Equitable school distribution

Promising policy options

Building inclusive mainstream settings

Constructions of new schools can be an expensive affair, but schools are generally found in bigger cities and even if they are built on remote areas, the quality is usually not at par with that of schools in an urban area. To tackle down the issue of school distance, it is of utmost importance to build inclusive mainstream settings that meet the needs of all children and guarantee all children’s right to education.

An initial step is to identify and address equity concerns. For school network reforms to benefit students of all backgrounds and needs, it is essential for authorities to identify their potential impact on equity and the well-being of specific student groups well in advance and take the necessary steps to address them.

Just as current inefficiencies in the school networks can place some students at a systematic disadvantage based on their location, resources or educational needs, restructuring the network can have a harmful impact on specific student groups and exacerbate existing inequities. Equity concerns must receive particular attention in the institutional frameworks for effective network design and planning.

It is important to raise awareness among the responsible authorities; countries should take active steps to guarantee to mitigate current and future concerns related to obtaining and accessing school education by marginalised populations. For example, by ensuring that representatives of vulnerable groups are involved at key stages of the proposed reforms’ design and implementation for either building new schools, or restructuring of already existing schools.

Make sure to involve all relevant stakeholders in the process. Structured consultation procedures bringing together all major stakeholders, including less powerful and active voices, can be an effective means to resolve conflicts before they arise, to hold authorities to account and find implementation strategies suitable to the local community’s needs. (OECD 2018)

Authorities should contribute to this process by maintaining a high level of transparency, articulating a clear vision for the school network reform, demonstrating that potential alternatives and their likely effects on students and the local community have been considered.

For instance, Copenhagen rolled out a series of initiatives as part of its “Improved Learning for All” (Faglighed for alle) programme. Its aim was to reduce the high degree of ethnic segregation among the city’s public schools by providing incentives for ethnic minority students to choose mostly native schools, and vice versa. The initiative addressed both immigrant students, who tended to be highly concentrated in some neighbourhoods, and native students, many of whom exercised school choice to withdraw from public schools with a high proportion of immigrants (OECD 2018).

This strategy follows the logic of improving the distribution of students in segregated school systems. As was the case in Copenhagen, this can be done by providing socio-economically advantaged or ethnic majority students with incentives to attend schools with diverse student populations.

In the United States, some “magnet schools” have been explicitly designed as desegregation tools since the 1970s. Located in relatively disadvantaged areas, they sought to attract students from other neighborhoods with specialised math, science or art curricula and high-quality education in an integrated learning environment. Students attending such magnet schools outside their catchment areas are usually provided with free school transport ( Nusche 2009; OECD 2018)

In the face of demographic pressures and the need to expand its school network, the Flemish Community of Belgium has attracted private investment through Design-BuildFinance-Maintain (DBFM) schemes. With a total investment volume of EUR 1.5 billion, the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) involve the construction of 200 new low-energy facilities, increasing the number of schools by more than 5%. (Nusche et al 2015)

In the French Community of Belgium, an urgent action plan (Modules et Rénovation-Création) was launched in 2013 to create 15,186 new primary and secondary school places, investing 25 EUR million to construct new permanent and mobile schooling units.

For more information on PPP, refer to the Abidjan Principles.

References
The Abidjan Principles. 2019. The Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education. Adopted on 13 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.abidjanprinciples.org/en/principles/overview

OECD. 2008. Ten steps to equity in education. Policy brief. Retrieved from: https://www.oecd.org/education/school/39989494.pdf

OECD. 2017. PISA 2015 Results (Volume III): Students’ Well-Being. OECD Publishing: Paris. Retrieved from:  http://doi.org/10.1787/9789264273856-en;

OECD. 2016. OECD Regions at a Glance 2016. OECD Publishing: Paris. Retrieved from:  http://doi.org/10.1787/reg_glance-2016-en.

