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The findings > Thematic Studies>Community Partnerships... >Part 3
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Community Partnerships in Governance
 
Allied to the above discussion are questions concerning structures for school governance. These structures are of considerable importance as vehicles for community partnership at the local level. Questions may particularly focus on the size, composition, and powers of these bodies, and on the ways in which community partnerships are actualized in practice.
 
To address these questions, it is useful to consider models of several types. One model is a national education system which gives legal status to school governing bodies. A second model has Parents' Associations which do not have such strong legal status but which can nevertheless be important within public education systems. A third model covers embraces clusters, village education committees and similar bodies, each of which may be responsible for several schools within a particular area.
 
Legally-incorporated School Boards
 
The Papua New Guinean system deserves elaboration because it is a good example of a model in which the law requires schools to have governing bodies and sets out aspects of the structure and functions of these bodies. The basic model has operated since 1970 and thus has had time to mature. The reforms of the 1990s did not change the requirements for school governing bodies.
 
The law which set up the national education system required each primary school to have a Board of Management with at least five members who were "broadly representative of the community served by the school" (Papua New Guinea 1970, Section 71.1). Each Board was required to include the head teacher and another teacher's representative, and could include representatives of the church or other agency operating the school provided these people did not form a majority. The law also required Boards to meet at least once a term. These provisions were largely repeated in the 1983 and 1995 Education Acts which updated the 1970 one. Boards were made responsible for setting the general philosophies of their schools; planning; construction and maintenance of classrooms, teachers' houses and ancillary facilities; enrolment of pupils; and discipline of students, including punishment by suspension or expulsion.
 
One survey of the composition of 565 Boards of Management (Bray 1988, p.158), representing nearly a quarter of the total in the country, showed that only 1.6 per cent had fewer than five members, 34.2 per cent had five to eight members, 36.8 per cent had nine or 10 members, and 27.4 per cent had 11 or more members. In general, communities did not seem to consider it necessary for Board members to have been to school themselves, and a large percentage of members were illiterate. The proportion of members with wage-earning jobs, even excluding the head teachers and the teachers' representatives, was far higher than their proportion in the population as a whole; but many Boards included subsistence farmers, some of whom were chairpersons. Many boards also made careful efforts to secure geographic representation. Where schools served several villages, for example, Board members were commonly selected to ensure that each location was represented. This procedure did not always operate smoothly, and complaints were frequently voiced that representatives from distant villages did not attend meetings. Urban schools sometimes made deliberate efforts to ensure representation of each of the main ethnic groups resident in the area served by the school, but this tended to be organized less carefully. Females were underrepresented. Among 541 schools giving data, 65.4 per cent indicated that they had no female Board members, and 21.6 per cent indicated had only one female member.
 
Among the functions listed by the law, the construction and maintenance of buildings were taken most seriously by the majority of Boards (see also Preston & Khambu 1986, p.15; Preston 1991, p.283). Indeed many Board members were unaware of the other functions. One reason why the Boards were particularly aware of their responsibility for buildings and facilities was that they were reminded by the teachers. The staff may be less enthusiastic about encouraging their Boards to assume responsibility for enrolment of pupils and discipline, for teachers commonly prefer to take on these duties themselves.
 
The decision to make Boards of Management responsible for buildings and facilities has several important consequences. First, it relieves the government of expenditure, and thus spreads the financial burden. Second, it increases diversity between schools, for some communities have more resources and some Boards take their duties more seriously than others. This diversity can cause discontent among teachers, some of whom may consider themselves poorly treated, and it also increases imbalances between urban and rural schools. Third, the policy allows the physical plant of the schools to mirror the communities much more closely than would otherwise be the case. If governments were responsible for buildings, they would probably employ standard designs and take little account of the local availability of particular building materials or the traditions of specific areas. Because of the present policy, many classrooms are built of the same materials as their neighboring village houses, and they exhibit considerable variety around the country. Moreover, the villagers can readily engage in construction, which is an area of their own expertise. Consultation with villagers on curriculum and textbooks is less easy or productive because they are not areas of local expertise.
 
