Community-based accountability for school improvement

S. Galab

Charlotte Jones
Michael Latham

Richard Churches

A report of a research project which used a novel approach to improve school standards in India: the training of illiterate mothers to inspect and report on local school quality using a traffic-light scorecard process.

The 'short route of accountability' (as described in a 2004 World Bank report) is one way in which schooling can become accountable locally through assessment by the community it serves. This report seeks to address some of these evidence gaps, looking at the impact of the project on school accountability and school quality, and exploring some of its success factors. It also examines the social shifts associated with community accountability reforms and parental empowerment. In particular, it looks at the changing nature of the parent-school relationship.

Key findings of the report include the following:

  • There were significant improvements in school accountability as school management committees began to function more effectively and with greater parental participation compared to a control group and the project baseline.
  • There were statistically significant improvements in school quality compared to the project baseline, as measured by the self reported school scorecard results.
  • The success of the community-led accountability reforms was dependent on profound changes in the parent-school relationship. The study sheds light on the nature of these changes and parental 'empowerment'.

The review generates a number of valuable conclusions for policy makers and practitioners, one of which suggested that community-led accountability was a very powerful and appropriate lever for school improvement in rural Anantapur. This was because it resolved basic issues such as teacher attendance, and among other things, it enabled the widely illiterate community to engage in educational issues relatively easily. The case study also demonstrated the importance of social processes in transforming local school accountability, showing that these shifts within the communities' relationships and dialogue were at the heart of the project's success.

Although the main interventions focused on parental empowerment and user voice, the success of the project rested on a 'joined-up' approach to social accountability where all actors understood their role in a situation based on partnership rather than confrontation. The report provides an analysis of the levels of change experienced by parents (across knowledge, skills, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours) which shifted their relationships with schools and created a new culture of accountability and collaboration.