and approve school spending plans.

There also exists another methodology called Implicit delegation. This is for community schools in a special case of education delegation.  It sometimes results from the failure of the state to provide educational opportunities in remote areas, so the community takes upon itself the finance and provision of schooling.

In countries such as China, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan, there are devolved responsibilities to subnational governments, while other countries have created school level governance bodies and delegated to them some authority and budgets. 

In countries such as the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, governments have created school grants that convey a significant amount of financial control to schools and school management committees.

Another example is Ethiopia, where there exist four levels of sub-national government: regions, zones, woredas (similar to municipalities or school districts) and kebeles (community councils). The distribution of power is done in the following manner:

  • each level of government has a department of education that reports to a council, which then reports up to the next level of government;
  • the Regional Bureaus report to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Education; and
  • the Regional Bureaus are responsible for curriculum development—including the provision of textbooks in ethnic dialects. Regions are responsible for teacher training and certification under recruitment guidelines issued by the Ministry of Education, as well.
References
Donald R Winkler.; Alec Ian Gershberg. 2003. Education Decentralization in Africa: A review of recent policy and practice. World Bank. Retrieved from: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:xplBPXxSGMgJ:www1.worldbank.org/publicsector/decentralization/march2004course/winkle.doc+&cd=18&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=fr

IIEP- UNESCO (International Institute for Education Planning). 2014. Decentralization in Education: Overcoming challenges and achieving success – the Kenyan experience. Policy Brief. Paris. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000229832

IIEP- UNESCO (International Institute for Education Planning). 2016. Decentralization in Education: Overcoming challenges and achieving success – the experience of Lesotho. Policy Brief. Paris. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265388

IIEP- UNESCO (International Institute for Education Planning). 2016. Decentralization in Education: Overcoming challenges and achieving success – the Ugandan experience. Policy Brief. Paris. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000265389

Tiberius Barasa. 2014. Successful Decentralization: The roles and challenges of DEOs in Kenya.  UNESCO-IIEP: Paris. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000228291

Lefoka, Pulane J.; Tsepa, Mathabo. 2014. Successful decentralization: the roles and challenges of DEOs in Lesotho. UNESCO-IIEP: Paris. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000228292

Crain Soudien. 2005. Decentralisation and the construction of inclusion education policy in South Africa. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 35:2, 115-125. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03057920500129916

Jordan P Naidoo. 2005. Education decentralization and school governance in South Africa: From policy to practice. UNESCO-IIEP: Paris. Retrieved from: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED499627.pdf

V.J. Donnelly.; E. Óskarsdóttir.; A. Watkins. 2017. Decentralisation in Education Systems – Seminar Report. European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education: Denmark. Retrieved from: https://www.european-agency.org/sites/default/files/Decentralisation%20in%20Education%20Systems_0.pdf

UNESCO. 2009. Education financial planning in Asia: implementing medium-term expenditure frameworks: Thailand. UNESCO: Bangkok. Retrieved from: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000184850

Capacity building between different levels within the education systems

There are three key areas that require consideration when decentralising education policy:

  • ensuring equity;
  • developing accountability measures and systems; and
  • developing local-level capacity across all education system levels and sectors

While transferring responsibility to local level, providing the necessary support and capacity-building for stakeholders to effectively manage the increased demands is essential. This is particularly true for any competing demands between horizontal (within system level) and vertical (across system level) accountability mechanisms (Burns et al., 2016).

To ensure consistency in a system that aims to ensure both equity and excellence for all learners, a key role of the central government lies in creating shared ownership of the demands and the vision in local communities. Local conditions can support schools to develop new and more effective responses to diversity and inculcate the values of equity and inclusion.

Technical assistance is thus required for local governments, private enterprises and local non-governmental groups in the planning, financing, and management of decentralized functions.

References
UNDP (United Nations Development Program). 2010. Capacity Development Strategies to Support Decentralization in Asia. New York. Retrieved from: https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/capacity-building/institutional-arrangements/capacity-development-strategies-to-support-decentralization-in-asia.html

Burns, T. 2015. Governing Complex Education Systems. Trust and Education. Keynote presentation delivered at the OECD Governing Complex Education Systems Conference in The Hague, 7 December 2015. Retrieved from: www.slideshare.net/OECDEDU/governing-complex-education-systems-overview-and-work-on-trust-the-hague

