Strengthening schools accountability mechanisms through participation: addressing education quality and equity in Afghanistan and Pakistan

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Disadvantaged children in Low Income Countries (LICs) particularly children with disabilities are increasingly accessing schools, but not learning effectively due to social exclusion within the classroom and poor teaching methods, that perpetuate inequality. In order to unpack the equity-quality nexus, education research and policy need to move beyond considerations of service delivery assessed through achieving benchmarks on basic cognitive skills and completing school cycles, traditionally considered valid proxies for quality of education; a view challenged by experts advocating for the importance of non-cognitive or psychosocial skills in assessing quality education. Promoting processes of accountability is recognised as a way of promoting quality and equity in education. We argue that the role that parents and community members can play in improving the quality of education through innovative social accountability mechanisms has not been sufficiently explored in LICs. Building upon previous research, we will develop, implement and evaluate a social accountability intervention - combined with inclusive education training - engaging parents, teachers and children. We will assess the intervention's impact on basic cognitive but also psychosocial skills of learners as well as parent's expectations and engagement, and teachers' confidence with regards to inclusion of children with disabilities. Two partners, Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) and the National Rural Support Programme in Pakistan (NRSP) run Community Based Schools (CBS) in remote areas. They require knowledge as to the factors that can promote or hinder a meaningful learning experience. We hypothesize that strengthening existing social horizontal accountability mechanisms through a Community Based System Dynamics (CBSD) - a participatory approach promoting local ownership in the process of deciphering and changing complex systems from the feedback perspective of system dynamics - can enhance inclusion and the learning experience of disadvantaged children. Developing an effective role for school management committee (SMCs) members requires careful consideration of context and community dynamics, which CBSD upholds. We will carry out Group Model Building (GMB) sessions with SMCs - a specific CBSD method- to identify insights about social accountability reforms. SMCs supported by SCA/NRSP will implement changes based on these insights in intervention CBSs. A randomised control trial (RCT) will evaluate this intervention. Qualitative methods will validate psychosocial assessment tools and explore stakeholders' perception of education. In stage 1, investigators will (i) decipher existing mechanisms of accountability and monitoring being used in CBSs (ii) train teachers, 4 NRSP and SCA teams of 3 facilitators and 2 coordinators each on inclusive education and (iii) train SCA/NRSP teams on GMB to facilitate sessions in 80 randomly selected intervention schools. In stage 2, SMCs members (principals, staff, teachers and parents) will participate in separate GMB sessions to design a relevant school social accountability system and identify leverage points on which to focus the intervention. In stage 3, each school, with the support from SCA/NRSP teams and the investigators will implement the intervention. In stage 4 the investigators will measure the impact of the social accountability intervention on learning outcomes using a cluster RCT with two waves of interviews: baseline survey in all 160 schools from staff, teachers, students in classes 3 to 5 and parents in year 1; end line survey will take place at the beginning of year 4. In depth interviews and FGDs, games and audio-visual activities with children will take place in years 2 and 3. In stage 5, the investigators will develop capacity in countries (universities, education NGOs) and disseminate findings to a broad audience in various formats through academic, policy makers and practitioners' networks.

The investigators will leverage 15 years of experience in the fields of education and inclusive development to ensure involvement of partners from the very onset. Alongside reports and policy briefs we will elaborate short videos showcasing methodologies, research findings and policy recommendations available on an eLearning platform. In terms of uptake of the research and through on going capacity building over the 4-year implementation of the social accountability intervention, SCA and NRSP staff will have the ability to scale-up the intervention in the 516 CBSs (61500 children) and 504 CBSs (84531 children), respectively. Engagement of stakeholders in Afghanistan and Pakistan consists in building a communication strategy that ensures systematically informing and triggering discussions among partners from organisations of persons with disabilities, NGOs, Ministries of Education and Health and UN agencies. In Afghanistan, we will disseminate the research through the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief to reach 44 NGOs working in the field of education and disability (Aga Khan Foundation, Care, Oxfam, CordAid, International Rescue Committee, SERVE etc.). In Pakistan, we will share the research with the Sindh Rural Support Organization, the Centre for Governance and Public Accountability, Rural Support Programmes Sindh and Punjab, and the Institute of Rural Management training institute. Education Departments at the provincial headquarters level (Lahore and Karachi), as well as the UNESCO-GMR team, district local governments and district level will be engaged through yearly meetings. For the sharing of results and policy advocacy, we will use the platform of Rural Support Programme's Network (a network of 12 rural support programmes with an outreach in 123 districts). At the end of the research project, the policy and programme implications of findings will be organised through workshops including key stakeholders in Kabul and Islamabad. The wider international NGO community will be engaged through dissemination of information on research methodology and findings, as well as advocating for strengthening inclusion of children with disabilities in education. The investigators have developed an extensive network of NGO partners over the past decade including Care, Handicap International, International Rescue Committee, Leonard Cheshire Disability, Intersos and the Aga Khan Development Network. Working with the inclusive education and disability focal points, investigators will ensure that all reports, briefs, methodologies and assessment tools are shared through these channels. It is imperative to identify ways in which the evidence collected through the research can provide fodder for policy discussions that are taking place with regards to the SDGs and the Education 2030 agenda. The PI has presented his research on disability and development to various members of the International Disability Alliance at the World Bank in June 2016 and set up a partnership with the IDA to regularly inform its members of progress made and train them in CBSD methods to foster lobbying of international institutions (World Bank, Un agencies, donor development agencies). Over the past years, the investigators have provided expertise on defining and assessing inclusive education policy (UNESCO-Paris, UNESCO Institute for Statistics - Montreal and UNICEF New York- Education Section and Morocco Field Office). and will disseminate findings with partners. Throughout the 4-year research, the investigators will continue to work closely with policy makers at the international level to ensure that the research contributes to the ongoing discussions on quality education. Finally the summary reports and briefs will be made accessible on the Washington University in St Louis, REAL Centre at the University of Cambridge, Center for Evaluation and Development at University of Mannheim, SCA and NRSP websites and disseminated with the policy partners.

Primary theme: 
Grant Reference: 
ES/P005799/1
Project Status: 
Active
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Fund Start Date: 
January 1st, 2018
Fund End Date: 
December 31st, 2021
Fund Currency Code: 
GBP
Fund Value: 
713,698
education
disability-and-development-gap
children-with-disabilities-CWDs
governance