Social Accountability in School Planning: Broadening the Participation of School Stakeholders
Next only to the local Khmer food, what the ANSA staff liked best during their nearly two weeks' stay in Cambodia was the attitude of openness and enthusiasm that local school stakeholders showed for the 3-day activity called "Modeling a Multistakeholder School-Based Planning Workshop" held in Kampong Cham Province (February 10-12, 2016) and in the capital city of Phnom Penh (February 15-17, 2016).
The two workshops had similar goals: to enhance the planning capabilities of local school stakeholders, i.e. school heads, school teachers and staff, local government/village heads, heads of local government/village education committees, representatives of parents, representatives of students; and to craft a model of local-level participatory school planning intended to be replicated among Cambodian school-communities.
The planning workshops were an initiative of Checkmyschool-Cambodia (CMS-Cambodia) Project implemented and managed by KIND-Cambodia (Khmer Institute for National Development-Cambodia) in partnership with the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP). CMS-Cambodia is supported by the Open Society Foundations (OSF).
The planning activity was “strategic” in the sense that it looked at the context of the target schools and planned how the stakeholders would wish to move the schools forward. It provided the “big picture” of where the school was, where it was going, and how the school would get there. In other words, the point was to improve the school by outlining the direction the stakeholders would wish the school to take, identifying issues impacting on the school, and deciding on the priorities of action. The workshop used the Quadrant Problem Solving Tool as a planning framework.
Because of the technical nature of the activity, the workshops made use of adult learning approaches. The workshops, however, followed the basic process of inputs (content and introduction to the activity), group sharing and discussion, and reporting of group outputs. The small group discussions helped the participants, many of who were not used to bringing out their opinions in front of people perceived with authority, to share their ideas without hesitation. The 55 participants were local school-community stakeholders: school principals, district education officials, representatives of School Support Committees, and village elders.
The participants admitted that this kind of planning activity was their first ever. The school principals, for example, said they submit school development plans regularly to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MOEYS), but the practice is for them to fill up the pro-forma plan templates without inputs from other school stakeholders. In any case, the school plans are submitted for compliance purposes only. For the other school-community stakeholders, the experience was also their first ever.
In addition to the strategic process, the workshops also emphasized the importance of setting school-level goals that will contribute to the broader goal of improved quality of education in the country. While being concerned with the physical components of the school—new school buildings, additional toilets, a beautiful environment, more textbooks, and so on—the participants were urged to focus their efforts on achieving higher level education outcomes to which the school components would contribute, such as improved academic achievement among students, higher completion rates, and less dropout rates.
San Chey, ANSA-EAP Network Fellow in Cambodia, served as the translator, while Adelfo Briones, ANSA-EAP Learning Manager, was the resource person and facilitator. Paul Thomas Villanueva, ANSA-EAP Learning Associate, co-facilitated and provided technical support to the activities together with staff and volunteers of KIND-Cambodia.