Concerning the general philosophies of the schools, much is of course determined by educational traditions, the social and economic framework, and the national and provincial governments. Nevertheless, Boards can contribute in religious matters. They can organize pastors to provide religious instruction, and they can request prayers to be held at the beginning and end of each day. Although they are not able to hire or fire teachers, they are allowed to indicate the types of individuals they would like to be appointed and to recommend specific persons. Examples are easy to find in which Boards have requested teachers of particular religions, or have requested the removal of teachers who have abused their positions through drunkenness, inappropriate sexual behavior, or other anti-social practices. Thus the Boards can discipline teachers and perform a role which in isolated villages would be impossible for the provincial authorities.
 
The Papua New Guinean model may usefully be compared and contrasted with models in other countries. In Kenya, for example, the law states that each full (eight-grade) primary school should have a committee of 13 people: one parents' representative for each grade, two District Education Board representatives, two sponsor's representatives, and the head teacher (Kenya 1999). Following a fairly common model, but not made explicit in Papua New Guinea, the head teachers are required to be secretaries of their committees. This arrangement ensures that the school's voice may be clearly heard, and that the minutes and other records are kept by someone who is competent for such a task. The arrangement also ensures that the head teacher does not become chairperson, which might be considered excessive dominance.
 

A 1998 survey of 187 schools in all of Kenya's eight provinces found that school committees were generally functioning, and did hold regular meetings. The report indicated that local communities did not feature highly on the head teachers' agenda during their routine management activities. However, it added (Kenya 1999, p.74) that:

Participation of parents/communities in the management of the school … is crucial especially as the parents contribute a large proportion towards the cost of primary education. Schools may have very little choice but to hold frequent meetings, if only to discuss financing of the recurrent expenditure of primary schools

 
Other Kenyan studies (e.g. Juma et al. 1999) have expressed concern about the fact that in many schools the role of the community seems mainly to be restricted to provision of finance and facilities.
 
The Kenyan government, with assistance from the UK Department for International Development, has engaged in a major program of training and support for primary school committees. Initial evaluations of this program have already shown substantial impact. It has been reported, for example, that many more school committees now have an input into school development planning, and that this has improved the feelings of ownership and community involvement (Herriot et al. 1999). This is partly because head teachers have been trained in planning, and in management principles such as consultation and accountability. Communities are said to trust their head teachers more, and to have a better understanding of the roles of different actors. Training workshops have included sensitization on gender issues, and have also given head teachers tools for reaching out to their communities.
 
In both Papua New Guinea and Kenya, the operation of school boards is underpinned by legal requirements. This is clearly important; but analysis in other countries (see e.g. Gershberg 1999a for commentary on Mexico) shows that it is far from sufficient. As noted at the beginning of this study, fundamental ingredients for effective partnerships include self-interest and mutual respect. In both Papua New Guinea and Kenya, the schools could generally perceive benefits from involvement of community members; and the community members could generally perceive benefits from the schools. However, such relationships cannot be taken for granted. Whereas teachers are salaried employees who can be required to allocate time to meetings, community members usually donate their time voluntarily. In Kenya, improvements in the operation of school committees were greatly assisted by resource inputs from the external donor. Such resource inputs are not available in all contexts; but the fact that the Papua New Guinean model has been operating reasonably well since 1970 shows that models can be established and then maintained on a long-term basis as part of the general culture of institutions.
 
 

Box 6: School-Level Partnership in Thailand

When they are well organized, school committees can be a very important vehicle for partnership at the institutional level. Wat Sai Ma Primary School in Thailand provides an example.

The school was established in a Buddhist temple in the 1930s. Initially it catered only for the first three grades, but it gradually expanded to cover pre-school, primary and junior secondary levels.

Wat Sai Ma school has a standard committee of the type found in nearly all of Thailand's primary schools. It is comprised of parents, teachers and benefactors, and meets four times a year. In addition, the school has six sub-committees, each with 12 to 24 members, which meet twice a year. These sub-committees are for academic affairs, activities, personnel, finance, buildings, and community relations. The sub-committees discuss issues identified by the school, and recommend proposals to the school committee. Members are volunteers or invitees from the community, and each sub-committee has a teacher as secretary.

