1 The New School & Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 3952-3964
ISBN: 978-84-614-2439-9
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 3rd International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 15-17 November, 2010
Location: Madrid, Spain
Decentralization has been firmly established as an education policy goal in myriad developing countries in the past 30 years. It can take the form of decentralization both to sub-national government and/or to schools (e.g., vouchers, school autonomy etc.). Despite its popularity, we have surprisingly few detailed case studies that provide insight and guidance regarding the processes for “successful” decentralization. (By “successful” we mean mostly policies that are implemented as they are designed, but also policies that appear likely to improve educational outcomes.) This study builds upon analytic work done for USAID’s Education Management Program in the Republic of Georgia to glean insights both in how to analyze and how to address common challenges to educational decentralization in developing countries.
Officially, the Georgia’s education system has decentralized a significant range of responsibilities and decisions to the school level (both through vouchers and school choice and school autonomy—for instance allowing school boards to hire and dismiss principals). The extent to which schools are truly autonomous in practice, however, is still inconsistent across schools and regions, and deepening and improving these reforms will depend in part on better matching the activities of local school governance entities—Education Resource Centers (ERCs)—to those most likely to support school autonomy.
Conceptually and administratively, entities similar to ERCs are a common and sometimes effective administrative components in decentralization reforms worldwide—units serving a contiguous geographic cluster of schools, about 30 on average in the Georgian case, with a range of different support services while also serving some monitoring and evaluation role. The current conditions in Georgia combine to underutilize and disempower the professional staff in ERCs, an otherwise potentially valuable human resource. Mistrust of local capacity and difficulty in truly letting go of power are two very common causes worldwide why governments fail to properly implement their own decentralization plans. For this and other reasons, the Georgian case provides insights to a common set of decentralization challenges.
We use a framework and methodology for analyzing accountability and the locus of decision-making that draws upon the OECD’s Locus of Decision-making survey performed periodically for Education at a Glance and the World Bank’s framework for accountability from the World Development Report 2004. The analysis and recommendations are based on a survey of ERC heads and regional coordinators in the central ministry; focus groups with ERC staff, school staff, parents, and other stakeholders in six regions; a survey of focus group members; interviews with key informants; and feedback from three presentations of preliminary findings—two at the central ministry and one at a workshop for ERC heads.
We first document and detail significant differences between the official policy and actual practice for local and school level actors—a common challenge in decentralizing school systems that is rarely analyzed at this level of detail. We then provide a framework for diagnosing and addressing such challenges and apply it to the Georgian case. We develop recommendations to address problems we identify in Georgia and plug these into the range of common policies and problems in developing countries implementing education decentralization reforms.
Accountability, Decentralization, Education Reform, School Autonomy, Republic of Georgia.