Experts discuss role of School Management Committees (SMCs) in Indian education at convening organised by Accountability Initiative and Central Square Foundation

New Delhi, September 28, 2015: Accountability Initiative (AI), Centre for Policy Research and Central Square Foundation (CSF), today, organised a convening on the role of School Management Committees (SMCs) in Indian school education. The convening brought together thought leaders, decision makers and representatives of various NGOs and funders, to discuss issues and solutions pertaining to SMC implementation in government schools.

Section 21 of the Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 mandates the formation of SMCs, which are elected bodies representing the local community at the school level. The basic function of SMCs is to monitor school functioning and oversee the utilisation of school grants. Recognising that local communities have the greatest motivation for, and are best placed to, improve school quality, SMCs consist predominantly of parents along with teachers, local authorities and the school headmaster.

Talking about the role that community participation can play in improving accountability in schools, Dr. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, President and Chief Executive of Centre for Policy Research, while delivering the keynote address said, “School Management Committees (SMCs) are an interesting experiment and it is worth assessing and debating how this governance innovation is performing.”

The convening witnessed participation from experts from the government,civil society and academia. Prof. Avinash K Singh (Head of Department- Educational Policy, National University of Educational Planning and Administration), Atishi Marlena (Advisor to Minister of Education, Government of Delhi), Mary Punnoose (Chief Functionary, Prajayatna) and Pritha Ghosh (Program Lead- Strategy and Implementation, Accountability Initiative) shared their perspectives in a discussion on “Systemic issues influencing the effectiveness of School Management Committees and scope for enhanced community involvement. The panel discussed how entrenched social hierarchies, private school prevalence, institutional mechanisms and governmental efforts for capacity building of communities can impact effectiveness of School Management Committees. The panel also pondered the involvement of communities in school education beyond SMCs towards improved school inputs & processes, inclusive education, and enhanced learning outcomes.

CSF also launched its report titled Empowering Communities, Enhancing Education: Strengthening School Management Committees in India, at the convening. The report examines the gap between policy intent and on-the-ground implementation of SMCs and presents opportunities for various stakeholders to support SMC development. It also describes the following 10 innovative NGO interventions in India that have engaged with the local community in different contexts to provide school oversight:

  • Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research
  • American India Foundation
  • CfBT Education Trust
  • Educate Girls
  • Lokmitra
  • Naandi
  • Nalanda
  • Pratham, Hyderabad
  • Prajayatna
  • Saajha

Talking about the challenges and opportunities for SMCs in India, Ashish Dhawan, Founder and Chairman, Central Square Foundation, said, “A multiplicity of factors hinder SMC functioning and effectiveness. These include low awareness amongst communities of their rights, roles and responsibilities, a related lack of capacity, policy ambiguity and variation across states with limited SMC monitoring, and existing socio-economic equations. To fulfil the promise of SMCs as an empowered autonomous local body, decision makers and civil society initiatives jointly need to address these issues, suitably supported by philanthropy and CSR funds.  There is also a need for periodic convening among all stakeholders to raise ecosystem awareness, facilitate knowledge sharing and enable broader discussions.”

The event was concluded with an interactive session, facilitated by Saajha, highlighting the practitioners’ perspective in SMC capacity building.. Saajha has recently been appointed by the Department of Education, Government of Delhi, for formation and activation of SMCs in all its schools, as part of the Model Schools project. They have also been a thought partner to the Government of Delhi on framing guidelines for SMC elections in the state.

To read CSF’s report on School Management Committees, please visit here.

About Accountability Initiative, Centre for Policy Research

Accountability Initiative (AI), is a research initiative that works to promote accountability for service delivery by developing innovative models for tracking government programs, disseminating this information to policy makers as well as citizens, and undertaking research on how to strengthen accountability for improved service delivery in India.

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About Central Square Foundation

Central Square Foundation (CSF) is a grantmaking organisation and policy think tank focused on improving quality of school education and learning outcomes of children from low-income communities. Our work involves supporting exceptional social entrepreneurs, developing insights on critical education issues, leveraging evidence from our grants and research to inform public policy and create systemic impact. In specific, we support initiatives in four areas- governance, educators, EdTech and school systems.

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