|Improving the Quality of Teaching and Learning through Community Participation: Achievements, Limitations and Risks. Early Lessons from the Schooling Improvement in Ghana - Social Development Working Paper No. 02 (DFID, 1998, 38 p.)|
The aim of this concluding section is to briefly synthesise the main practical, technical and institutional proposals reviewed in this paper, to increase community participation in education, improve the quality of teaching and learning, and to ensure that both the former have an impact on improving access to education. It encompasses both broad recommendations on these issues, as well as some specific proposals with regard to the future phases of the Schooling Improvement Fund in Ghana.
1. Design limitations on the extent of participatory activities in schooling improvement fund-type projects:
· Sufficient time must be devoted to engaging communities in discussions of the problems in their schools and possible solutions: this is of key importance;
· The scope of participatory activities needs to be reviewed: the key questions should be "what kind of participatory activities?" and "with what purpose?". (Proposals to adopt PLA in the next stage of the SIF should help to focus attention towards practical ways in which communities and teachers can work in closer collaboration, rather than on a series of project inputs)
· This review should take place simultaneously with a review of teacher involvement in initiatives to improve the quality of teaching and learning;
2. Achievements and limitations to community ownership and empowerment:
· It is important to recognise and seek to overcome the real limits to community ownership where communities lack political clout and certain skills (power and influence; administrative and managerial skills), otherwise only a minimum commitment to community ownership is likely to be generated;
· Community ownership will be reinforced if the capacity of local organisations (particularly PTAs and SMCs or similar bodies) to negotiate with teachers and local authorities is strengthened, and district education offices respond to problems of poor teacher performance.
3. The role of community participation in improving the quality of teaching and learning:
· It is more appropriate for teachers rather than communities to engage in developing local projects to improve teaching methods and techniques, which are considered to be key factors in improving the quality of teaching and learning;
· Communities should still have a significant role to play in managing schools. They should be engaged in issues of teacher and pupil attendance, monitoring children's homework, teacher-community relations and monitoring learning outcomes. (In Ghana, the monitoring of learning outcomes role of communities is likely to be strengthened through the SPAM);
· Creating the right balance between teacher and community empowerment has institutional implications. There need to be adequate institutional structures to ensure that the planning of teacher development, community participation and management is integrated from the centre down to local levels.
4. Relationship between NGOs, local institutions and education authorities in mainstreaming approaches and principles of community involvement and governance:
· The NGO intermediary role might best focus on helping community organisations become more representative of their communities, more effective in communicating with district education offices and better able to deal with community-teacher relations;
· This sort of project will be more easily mainstreamed if it works with and through existing local education authorities. (In Ghana, the SIF might best operate with and through the District Education Oversight Committee rather than the ad hoc District Approval Committee);
· Funding for some of the management of these projects should, where possible, be channelled through decentralised education offices. (As funding in education becomes increasingly decentralised in Ghana, it would become up to each district education office to decide if and how it would want to operate a SIF-type project, and what services it would need to contract out, for instance, to acquire the facilitating services and skills of NGOs and the teacher development skills of education experts, teacher training colleges, etc.)
5. Links between community governance and quality, and access to schooling:
· Localised action research might often be necessary to establish to what extent poverty as opposed to poor quality acts as the main barrier to schooling, and to assist communities to plan to address their real problems;
· Where decentralisation programmes have empowered local education offices with a greater control over their financial resources, local community organisations such as PTAs and SMCs could play a role in setting criteria for exemptions or assistance for poorer families to meet the costs of education, and applying to local education offices for this assistance.
· All the above is likely to be realised more effectively where central Ministries of Education devise a coherent framework to coordinate all access and participation related activities. Donors also need to play their part to ensure that access and participation issues are not just tacked on to an education programme, but an integral part of it.