OECD. 2018. Adapting the school network to changing needs in urban, rural and remote areas. in Responsive School Systems: Connecting Facilities, Sectors and Programmes for Student Success. OECD Publishing: Paris. Retrieved from:  https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264306707-7-en

OECD. 2016. PISA 2015 Results (Volume II): Policies and Practices for Successful Schools. OECD Publishing: Paris. Retrieved from:   http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264267510-en.

Nusche, D. 2009. What Works in Migrant Education?: A Review of Evidence and Policy Options. OECD Education Working Papers. No. 22. OECD Publishing. Paris. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/227131784531

Nusche, D., et al. 2015. OECD Reviews of School Resources: Flemish Community of Belgium 2015. OECD Publishing, Paris. Retrieved from:  http://doi.org/10.1787/9789264247598-en

The World Bank. 2009c. Guidance notes on safer school construction. Washington D.C: The World Bank. Retrieved from: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/728061468326978133/Guidance-notes-on-safer-school-construction-global-facility-for-disaster-reduction-and-recovery

Hite, S. ‘School mapping and geographical information systems.’ In: Bray, M.; Varghese, N.V. (ED.), Directions in Educational Planning: International Experiences and Perspectives (pp. 215-239). Paris: IIEP-UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002137/213735e.pdf

Decentralized planning and financing

The usual responsibilities transferred in developing countries regarding planning and financing consist mainly of administrative functions with the transfer of financial responsibilities being, in general, inadequate. This results in budgetary constraints at the local level, leading to unfunded mandates and limited macro-economic impact. For example, 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, but in practice, 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.

Local governments should have the right to levy and collect taxes on their own. In Indonesia, both provincial and local governments have some power for collecting taxes.

Promote a decentralised implementation of school construction plans. Centralised planning can result in poor classroom allocation and weak monitoring capacity. Decentralising or delegating duties to lower levels of government or directly to communities can improve planning and implementation arrangements.

Deconcentration to the local Ministry of Education offices can expand the capacity to manage smaller contracts. However, the delivery may be slow if offices have weak construction management capacity.

A delegation by the Ministry of Education to interact directly with communities can increase production, and result in lower construction costs, but sufficient capacity support should be available for communities. Likewise, a delegation of contract management to local government can improve basic service delivery, as is locally based, can be direct implementation, whereby local governments hire and manage contractors, delegates to CMAs or delegates to local communities.

Finally, note that community contracting is successful when local materials are used, construction techniques familiar to the community are implemented, the design is based on safety and durability, and there are clearly delineated responsibilities.

For more information on decentralised financial planning, refer to the Abidjan Principles.

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

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. www.forschungsnetzwerk.at/downloadpub/50293543_Two_decades_of_decentralization_in_education_governance.pdf

UNESCO, 2014. Decentralization as an Education System Reform (L. Benete and W. Ible, eds.). Bangkok: UNESCO Bangkok. www.unescobkk.org/education/news/article/decentralization-as-an-education-system-reform/

The Abidjan Principles. 2019. The Abidjan Principles on the human rights obligations of States to provide public education and to regulate private involvement in education. Adopted on 13 February 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.abidjanprinciples.org/en/principles/overview

Construction of new schools

Expanding and exchanging refugee resources can help the host communities in certain circumstances such as building new schools. This could be carried forward by linking the pre-existing access to education and child protection of the host communities with the displaced population communities. In order to achieve this, the host community should initiate access to national education systems, which would require strategic, multi-party involvement. For example, refugee children in Malaysia do not have access to government schools, which means that refugee children must attend private schools or those run by NGOs. The Tzu Chi Foundation is currently running five schools for 549 refugee children from the Rohingya community, but due to cross-cultural sensitivities, the establishment, and staffing of these schools have entailed intensive negotiations and information sessions with refugee parents and a significant investment in teacher training.