The academic and personnel sub-committees promote community participation by soliciting suggestions to enhance the curriculum, recruiting volunteer teachers for co-curricular activities, and raising funds for equipment. The activities and community relations committees strengthen the community's faith in the school through public information about school activities, visiting community leaders and benefactors, and encouraging the active involvement of the community on Children's Day, Teachers' Day and in sports and other competitions. The buildings committee has been responsible for the fund mobilization campaign which involved 74 donors, each credited with construction of a specified number of square feet of a new building. The finance committee identifies funding sources and projects such as concreting of the temple grounds to benefit both school and community, and the yearly donation of 10 bicycles to lower secondary students from distant homes.

This school has a successful partnership with strong leadership and cooperation between the principal, teachers, parents and other community members. The actors respect each other, and operate in balanced harmony. It is the sort of model which governments can promote through training, encouragement and support.

Source: Martin (1996), pp.30-31.

 
Parents' Associations
 
While school committees usually have some members who are parents, the committees are necessarily limited in size. Many schools have larger bodies which bring most or all parents together. In some countries they are simply called Parents' Associations (PAs), though in many countries, particularly anglophone ones, they are called Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) to show a specific link between parents and teachers. In francophone countries they are commonly called Associations des Parents d'Elèves (APEs). In some parts of the Philippines they are called Parent-Teacher-Community Associations (PTCAs) - a term which shows a broader base and which emphasizes that all persons in the community, rather than just parents, are welcome to join.
 

Parents' associations usually have their own executive committees to make decisions on activities and overall operations. In systems which have separate school committees, conflict can arise between the two bodies. Gershberg (1999a, p.72) has highlighted this problem in Mexico, and Wolf et al. (1999, p.28) have made similar remarks about Malawi. Concerning the latter, school-level personnel interviewed by Wolf et al. made many comments on this difficulty. For example:

"School committee and PTA are quite similar. They sometimes collide on what they think their responsibilities are."

"The PTA and the school committee conflicted. Both thought it was their responsibility to collect money."

"There were clashes between the PTA and the school committee so the school committee disbanded the PTA. Here the school committee wants to be the PTA."

 
As one interviewee remarked, a key element for avoiding this type of conflict is a clear, written statement of respective roles, powers and duties. In most systems where such statements exist, parents' associations are seen as broader bodies which operationalize decisions made by the school committees and other authorities.
 
Martin (1996) has highlighted tensions that can arise in the membership and operation of parents' associations. In some systems, membership is only granted to parents who pay annual fees. This is seen as a way not only to raise revenue but also to increase the sense of commitment among members. In other systems, membership is defined more loosely. All parents are considered to be members if they have children studying in the schools. Yet in some contexts, Martin points out (p.54), automatic membership is not only unappreciated but even resented. Parents and other community members may feel that they are considered little more than cheap labor to contribute to their schools at the behest of small groups which operate at the center and make decisions which affect the majority.
 
This matter leads to questions about the role of parents' associations. In some settings they are indeed seen by governments and by teachers as simply a resource to assist the operation of the school. In these settings, the element of partnership is not strong because it is too one-sided. In other settings, parents' associations have much wider roles. Much depends not only on cultures but also on structures. Ideally, schools have committees of some sort (either legally-mandated school committees or executive committees of parents' associations), but those committees have mechanisms for reaching out to the broader bodies of parents and community members both to listen to their views and to harness human, financial, and other resources.
 
In Myanmar, the government is working with an NGO called the Community-based Educational Development Association to train PTAs. The project aims not only to help PTAs to operate more effectively, but also to extend their role from fund-raising and maintenance and construction of buildings. Under the project, PTAs collect baseline data with the help of enumerators, set annual enrollment and retention targets in consultation with teachers and head teachers, conduct house-to-house advocacy with parents and unenrolled children, manage the construction of latrines and water-supply systems for schools, and provide incentives to encourage needy children to participate in school (Bentzen 1997, p.6). The project is in one sense a centralized initiative; but it promotes partnership at the school level, and in the sense that it empowers communities is decentralizing. It is another example of the sort of initiative which would be worth trying in other countries
 
One beneficial aspect of parents' associations is that they seem to be natural bodies with fairly clearly defined membership bases. Kemmerer (1990, p.381) has pointed out that school catchment areas do not always coincide with traditional community boundaries. In such circumstances, residents of the catchment area may have to overcome older rivalries to serve the school. Parents are a good place to begin the process of community-building, because they may be assumed to have a natural interest in the education of their children.
 
