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The findings > Thematic Studies>Community Partnerships... >Part 1
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Executive Summary

Article 7 of the 1990 World Declaration on Education for All observed that national, regional, and local educational authorities have a unique obligation to provide basic education for all. However, the Declaration continued, these bodies cannot be expected to supply every human, financial or organizational requirement for this task.

To help achieve the goal, the Declaration suggested that:

New and revitalized partnerships at all levels will be necessary: partnerships among all sub-sectors and forms of education; … partnerships between government and non-governmental organizations, the private sector, local communities, religious groups and families.

This study focuses on one of those types of partnerships: between governments and communities.

The notion of government-community partnership was of course not new. Such partnerships had operated in a range of settings for many decades. As the architects of the Jomtien Declaration were aware, however, reoriented and extended partnerships were necessary. Such partnerships could contribute to the planning and implementation of basic education programs, to increased effectiveness, and to stronger feelings of community ownership

The decade which followed showed the wisdom of the emphasis on partnerships. While the goals set in 1990 have not yet been fully achieved, much more has been achieved than would have been possible in the absence of partnerships.

However, deepening experience has also shown complexities. Models which work in one setting may not work in another; and models which operate well at one point in time may not operate so well subsequently. In many systems, greater emphasis on partnerships requires some decentralization of structures; but governments are commonly ambivalent about loss of control. They also fear loss of efficiency and increase in inequalities in decentralized systems; and they may be uneasy about the diversity of practices which results from the increased number of decision-makers.

A further dimension concerns the role of the state. Operation of effective partnerships may require radical changes in this domain. Changes which require significant reduction in the role of the state may be particularly uncomfortable to government personnel, and may also be disquieting to other members of society.

The Meanings and Dimensions of Partnership

The notion of partnership implies shared decision-making, in which all partners play active roles. These roles are not necessarily equal: frameworks may have dominant and subordinate partners. However, the essence of partnership is that each actor has an independent voice and a way to shape the outcomes of negotiations. While in many settings the government is appropriately the dominant partner, this model is not, and should not be, universal. In many contexts governments and communities play equal roles; and in some situations the communities are the dominant partners while governments are the subordinate ones.

Whatever the balance between the partners, ingredients which must be present include:

· willingness to respect the viewpoints of other partners,
· identification of common tasks, and
· collaboration in pursuit of ways to accomplish the task.

The 1990 Jomtien declaration emphasized the need for partnerships to be "genuine". This raises the question what a "false" partnership might be. The chief answer would be a situation in which the major actor did not truly listen to the aspirations of the other actors, imposed its own agenda, and/or coerced others to agree.

Unfortunately, the experience since the Jomtien conference has shown many examples of false partnerships as well as of genuine ones. In particular, governments have commonly viewed communities as convenient providers of resources for education on models totally controlled by the governments. A situation in which communities are expected just to provide pupils, materials, finance and other resources for schools which are totally controlled by governments cannot be called a genuine partnership. And the fact that such models in many countries have failed to provide education of appropriate quantity and quality is a strong reason why the objectives and nature of partnership need to be reviewed.

In some settings, it may be added, the imbalance is on the other side: communities are the dominant partners and give little voice to governments. These communities may be willing to take government resources, but are unwilling to listen to the governments' visions on how those resources should be used. This situation is less common; but it does exist, and needs to be brought into discussion to show that imbalances are not always the fault of governments. Genuine partnership, it must be stressed, requires all actors to respect viewpoints, to identify common tasks, and to collaborate in implementation.

Within this overall framework are many variations in precisely who does what under what circumstances. Contexts and needs vary greatly in different parts of the world. Moreover, education is a multifaceted endeavor, and each facet may need a slightly different balance in the roles of different actors. Thus the balance of control may not be the same, for example, in the matters of core curriculum, maintenance of buildings, teacher deployment, and discipline of pupils. Again, different models may be identified which have worked better in some settings than in others.

The Nature of Communities, and the Mechanisms for Partnership

The word 'community' can mean different things to different people in different circumstances. This fact requires care when analyzing circumstances in particular settings.

For present purposes, the most important types of communities are:

geographic communities, which embrace the individuals living in relatively small areas such as villages, districts or suburbs;

ethnic and racial groups, especially ones which are minorities and which have self-help support structures;

religious groups of various kinds;

communities based on shared family concerns, including Parents' Associations which are based on adults' shared concerns for the welfare of their children; and

communities based on shared philanthropy, and in many cases operated by specifically-designated charitable and/or political bodies.

These communities are not always well organized in a formal sense. For example, not all geographic communities have formal bodies through which voices are heard and collective decisions reached. Indeed, in many settings it is difficult to state where the community begins and ends. Moreover, communities are rarely homogenous. Most communities have sub-groups which do not always operate together and in harmony; and even in tightly-defined geographic areas some individuals and groups may not consider that residence in a particular location necessarily makes them part of a community.

