Encouraging community participation in school education

October 2015

Community participation and parental involvement in schools can play a critical role in school improvement across inputs, processes and even outcomes. Recognising this potential, Section 21 of the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 mandates the formation of School Management Committees (SMCs) – elected bodies at the school level that monitor functioning and oversee utilisation of grants. Since local communities have the greatest motivation for improving school quality, SMCs consist predominantly of parents along with teachers, local authorities and the principal.

Evidence indicates that enhancing community participation in school functioning should be based on:

Innovative interventions for community involvement in schools’ decision-making process

Many NGOs have engaged local communities innovatively in school functioning through information dissemination and capacity building efforts in rural and urban contexts across India.

Before the implementation of the RTE Act in 2010, CfBT Education Trust worked with Academic Monitoring Committees (AMCs)—the existing management committees at the time—to empower rural women in Self Help Groups (SHGs) in 333 villages of Andhra Pradesh to play a key role in monitoring local government schools and holding them accountable for education quality.

CfBT undertook several initiatives to raise awareness and involve community members in school improvement. A key innovation was the design of a simple scorecard to assess school performance and guide community expectations on various dimensions of school quality such as student attendance and performance, utilisation of grants, teacher attendance, infrastructure and parent involvement in SMC meetings. Given a 70% illiteracy rate among the local SHG women, the scorecard was designed with illustrations of school processes and used traffic light indicators as a ratings system.

The findings from the intervention noted increased SMC meetings and improved responsiveness of school authorities to issues raised as well as in teacher and student attendance, student academic performance and the quality of the midday meals.

In Delhi, Saajha works with government schools to form, activate and build capacity of SMCs. Saajha provides capacity building through bi-annual workshops and on-the-ground support for principals, teachers and parents. The workshops focus on building motivation and greater collaboration among members as well as on management skills, motivation and peer learning. As part of on-ground support, the facilitator visits the school and community, six times and four times each month, respectively. Saajha also organises SMC-led events (Saajha Vishleshan Sabhas) where teachers and community volunteers come together to assess the reading levels of the children using ASER tools.

In 2015, Saajha was appointed by the Government of Delhi to train master trainers for formation and activation of SMCs in all its schools. They have also been a thought partner to the government on framing guidelines for SMC elections in the state.

Recommendations for effective community participation in schools

As a first step to ensure effective community participation in schools, there is a need for stronger policy framework and clearer guidelines across three broad parameters:

 

 

Effective implementation and development of SMCs require coordinated efforts to address two broad challenges:
  • Implementation challenges: Community members lack awareness regarding the roles and responsibilities of SMCs. SMC members have limited capacity for  school monitoring and planning due to inadequate training and social hierarchies. There is also insufficient monitoring of the quality and frequency of SMC training, fund utilisation and overall SMC functioning.
  • Ecosystem challenges: There is inconclusive evidence in India on the efficacy of community participation in improving student learning. Lack of standardised student learning data across the Indian school system limits a real understanding of the impact of SMCs. As an example, a 2014 Hewlett Foundation-funded evaluation of Prajayatna’s School Development and Management Committees intervention in Karnataka highlighted this issue of outcome measures and the need to strengthen the link between assessment and accountability in India.

A system-level collaboration between all stakeholders including the central government, state governments, NGOs and donor organisations can lead to effective development and functioning of SMCs in India:

 

 

To know more about SMCs and their relevance to school education in India, please read Central Square Foundation’s report Empowering Communities, Enhancing Education: Strengthening School Management Committees in India.

For further information or to share feedback, you could reach us at advocacy@centralsquarefoundation.org.