It is important to recognise the right to education for all children of migrant workers, displaced populations, illegal migrants regardless of their nationality or status. For instance, the Government of Thailand established the legal and policy frameworks to integrate refugees into the national education system. The Ministry of Education of Thailand accredited 51 schools in 2014. Thus, 343 refugee and asylum seeker children aged 6-17 years have newfound access to the national Thai education system. (UNHCR n.d.)

Another example is the Ukrainian cities of Dnipro, Kharkiv, Kiev, and Zaporizhzhia, which host the largest numbers of the country’s IDPs, and their education facilities face shortages of classroom space and resources. In response, the government has created additional school places, moved state universities from conflict regions, simplified admission procedures, covered tuition and provided incentives, including loans and text books for IDPs (UNESCO 2019).

In more decentralised systems, responsibilities and roles given to local governments and community are higher. The responsibility to finance community’s subprojects for school’s infrastructure is transferred to local governments and the final responsibility for the design, planning, construction, restoration and maintenance of school’s physical infrastructure relies on parents and community members. This approach is commonly referred to as Community-Driven Development programmes (this term is employed by The World Bank to characterize investment programmes that support decentralization). For example, through the Kecamatan Development Programme implemented in Indonesia, communities participated in the construction and rehabilitation of 5,100 schools. Another example in Honduras, from 2001 to 2006, communities participated in the rehabilitation of 1,446 schools and the construction of 700 new schools (The World Bank, 2009b).

For CDD to happen it is necessary to (Theunynck, 2009):

  • have adequate accountability mechanisms which clearly define the roles of each stakeholder (MoE, local governments and communities);
  • implement information, monitoring and evaluation systems;
  • enhance the community’s empowerment; and
  • develop capacity-building trainings.

Make sure CDD programmes are inclusive (Alkire et al., 2001): Paying attention to concerns expressed by those who are the most marginalized is necessary to ensure that investment choices and the programme itself will truly meet the needs of those who need it the most. Identify the most marginalised populations within the community and incorporate diverse voices in the decision-making process, such as those of women, girls, people from different ethnicities, religious groups, persons with disabilities, families, among others.

References
UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2009f. ‘Location, design and construction’. In: Child Friendly Schools Manual. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/devpro/files/CFSManual_Ch03_052009.pdf

UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund); WHO (World Health Organization). 2018. Drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in schools: global baseline report 2018. New York: UNICEF and WHO. Retrieved from: https://data.unicef.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/JMP-WASH-in-Schools-WEB.pdf

Practical Action. 2009. School Buildings in Developing Countries: technical brief. Warwickshire: Practical Action. Retrieved from: http://www.worldwidehelpers.org/wwhweb/uploads/files/School %20Buildings%20in%20Developing%20Countries.pdf

Bonner, R. ; Das, P. ; Kalra, R. ; Leathes, B. ; Wakeham, N. n.d. Delivering cost Effective and Sustainable School Infrastructure . TI-UP Resource Center. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/67620/del-cost-eff-sust-sch-infra.pdf

Gershberg A.I. 2014. Educational Infrastructure, School Construction, & Decentralization in Developing Countries: Key Issues for an Understudied Area. International Center for Public Policy Working Paper 14-12. Retrieved from: https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1020&context=icepp

Theunynck, S. 2009. School construction for universal primary education in Africa: Should communities be empowered to build their schools? Washington D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/109291468007863249/pdf/488980PUB0prim101Official0Use0Only1.pdf

Leathes, B. 2009 . Briefing Note: Key Factors in the Cost Effective Design and Construction of Primary School Facilities in Low Income Countries . TI-UP Resource Centre. Retrieved from: https://www.humanitarianlibrary.org/sites/default/files/2014/02/Briefing%2520Note%2520-%2520Classroom%2520Costs%2520Final%252023%2520Jan%252009.pdf

The World Bank. 2009c. Guidance notes on safer school construction. Washington D.C: The World Bank. Retrieved from: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/728061468326978133/Guidance-notes-on-safer-school-construction-global-facility-for-disaster-reduction-and-recovery