In some settings, moreover, governments actively promote the process of community-building by making financial grants to parents' associations. This is in marked contrast to the more common situation in which the associations are expected to be bodies which raise their own resources to make up for shortfalls in government provision. For example, in Sindh Province of Pakistan, the government decreed in 1992 that each school should form a PTA. To assist the associations to conduct meaningful activities, in 1998 the provincial government distributed 423 million rupees (US$10 million) to 27,000 primary schools (Dean 1999; Merchant 1999). The resources were provincial government counterpart funds in a project assisted by the World Bank, and were designated for repairs and purchase of furniture and educational materials. At the same time, the government provided training for PTAs to assist them with organization and management. An exercise of this magnitude naturally encountered some problems; but it was an instructive illustration of an attempt to adjust the balance of control in a system which had been very bureaucratic and had given communities little room for independent decision-making.
 

Box 7: Cooperation to Improve Community Links in Kenya

In 1994, a group of partners came together to launch the Mombasa School Improvement Programme (MSIP). Evaluation in 1999 showed that the project had achieved far-reaching results, and that much of the success could be attributed to improved linkages between schools and communities (Anderson & Nderitu 1999).

The initial memorandum of understanding identified three parties to the agreement which set up the project:

· the Municipal Council of Mombasa (MCM),

· the Aga Khan Education Service-Kenya (AKES-K), and

· the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF).

The bulk of funding came from or via the AKF, while the AKES-K implemented the project in conjunction with the MCM. During the period 1995-98, the project moved through three phases to serve 50 primary schools in the public sector.

Even at the formal contractual level, the project was the result of government-NGO partnership, for the MCM is an arm of the government and the AKES-K is an NGO. However, partnership went much beyond this, and in particular included communities. The project employed a Community Development Officer, who worked as a bridge between schools and communities. He held multiple meetings with groups and individuals, showing how parents and other community members could support the schools and how the schools could work with communities. The results included expanded quantity and improved quality of education in the Mombasa region. The 1999 evaluation showed that the partnerships at several levels had achieved major successes.

 
Clusters and Village Education Committees
 
In some parts of the world, formal bodies oversee several schools rather than single institutions. Some may serve several villages in some form of cluster arrangement, and others serve single villages that have multiple schools. In many cases, these bodies also play an important role in promoting partnership between governments and communities.
 
Clusters
 
Some countries have long histories of grouping of schools for various purposes and under various labels. In Bolivia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Peru such groups have been called nucleos, whereas in India they have been called complexes, in Mozambique they have been called Zonas de Influencia Pedagogica (ZIPs), and in Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Thailand they have been called clusters (Bray 1987; Rivarola & Fuller 1999). In some settings, these groupings have primarily had an administrative purpose within the government hierarchy, and have had little to do with community partnership. In other settings, they have been a vehicle for school-community collaboration.
 

Cambodia is among the countries which developed a school cluster system during the 1990s (Dykstra & Kucita 1997). Several models were established in different provinces. One model was established by the government in conjunction with UNICEF, and other models were established in conjunction with a range of NGOs. A common objective of all the models was to redress imbalances in education by grouping schools that were located near each other: strong schools were grouped with weak schools in such a way that the latter could benefit from the former. Clusters also acted as a focal point for training and for sharing of resources. The National Cluster School Committee (1995, p.2) explained that:

A cluster … is a grouping of 6-9 primary schools for administrative and educational purposes. It is an organization of schools in the same vicinity … for the benefit of sharing available resources such as teaching and learning materials, facilities and staff so that the access for all children and the educational quality of all schools within the cluster are improved.

 

This document added (p.3) that the innovation implied a degree of decentralization and could permit strong local participation in decision making. The vehicle for local participation is the Cluster Committee. The standard composition of each committee is:

village chief (honorary chair),

cluster school head,

head teachers of each school in the cluster,

teacher representatives from each school,

a representative of the PTAs,

the head of the cluster technical committee, and

a Buddhist monk.

