School Councils: A vague inspiration?

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No policy will succeed unless it is implemented in full

 

Though ‘education’ begins from the lap of the mother, it formalises on more concrete grounds in the school. Sociology considers education as one of the important institutions which collectively make the fabric of any society. The school is a pillar on which most of human development relies on. At present, 55 million Pakistanis aged 10 and above cannot read and write, 7 million children of ages 5-9 are out of school. In rural areas 52 per cent girls are not enrolled in schools and 67 per cent women are illiterate. Pakistan is at 125th in the world in providing free and compulsory primary education. This is despite the fact that Article 25-A of the Constitution of Pakistan ensures the provision of free and compulsory education to all children of age 5 to 16 years in Pakistan, which makes it an essential constitutional responsibility of the government.

To ensure universal primary enrolment in schools, the government took the initiative of establishing School Councils across Punjab in 1990 for the first time, with an objective of ensuring participation of local communities and parents in oversight of school management. At that point of time, they were named School Management Committees (SMCs). School teachers’ resistance to the councils and lack of awareness and will on the part of community were the reasons why SMCs could not succeed.

More recently, under the Punjab Education Sector Reform Programme (PESRP), almost 56,000 SCs — nomenclature changed from SMC to SC — were constituted for public sector primary, middle and high schools in every district of Punjab. The objective of an SC is to empower the community to support school management, assist in strengthening of human and financial resources of schools and monitor the performance of the school. The Programme Monitoring and Implementation Unit (PMIU) formed the SC policy in year 2007 which was amended in year 2008 and later in 2013. PMIU with the financial assistance of World Bank and DFID has instituted reforms in SCs under the amended policy. Despite the PMIU’s efforts in engaging school councils and introduction of the amendments in School Council Policy in 2013, the school councils have proven to be ineffective due to various reasons. A baseline study was conducted during 2009-10 by PMIU with the financial assistance of GIZ for the assessment of the performances of SCs. Key findings are summarised below:

  • None of the SCs in any district of Punjab was fully performing their duties and responsibilities as laid down in the School Council Policy 2007. There are huge gaps in composition of the SCs and awareness of the members about their roles and responsibilities and actual performance.
  • According to the School Council Policy 2007, the SCs are authorised to utilise the School Council Fund for nine functions, one of which is the employment of teachers on temporary basis. The findings revealed that about 70 per cent of SCs had “never” employed a teacher temporarily.
  • A core function of the SCs was to develop, implement and monitor the School Improvement Plans (SIPs) in consultation with the local population. The survey found that nearly 55 per cent of SCs prepared an SIP during 2008-9.
  • The analysis of Punjab education budgets showed that the total allocation for the SCs has increased over the period. However, there was no steady and consistent pattern of utilisation of this funding. Out of the total amount allocated, the SCs could spend 57 per cent in 2006-07 and just 7 per cent in 2007-08 but in 2008-09, the expenditure shot up to 124 per cent.
  • A majority of the Head Teachers (73 per cent) had no training in financial management.
  • The survey results show that a considerable number of the SCs were failing to perform the core functions assigned to them such as monitoring teachers’ attendance, preparing and implementing SIPs, etc. During the Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) and Key Informant Interviews (KIIs), it emerged that the members of the SCs were not competent enough to perform these functions.

There is a strong need for programmatic interventions to build a set of core competencies which would enable SC members to know, plan and implement the roles and responsibilities assigned to them. There is also a need to develop a few Model SCs with a potential for scaling. The Model SCs should demonstrate impact by fully complying with School Council Policy. As a well thought out concrete SC strategy always remained missing in the SC phenomenon, the government had implemented the SC programme on a trial and error basis. A strong viable SC strategy is the need of the hour such as the one proposed by a study with the help of GIZ. But no matter what policy is implemented, we can reap its fruits only if it is implemented in its true sense. Otherwise, the SCs will prove to be a vague inspiration.

 

 

This article is based on the work of Mr Atif Hassan, Senior Water Specialist.