Cook, J. R.; Huizenga, C.; Petts, R.;Sampsons, L. R.,;Visser, C.; Yiu, A. 2017. Rural transport research in support of sustainable development goals. Bangkok: Transport and Communications Bulletin for Asia and the Pacific. Retrieved from: https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/bulletin87_7%20Rural%20transport_JRCook.pdf

UNESCO. 2013. Policy Guidelines for Mobile Learning. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002196/219641E.pdf

Alternative modes of schooling

Boarding schools (also commonly referred to as residential schools or hostels) have dormitory facilities where students can live during the school year, typically through the school week and returning home for the weekends (therefore linking with the risks identified earlier). While in some countries boarding schools are private facilities, they can also be provided by the state to provide education to children who otherwise would difficulty access schools. Care must be taken to ensure that schools are well-managed, the environments are safe and provide all of the children’s developmental needs, and that children still have frequent contact with their families.

Mobile schools can adapt to certain marginalised groups migratory lifestyles, and may consist of structures that can be dismantled, such as tents. These schools can reach populations who otherwise would be unable to reach formal schooling locations. In Kenya, around 90 mobile schools exist, which assign teachers to a certain family or groups families, and allow younger children to attend school during the day and older children at night. While this system allows children to learn from a sedentary settlement, the implementation of such schools is difficult, costs per student are high, teachers are often unqualified and have little support and resources, and the inconsistency of children moving in and out of the system can have negative learning consequences.

Distance education or open and distance learning refers to education where the constraints of time and space are removed, and students can learn remotely using various information and communication technologies, rather than attending a school campus. Mobile electronic devices such as phones, media players, and tablet computers are becoming increasingly affordable and common throughout the world, and offer new possibilities in reaching populations that are unable to attend physical school campuses. While open and distance learning is primarily used for tertiary education, teacher training, and other programmes targeting adults, there are also opportunities for it to be applied to primary levels.

Kenya recently launched a distance learning program using radio broadcasts, to reach nomadic populations. However, infrastructure (electricity, internet/ cellular networks) might not be reliably established, educational programmes may not be sufficiently developed yet to adequately replace in-person primary education models. Other challenges include mobile literacy, safety, and privacy issues, and education quality. Fortunately, an innovative initiative called Instant Network Schools has brought online education and connectivity into refugee camps in Kenya.

Selected schools and community centres are kitted out with a “digital box” that includes a set of computer tablets, solar-powered batteries, a satellite or mobile network, and a suite of content and online learning material. Teachers receive IT support and ongoing training. Since the initial pilot in Dadaab in 2014, the programme has been taken up by 31 centres in four countries: Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. (UNHCR 2017)

Another potential strategy is to provide arrangements for school transportation.  Effective arrangements for students’ transport to and from school or afternoon activities are central to guarantee their access to high-quality education. Authorities should provide clear and transparent frameworks that specify the conditions under which students have a right to school transport. The criteria used to determine students’ eligibility for transport should be responsive to students’ and families’ needs. Besides the distance from the nearest school, these criteria could include the students’ age or level of education, the availability of public transport options and the reliance on arrangements for special needs students.

Authorities should also align the responsibilities for setting up, operating and funding transport systems in case of school closures with their policy priorities for the organisation of the school network. The means-tested provision of transport options also plays an important role in promoting equity and overcoming spatial segregation by enabling disadvantaged students to consider a wider range of schools beyond their immediate community.