 
The cluster system in Cambodia has promoted community partnerships in several ways. First, clusters have provided guidance and support for PTAs and other community bodies in member schools; and second, the cluster system has been a vehicle for community groups to contribute to arenas which are wider than their own institutions. The fact that the standard Cluster Committee includes a Buddhist monk reflects an explicit effort to involve an important component of the non-school community in addition to parents of school-going children. Experience with the cluster scheme has naturally been varied in different parts of the country. Yet although some clusters have worked more smoothly than others, the scheme is generally considered to have achieved successes in promoting infrastructure for schooling and in improving the quality of education (Dykstra & Kucita 1997).
 
Experience with cluster models having longer histories shows that structures need to evolve over time. Needs change, contexts change, and the individuals operating systems change. Partly for these reasons, the nuclearization schemes in Peru and Costa Rica which were launched in the 1970s did not survive the early 1980s (Bray 1987). Similarly, the cluster scheme in Sri Lanka was abandoned in the late 1980s. Abandonment is not necessarily problematic, because initiatives may serve particular purposes at particular times, and should not be adhered to if the tides of history have brought new needs and different emphases. At the same time, cluster schemes have been sustained in other countries. In Thailand, for example, clusters were initiated in the 1950s and in 1980 made part of the official administrative hierarchy (Kunarak & Saranyajaya 1986). Detailed case studies (e.g. Wheeler et al. 1992) show that the clusters can strengthen government and community partnerships by providing a forum for school and community representatives to learn from each other. Clusters can also be vehicles for training and for sharing of resources.
 
Village Education Committees
 
One of the most instructive models of Village Education Committees is found in India under the local government system known as Panchayati Raj. The roots of this system go back several centuries, but it was given prominence in 1992 when the national constitution was amended to strengthen the system. The 73rd amendment covered rural structures, and the 74th amendment covered their urban counterparts (India 1992). A panchayat is an institution of local self-government in rural areas, and is the counterpart of the municipality in urban areas. The constitutional amendments set out the size and composition of the membership of panchayats and municipalities, and decreed that panchayats should play a major role in the organization, provision and supervision of primary and secondary schooling. Municipalities were also expected to have educational functions, but their roles were not so far-reaching.
 
As one would expect, the implementation of the Panchayati Raj system varies considerably within India. In part this is a function of diversity of state-level legislation, though wide variations also exist within states (Mahajan 1998). In Andhra Pradesh, the official hierarchy of administrative bodies has five tiers leading up to the District level, with School Committees at the bottom, and Panchayat Education Committees occupying the next tier. Table 3 sets out the official framework for the composition of these bodies. At most levels, at least some women must be included in the committees. Some members are elected, while others are nominated and yet others occupy posts in an official capacity.
 
Table 3: Official Hierarchy of Education Committees in Andhra Pradesh, India (not available)
 
Table 4 provides more information on this system by indicating the functions and powers of the various committees. To some extent, of course, each level liaises with the next higher level, and the higher levels oversee the lower levels. However, the Panchayat Education Committees (PECs) have a clear role in setting school calendars, monitoring attendance of children and teachers, creating and maintaining infrastructure, promoting enrollment, budgeting, and various other managerial functions.
 
Table 4: Functions and Powers of Education Committees in Andhra Pradesh, India (not available)
 
Source: Modified from Kumar (1998), pp.34-35.
 
The next question, of course, concerns implementation of these official requirements. Although the 73rd Constitutional Amendment was only approved in 1992, a considerable body of research has been accumulated both on the Panchayati Raj institutions which were established prior to the constitutional amendment and on changes since that time (e.g. Dhar 1997; Nuna 1997; Annigeri 1998; Tyagi 1999). In addition to Andhra Pradesh, states which have enacted similar reform, though with varying impact, include Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh. In many settings, increase of responsibility at the school and village level has not been accompanied by adequate resources; and decentralization always brings with it the possibility of lower-level units making the sorts of decision which higher-level units do not support. However, the reform both reflected and required a significant change in thinking. Even in the initial years it seemed to bring some successful forms of partnership in which governments and communities worked together to advance both the quantity and the quality of education, though longstanding traditions could not be completely changed with ease and speed.
 
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