Busemeyer, M., 2012. Two decades of decentralization in education governance: Lessons learned and future outlook for local stakeholders. Presentation delivered at the OECD Conference ‘Effective local governance in education’, in Warsaw, 16 April 2012. Retrieved from: www.forschungsnetzwerk.at/downloadpub/50293543_Two_decades_of_decentralization_in_education_governance.pdf

Promote fiscal decentralisation and autonomy

The usual responsibilities transferred in developing countries consist mainly of administrative functions. The transfer of financial responsibilities has been inadequate in a number of countries. This results in budgetary constraints at the local level, leading to unfunded mandates and limited macro-economic impact. For example, the Indian village councils (Panchayats) are given tied funds to carry out local construction works but are subjected to three different financial controls. The required work proposals need to be approved by a higher-level sub-district (called Blocks in India) authority, measurement of work is done by a government engineer, and the cheque for payment is to be countersigned by the Block Development Officer. Though the Indian Constitution defines the village councils as self-governing bodies, these function mainly as agencies for carrying out a few programmes of the state and central governments.

One of the ways to assess the extent of financial decentralisation is to study the ratio of subnational share in total revenues and expenditure. China and Mongolia have a sub-national share of public expenditures over 30 percent, with Malaysia and Indonesia under 20 percent, and the Philippines and Thailand under 10 percent.

For decentralisation to be truly effective, local governments should have the right to levy and collect taxes on their own. In Indonesia, for instance, both provincial and local governments have some power for collecting taxes.

References
UNDP (United Nations Development Program). 2010. Capacity Development Strategies to Support Decentralization in Asia. New York. Retrieved from: https://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/librarypage/capacity-building/institutional-arrangements/capacity-development-strategies-to-support-decentralization-in-asia.html

Burns, T. 2015. Governing Complex Education Systems. Trust and Education. Keynote presentation delivered at the OECD Governing Complex Education Systems Conference in The Hague, 7 December 2015. Retrieved from: www.slideshare.net/OECDEDU/governing-complex-education-systems-overview-and-work-on-trust-the-hague

Busemeyer, M., 2012. Two decades of decentralization in education governance: Lessons learned and future outlook for local stakeholders. Presentation delivered at the OECD Conference ‘Effective local governance in education’, in Warsaw, 16 April 2012. Retrieved from: www.forschungsnetzwerk.at/downloadpub/50293543_Two_decades_of_decentralization_in_education_governance.pdf

Building accountability and promoting relations

Accountability is essential for improving public sector performance. In order to promote accountability, accurate information is important. This can be achieved by developing a mechanism of Social Audit. The introduction of a social audit of service delivery performance could be considered by governments by assessing the experiences of those levels of government that receive a particular service. With community participation, the evidence could be collected from households, communities, and the service itself, which would promote accountability, equity, effectiveness, and value-for-money. It is also important to make the audit body neutral and impartial.

Another possibility is to introduce a Citizen’s Charter. This assists in making service delivery people-oriented and client-centred. Sub-national units should introduce a citizens’ charter on a pilot basis for offices that have a public interface, clarifying citizens’ entitlement to timely delivery of public services. The department concerned should organise large-scale capacity development programmes to bring in an attitudinal change in their employees. There should also be regular and organised meetings.

Some additional strategies that would help in strengthening local government responsiveness, accountability, and effectiveness are (UNDP 2010):

  • creating opportunities for citizens to express their views and priorities for local services;
  • creating a means for citizens and the media to gain access to public meetings, records, and information. For example, India through the Right to Information Act;
  • supporting participatory procedures allowing citizen input on decisions regarding resource allocation and planning;
  • developing and using procedures for citizen input on major local government decisions—annual budgets, land use, and construction;
  • enhancing trust between local officials and citizens. Channels for citizen-civil servant communication need to be created through e-governance which will improve decision making, reduce opportunities for corruption, and build consensus on critical community issues; and
  • promoting partnerships among local governments, civil society organizations, the private sector, and other groups.
References
Burns, T. 2015. Governing Complex Education Systems. Trust and Education. Keynote presentation delivered at the OECD Governing Complex Education Systems Conference in The Hague, 7 December 2015. Retrieved from: www.slideshare.net/OECDEDU/governing-complex-education-systems-overview-and-work-on-trust-the-hague

Busemeyer, M., 2012. Two decades of decentralization in education governance: Lessons learned and future outlook for local stakeholders. Presentation delivered at the OECD Conference ‘Effective local governance in education’, in Warsaw, 16 April 2012. Retrieved from: www.forschungsnetzwerk.at/downloadpub/50293543_Two_decades_of_decentralization_in_education_governance.pdf

Ainscow, M., Dyson, A., Hopwood, L. and Thomson, S., 2016. Primary Schools Responding to Diversity: barriers and possibilities. CPRT Research Survey 8. York: Cambridge Primary Review Trust

Peters, B. G., 2012. Governance and the Rights of Children: Policy, implementation and monitoring. Working Paper 2012-11. Florence: UNICEF Office of Research.