References
UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund). 2009f. ‘Location, design and construction’. In: Child Friendly Schools Manual. New York: UNICEF. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/devpro/files/CFSManual_Ch03_052009.pdf

Practical Action. 2009. School Buildings in Developing Countries: technical brief. Warwickshire: Practical Action. Retrieved from: http://www.worldwidehelpers.org/wwhweb/uploads/files/School %20Buildings%20in%20Developing%20Countries.pdf

Rwanda. 2009. Ministry of Education. Child Friendly Schools and Infrastructure Standards and Guidelines. Retrieved from : https://www.preventionweb.net/files/15377_rwandachildfriendlyschoolsinfrastru.pdf

Theunyck, S. 2002. School Construction in Developing Countries: What Do We Know? Washington D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from:  https://humanitarianlibrary.org/sites/default/files/2014/02/Theunynck%2520(2002)%520School%2520Construction%2520in%2520Developing%2520Countires.pdf

Gershberg A.I. 2014. Educational Infrastructure, School Construction, & Decentralization in Developing Countries: Key Issues for an Understudied Area. International Center for Public Policy Working Paper 14-12. Retrieved from: https://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1020&context=icepp

Theunynck, S. 2009. School construction for universal primary education in Africa: Should communities be empowered to build their schools? Washington D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/109291468007863249/pdf/488980PUB0prim101Official0Use0Only1.pdf

The World Bank. 2009c. Guidance notes on safer school construction. Washington D.C: The World Bank. Retrieved from: http://documents.worldbank.org/curated/en/728061468326978133/Guidance-notes-on-safer-school-construction-global-facility-for-disaster-reduction-and-recovery

Cook, J. R.; Huizenga, C.; Petts, R.;Sampsons, L. R.,;Visser, C.; Yiu, A. 2017. Rural transport research in support of sustainable development goals. Bangkok: Transport and Communications Bulletin for Asia and the Pacific. Retrieved from: https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/bulletin87_7%20Rural%20transport_JRCook.pdf

Starkey, P.; Hine, J. 2014. Poverty and sustainable transport: How transport affects poor people with policy implications for poverty reduction. UN Habitat, Overseas Development Institute, SLoCaT. Retrieved from: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/1767Poverty%20and%20sustainable%20transport.pdf

UNESCO. 2013. Policy Guidelines for Mobile Learning. Paris: UNESCO. Retrieved from: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0021/002196/219641E.pdf

OECD. 2018. Adapting the school network to changing needs in urban, rural and remote areas. in Responsive School Systems: Connecting Facilities, Sectors and Programmes for Student Success. OECD Publishing: Paris. Retrieved from:  https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264306707-7-en

Use of existing building

Existing unoccupied buildings within communities can be utilised as learning spaces in lieu of new school construction. This strategy is most appropriate for sparsely populated rural areas in which one-roomed schooling would be required. This solution is not ideal, as the spaces may not be adapted to be optimal learning environments for students; however, it can be a short-term solution in the face of budget constraints. Usually, governments use community spaces, youth centres, religious centres or even homes, and it is particularly appropriate in sparsely populated, rural areas.

Countries should, therefore, cultivate strategic foresight and the capacity to distinguish long-term enrolment trends from short-term fluctuations to ensure that the school network’s capacity grows in line with increased long-term demand.

Despite the tremendous diversity in rural topographies as well as their economic, social and cultural characteristics, there are some commonalities that impact the quality and cost of delivering education and other public services in rural areas. Not all rural schools can provide a comprehensive educational offer with adequate depth and breadth to meet their students’ needs.

Small schools may lack the teacher resources or student numbers to provide specialised course options and after-school activities to meet their students’ interests and needs. For example for special needs students and academically gifted individuals, small rural schools often struggle to provide specialised educational opportunities.

References
The World Bank. 2009d. Six steps to abolishing primary school fees: Operational guide. Washington D.C.: The World Bank. Retrieved from: https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/Six_Steps_to_Abolishing_Primary_School_Fees.pdf

OECD. 2018. Adapting the school network to changing needs in urban, rural and remote areas. in Responsive School Systems: Connecting Facilities, Sectors and Programmes for Student Success. OECD Publishing: Paris. Retrieved from:  https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264306707-7-en

Updated on 2021-08-09

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