University of Oxford
In Need of Fresh Thinking: What Pratham’s Experience of Mobilising Communities Says about Current Development Thinking about Community Participation in Education
For more than two decades, the international development community has advocated that establishing school-based management committees to involve communities to monitor and hold teachers, principals, and district government officials accountable would improve state schooling in developing countries; yet the evidence to sustain this claim to date remains questionable. Considering the case of Pratham, the largest education NGO in India, which is widely recognised as having developed a successful model to improve learning outcomes among children in state schools and is known for doing it through active community engagement, this paper questions whether the current development thinking on best modes of engaging communities to improve learning outcomes in state schools needs fresh thinking. The paper questions the validity of the two central assumptions underpinning the school-based management model: that better-informed communities will become involved in education activities with some mobilisation and training; and that engaged communities will be able to hold to account front-line state officials, starting with teachers and principals and moving on to the district government officials. Pratham’s experience shows that dissemination of information about benefits of education does not automatically result in community engagement; instead, people are motivated to become involved on the basis of individual-based incentives. Equally, it shows that for a community to influence the actions of front-line staff, it is important to develop a co-operative and supportive relationship, instead of focusing on accountability. Pratham’s experience thus shows that there is much scope for fresh thinking within the international development community on how to engage communities in developing countries in improving learning outcomes in state schools.
Bano, M. 2022. In Need of Fresh Thinking: What Pratham’s Experience of Mobilising Communities Says about Current Development Thinking about Community Participation in Education. RISE Working Paper Series. 22/100. https://doi.org/10.35489/BSG-RISE-WP_2022/100