Other policy options

Promoting community involvement by providing more autonomy

Recur to national legislations, policies, and procedures to involve community members in school. Decide a pertinent structure for their participation, for example, through School Management Committee (SMC), Village Education Committee (VEC), School Development Committee (SDC) or Parent and Teachers Associations (PTA). Make sure that the members of the bodies are representative of the community served by the school, and fight against the unequal access to participation due to socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, disability, political affiliation, and gender by defining inclusive criteria for membership.

Define clear and mutually-accepted roles and responsibilities. Define the roles, functions, responsibilities, and rights of each organization through a written statement, and conceive a clear plan of action for each structure in coordination with the other bodies, school authorities, and teachers. This is essential, and even more, when multiple structures co-exist, as a lack of clarity of assigned roles and overlaps of responsibility may become a source of conflict. Develop a culture of accountability and participation.

The involvement of community members in school is very useful to mobilise financial, material and human resources. Community members can also participate in changing the community’s attitudes toward schooling. School Committee members can visit reluctant parents, explain the benefits of education and convince them to enrol their children to school.

They may help the school authorities, as well as local and national authorities, to identify factors contributing to educational problems such as low enrolment (e.g. in Malawi, Uganda, and the United Republic of Tanzania (UNICEF, 2009:232)).

Community-based Education Management Information Systems (C-EMIS), for example, is a decentralized tool used by community members to collect information about marginalized children in and outside the school system. It acts as a complement to the national EMIS, and they have been piloted in countries such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan (with the support of Save the Children and UNICEF).

Finally, enhance long-term commitment through periodic meetings and regular communication:

  • organize regular meetings—keep in mind the time of the meetings so that mothers/women, as well as people who work, can attend;
  • involve teachers in the meetings –this is essential to create a relationship between them and the community members;
  • keep a record of all meetings, decisions, and the community’s financial and material contributions; and
  • ensure timely and regular access to information for community members.
References
Afridi, M.; Anderson, S.; Mundy, K. 2014. Parent and Community Involvement in Education: A Rapid Review of the Literature. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Retrieved from: https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/cidec/UserFiles/File/Website/Rapid_Review_-_Parent_Community_June _30_final_2.pdf.

Bray, M. 2001. Community Partnerships in Education: Dimensions, Variations and Implications. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001234/123483e.pdf

Education Policy and Practice Department. 2008. Parent, Family, Community Involvement. In: Education. Policy Brief. Washington D.C.: Education Policy and Practice Department. Retrieved from: http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB11_ParentInvolvement08.pdf.

Lugaz, C.; De Grauwe, A.; Baldé, D. ; Diakhaté, C. ; Dougnon, D. ; Moustapha, M. ; Odushina, D. 2010a. Schooling and Decentralization: Patterns and policy implications in Francophone West Africa. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001470/147099e.pdf

Sujatha, K. 2011a. Module 4: Managing External Relations. In: Improving school management from successful schools (pp. 192-210). ANTRIEP (Asian Network of Training and Research Institutions in Educational Planning), NUEPA (National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration). Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002205/220543E.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2009d. Child Friendly Schools Manual . New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Child_Friendly_Schools_Manual_EN_040809.pdf.

Empowering schools and school councils

The empowerment of schools and school councils fall under several rubrics—school-based management, community schools, and community participation. Community schools tend to have a strong parental voice and high authority, in which parents select the governing board which in turn selects the school director and other personnel and which along with the school director has a high degree of authority to make decisions.

School-based management is a term typically used to describe schools where a high degree of authority has been delegated to the school principal, but parents may have a limited voice in terms of assigning the director and other key personnel, in terms of selecting the governing board (if there is one), and in terms of making important personnel and budget decisions.

Community participation is the voluntary participation of parents and other citizens in school councils.  Typically, these school councils are advisory bodies rather than decision-making bodies and, typically, they fall apart if they are not granted serious decision-making responsibilities. 

Empower and encourage communities to provide, maintain, and if required, finance school facilities.  In some cases, this consists only of requiring communities to provide counterpart financing, often they are kind-based resources.