Experience shows, however, that schools can themselves be important focal points for creating and fostering community identity. Many schools have formal committees which are responsible for representing parents in decisions concerning the planning, development and operation of the institutions. Many schools also have broader associations to bring together not only parents but also community members.

The existence of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) concerned with education deserves particular comment because the proliferation of NGOs in many parts of the world was among the particularly striking aspects of the decade which followed the 1990 Jomtien Conference. In some settings this change was the result of government encouragement, but elsewhere governments were neutral or even discouraging. Whatever the causes of proliferation, it has brought a major change in circumstances and is among the elements requiring reassessment of approaches and strategies.


Even with the advent of globalization, the different regions and sub-regions of the world of course remain very diverse. No single formula for partnership can be presented to take account of all types of circumstances. Appropriate policies for rural areas may be very different from those for cities; policies for dynamic communities will differ from those for passive communities; and the varied historical legacies of colonialism, politics and economics have different implications for different societies.

Nevertheless, the architects of the World Declaration on Education for All were wise to emphasize the need for partnerships; and their message remains as valid at the beginning of the new century as it was in 1990. In the search for appropriate partnerships between governments and communities, much can be learned from comparative analysis. This study does not provide a single recipe for success which can be utilized everywhere. But it does show some models which have worked well in some settings; and it shows some pitfalls which in other settings have caused frustration and failure.

Partnerships will remain one of the keys to the achievement of appropriate quality and quantity of education for all. Although this study focuses only on government and community partnerships, some of its lessons apply to all types of partnerships. All actors in educational processes need to review the nature of their existing collaboration, and to identify ways in which partnerships can be strengthened in pursuit of the common goal.

Many people contributed to this study. They cannot all be mentioned by name, but some merit specific acknowledgement and thanks. The study was commissioned by the World Bank on behalf of the EFA Secretariat. Within the World Bank, Barbara Bruns steered and assisted the work. Sheldon Shaeffer of UNICEF also played a leading role; and in the Education for All (EFA) Secretariat guidance and help was received from Warren Mellor. In the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK government, David Quinn collected the views of colleagues and presented his own valuable insights. The author presented a draft, and received helpful feedback at, (i) the Sub-Saharan Africa regional conference on EFA, which was combined with the biennial meeting of the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) in Johannesburg in December 1999, and (ii) the Asia-Pacific regional conference on EFA in Bangkok in January 2000. Other individuals who commented on drafts include Kathy Bartlett, Frank Dall, Michael Drabble, Susan Hirschberg, Ora Kwo, Grace Lang, Cliff Meyers, Robert Myers, Neville Postlethwaite, Yukari Sripathy, Robert West, Christopher Wheeler and Eric Woods. The author expresses appreciation to them all.
List of Abbreviations and Acronyms

ACE Asociación Comunal para la Educación

ADEA Association for the Development of Education in Africa

AKES-K Aga Khan Education Service-Kenya

AKF Aga Khan Foundation

APE Association des Parents d'Elčves

BRAC Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee

CABE Central Advisory Board of Education

CBO Community-Based Organization

DPEB District Planning and Education Board

EDUCO Educación con Participación de la Comunidad

EFA Education for All

GDP Gross Domestic Product

GNP Gross National Product Lao

PDR Lao People's Democratic Republic

MCM Municipal Council of Mombasa

MEC Mandal Education Committee

MSIP Mombasa School Improvement Programme

NGO Non-Governmental Organization

PA Parents' Association

PEB Provincial Education Board

PEC Panchayat Education Committee

PRC People's Republic of China

PROBE Public Report on Basic Education

PTA Parent-Teacher Association

PTCA Parent-Teacher-Community Association

SC School Committee

UNDP United Nations Development Programme

UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation

UNICEF United Nations Children's Fund

USAID United States Agency for International Development

WCEFA World Conference on Education for All

ZEC Zilla Education Committee

ZIP Zona de Influencia Pedagogica

List of Tables

1. Matrix of Dimensions and Degrees of Community Participation in Education

2. Distribution of Powers and Responsibilities for Elementary Education, Papua New Guinea

3. Official Hierarchy of Education Committees in Andhra Pradesh, India

4. Functions and Powers of Education Committees in Andhra Pradesh, India

5. Taxation Revenues as a Percentage of GDP, 1997 25

List of Figures
1. A Ladder of Citizen Participation
List of Boxes

1. Partnerships - A Persistent Theme

2. Partnerships and a New Way of Working

3. Partnerships and Self-Interest

4. The Changing Role of the State

5. Participation and the Status Quo

6. School-Level Partnership in Thailand

7. Cooperation to Improve Community Links in Kenya

8. Patterns of Teacher-Parent Relations in India

9. Encouraging Participation by the Poo

10. The State and Decentralization

11. Walking on Two Legs, or Travelling on Two Railway Lines

12. Planning for Partnerships

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