Disadvantage and Participation Accountability Processes: Theory and Evidence from School Development and Management Committees in Karnataka, India

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 This interdisciplinary project will carry out innovative, policy-relevant research, focused on addressing the research question: "How do interacting dynamics in the social, political, economic and cultural context enable or inhibit the delivery of quality education in specific developing country contexts?".
 
Section 21 of The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE) in India calls for the establishment of a School Development and Management Committee (SMC) consisting of teachers, parents and guardians of children and elected representatives within the concerned local area; a minimum 75% of the SMC are required to be parents/guardians (of which 50% must be women) with proportionate representation from disadvantaged groups e.g. scheduled castes and tribes and minority religions. The SMC monitors the working of the school, prepares and recommends the School Development Plan and monitors the utilization of grants received from the appropriate government or any other source. In practice, parents especially those who belong to scheduled castes/tribes and minorities) are passive participants and rarely exercise voice within the SMC and tend to be dominated by Head Teachers of the concerned Schools. 
 
In this project, we will, first, develop a conceptual framework (use insights from education research, behavioural economics and game theory. to examine, both theoretically and empirically, how poverty, marginalization and exclusion (collectively referred to as "disadvantage") impact on the beliefs and agency of parents. This will help us understand in detail the mechanism explaining the passive participation and lack of voice in the accountability processes within their local schools, which potentially amplify, across generations, the disadvantage imposed by disadvantage. 
Second, we will collect evidence, combining both quantitative (baseline/endline surveys, Randomized Control Trials (RCT)) and qualitative methods (focus groups, semi-structured interviews), on the potential impact of a pro-poor accountability framework. The baseline survey will lead to a Citizen Report Card+ (CRC+ which includes an analysis of supply side constraints as well) and the Community Score Card (CSC) (both pioneered by the Public Affairs Centre (PAC), our collaborators). The fieldwork will implement and evaluate a training programme (based on "Reflect" and "Reflect!on Act!on", developed by Action Aid ) to encourage active participation and critical engagement by disadvantaged groups. 
 
The project will examine whether such a programme (a) impacts positively on the beliefs, aspirations and agency of parents belonging to poor marginalised communities (scheduled castes/tribes and minorities) in certain districts in rural Northern Karnataka , (b) results in their active, critical engagement within the SMC, and (c) improves the educational/learning outcomes of their children (both boys and girls). 
The starting point of our project is the following observation: although parents belonging to disadvantaged groups may be aware of their rights, they may lack confidence and be pessimistic about their ability to influence the system even if they were to take an active role in an accountability process which impacts on the education outcomes of their children. When a critical threshold of active participation is required for an accountability process to be effective but such participation is costly, such beliefs could lead to an outcome of the underlying collective action problem where nobody exercises their formal rights of participation, thus contributing to the low educational outcomes of their children. 
 
To the best of our knowledge, our project would constitute the first randomized control trial (RCT) evaluation of a Reflect program and we will be able to identify the causal effect of this interventions on empowerment and accountability.
 

Over and above academic impact, the project will aim to achieve broader policy impact by contributing to the development of training programmes tailored to encourage participation by disadvantaged groups in social accountability processes. We will provide evidence and make the normative case for amending the RTE Act in India (and similar provisions in other ODA countries) by including such training for parents as part of the provisions of the act. The project will lead to the development of training programmes tailored to encourage participation by disadvantaged groups in social accountability processes; with detailed documentation, these will be made available to all interested parties in India and elsewhere in the world. The project will constitute an Advisory Board, consisting of Dr. C.K. Matthew, Policy Advisor to the project, (IAS Retd., ex-Chief secretary to Govt. of Rajasthan and Senior Fellow at PAC), Mr. B. K. Bhattacharyya and Mr. K. Mukherjee (both IAS Retd. and both ex-Chief Secretaries to Govt. of Karnataka with strong interest and experience in Education), Professor Babu Matthews (past Director of Action Aid in India), Dr. Niranjanaradhya (who facilitates state level coordination of SMCs in Karnataka located in the National Law School of India University) with strong links in the policy community in Karnataka and elsewhere in India (see attached CVs). Their role will be to (a) provide advice and input through the life of the project including the theoretical modelling/research design stage, and (b) link the PIs and CIs to policy-makers and key stakeholders to maximize the impact of the knowledge exchange events planned towards the end of the project. The evidence gathered by us will be combined with reduced-form version of the theoretical model to quantify the impact of beliefs and aspirations of parents on the educational outcomes of their children. Our results will be summarized in a policy-report (co-authored with our collaborators in PAC and Professor Seetharamu (an academic who has acted as consultant on the SSA (see attached CV))) which will evaluate those aspects of our research transcend the specific context of Karnataka, India and are more broadly applicable to marginalized communities elsewhere in Africa and Asia. Both the policy report and the training material will be made available via the project website as well as two dedicated end-of project workshops in Bangalore and Glasgow. The training material will also be made available to blocks, villages and districts that were not randomly selected for the training via the local schools (SMCs) and panchayats.

Primary theme: 
Grant Reference: 
ES/P005810/1
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Fund Start Date: 
March 1st, 2018
Fund End Date: 
February 28th, 2021
Fund Currency Code: 
GBP
Fund Value: 
572,791
education
children
young-people
governance
accountability
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