Promote school improvement projects in which members of the school community define the school problem they wish to address, prepare a proposal for review, and compete with other schools for financing.

References
Afridi, M.; Anderson, S.; Mundy, K. 2014. Parent and Community Involvement in Education: A Rapid Review of the Literature. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Retrieved from: https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/cidec/UserFiles/File/Website/Rapid_Review_-_Parent_Community_June _30_final_2.pdf.

Bray, M. 2001. Community Partnerships in Education: Dimensions, Variations and Implications. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001234/123483e.pdf

Education Policy and Practice Department. 2008. Parent, Family, Community Involvement. In: Education. Policy Brief. Washington D.C.: Education Policy and Practice Department. Retrieved from: http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB11_ParentInvolvement08.pdf.

GPE (Global Partnership for Education). 2017. Empowering the community to improve education in Honduras. Slideshow. Retrieved from: https://www.globalpartnership.org/multimedia/slideshow/empowering-community-improve-education-honduras.

Lugaz, C.; De Grauwe, A.; Baldé, D. ; Diakhaté, C. ; Dougnon, D. ; Moustapha, M. ; Odushina, D. 2010a. Schooling and Decentralization: Patterns and policy implications in Francophone West Africa. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001470/147099e.pdf

Sujatha, K. 2011a. Module 4: Managing External Relations. In: Improving school management from successful schools (pp. 192-210). ANTRIEP (Asian Network of Training and Research Institutions in Educational Planning), NUEPA (National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration). Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002205/220543E.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2009d. Child Friendly Schools Manual . New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Child_Friendly_Schools_Manual_EN_040809.pdf.

Empower parents, schools and communities

Promote the capacity development of elected School Management Committees (SMCs) with increased autonomy for areas concerning budgeting, planning, and resource allocation. The management committee should be ideally equitably represented and should be comprised of parents, teachers, local government officials, and citizens.

For example, the World Bank, in Senegal, is supporting grants to school councils on a pilot basis.  In several cases, this aspect of decentralisation is motivated by the objective to reduce teacher salaries, especially in Francophone countries where teacher salaries are considerably high. 

Additionally, in Niger, the World Bank supports community-hired contract teachers and supports the creation of SMCs.  They are also supporting Mali in municipal education decentralisation pilots.

International organisations should be involved in supporting decentralisation and improved teaching, specifically by financing school development plans which are designed and implemented by school councils.

Identify areas which require interventions, which can then assist in providing finances and empowering the school community. It is also important to carefully monitor and evaluate the experience to design interventions that best match the country’s context.

Transfer resources to the SMCs with capitation grants. While in principle capitation grants could cover the entire costs of schooling, in practice they typically cover only non-salary costs.

Encourage community schools by liberalising the regulatory environment, sponsoring community education campaigns, and providing financing subsidies.

References
Afridi, M.; Anderson, S.; Mundy, K. 2014. Parent and Community Involvement in Education: A Rapid Review of the Literature. Toronto: Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. Retrieved from: https://www.oise.utoronto.ca/cidec/UserFiles/File/Website/Rapid_Review_-_Parent_Community_June _30_final_2.pdf.

Bray, M. 2001. Community Partnerships in Education: Dimensions, Variations and Implications. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0012/001234/123483e.pdf

Education Policy and Practice Department. 2008. Parent, Family, Community Involvement. In: Education. Policy Brief. Washington D.C.: Education Policy and Practice Department. Retrieved from: http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB11_ParentInvolvement08.pdf.

GPE (Global Partnership for Education). 2017. Empowering the community to improve education in Honduras. Slideshow. Retrieved from: https://www.globalpartnership.org/multimedia/slideshow/empowering-community-improve-education-honduras.

Lugaz, C.; De Grauwe, A.; Baldé, D. ; Diakhaté, C. ; Dougnon, D. ; Moustapha, M. ; Odushina, D. 2010a. Schooling and Decentralization: Patterns and policy implications in Francophone West Africa. Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001470/147099e.pdf

Sujatha, K. 2011a. Module 4: Managing External Relations. In: Improving school management from successful schools (pp. 192-210). ANTRIEP (Asian Network of Training and Research Institutions in Educational Planning), NUEPA (National Institute of Educational Planning and Administration). Retrieved from http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002205/220543E.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2009d. Child Friendly Schools Manual . New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Child_Friendly_Schools_Manual_EN_040809.pdf.

Updated on 2021-04-12

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