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Is the Government Listening to You? Challenges in Ensuring Governmental Response to Feedback in the Education Sector

GPSA Knowledge Platform forums Discussions with Experts Is the Government Listening to You? Challenges in Ensuring Governmental Response to Feedback in the Education Sector

This topic contains 17 replies, has 13 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Jorge Jorge 2 years, 7 months ago.

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  • #3194
    Profile photo of Luis Esquivel
    Luis Esquivel
    @luis-esquivel

    As mentioned in the blog post “Challenges in the Education Sector Among GPSA grantees”, one of the key challenges that GPSA grantees could face is lack of government response when feedback generated through the various projects is shared with education authorities. Addressing this challenge since early stages is critical to avoid costly modifications at later stages in the projects. Due to this, the GPSA Knowledge Component decided to facilitate this online discussion in order for users to share how they see this challenge and suggest alternatives to overcome it. By discussing these issues, cross-fertilization of ideas among users can take place. Furthermore, international experts will also participate to share their experience, answer specific questions and illustrate with examples from other countries that can help inform your efforts.

    – Why would education authorities in your country listen to the feedback you will generate? Are they interested in this already?
    – How did you (or are you planning to) identify the specific education officials that will use your information? In other words, how did you identify who has the decision-making power to address the challenges you are trying to solve?
    – Although the information generated is useful, are there reasons not related to the project that could prompt education officials to ignore your feedback?
    – Are you taking proactive measures to understand the motivations of education officials and align feedback generated to such motivations?
    – If education authorities are not listening to you, what would you do to change their minds and convince them?

    Being mindful of the heavy workload of all participants, it is suggested that posts in this forum go from a couple of lines to two paragraphs, yet if participants need more than that for their contributions, these are also welcome.

  • #3206
    Profile photo of Lucia
    Lucia
    @lucia-nass
    Ethiopia

    In the Ethiopia Social Accountability Program phase 2, social accountability is part of a wider government initiative to improve access to and quality of basic services, among which education. NGOs support both citizens as well as teachers and school directors, to assess the performance of the school against government standards for education. Out of these assessments, results are compared and discussed in an interface meeting, sometimes supported with participatory video clips like this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OR0eqmJZ2JM&feature=youtu.be .

    The approach is not to blame, but to find solutions together within the means of the local government, the citizens/parents and well-doers. We have seen many local solutions come out of this collaborative dialogue, such as to get and keep teachers in school, and to improve the learning environment and facilities. It’s about basic but essential improvements, which are already materializing in 30% of the districts in the country, covered by 50 local NGOs, with full support of the local, regional and federal government.

  • #3207
    Profile photo of Victoria
    Victoria
    @victoria
    Moldova

    In Moldova, the Ministry of Education has been on Board since when the country opted in the GPSA. Open Government Institute (then Moldova Community of Open Data Development) organized a GPSA camp to promote the GPSA first call of proposals (details here: http://codd.md/parteneri/). Since education was the country priority for the first round of project applications, Minister Maia Sandu was invited at the event, where she presented the challenges of the education sector. The MoE mentioned they would be open to cooperate with the selected CSO to implement a GPSA initiative. Indeed, the MoE was on Board since the very beginning, and now is actively supporting our initiative.

    At the beginning of „Scoala mea” implementation, we signed multilateral memoranda of cooperation with all rayon representatives where schools were selected (7 rayons and Chisinau municipality). See more details here: http://www.expert-grup.org/en/activitate/item/1023-memorandumuri-scoalamea

    More about Expert-Grup’s GPSA education initiative: http://www.expert-grup.org/en/proiecte/item/916-gpsa-moldova

    • #3213
      Profile photo of Luis Esquivel
      Luis Esquivel
      @luis-esquivel

      Dear Lucia, this is certainly a great experience to share. I have a quick follow up question. After seeing the video (which is excellent, thanks for sharing), it seems that some of the problems the students identified can be addressed at the local level (e.g. restrooms), yet there are other that might not be possible to address at the local level, but national authorities need to take action (e.g. building schools). Through the ESAP you are gathering feedback that can be used by authorities at both local and national level, yet you mention that the focus is at the local level. Do try to engage with authorities at the national level as well? If so, how?

      • #3226
        Profile photo of Victoria
        Victoria
        @victoria
        Moldova

        The Ministry of Education is committed to the education reform. Moreover, when first GPSA call of proposals was announced, MoE had draft legislation of building School Administration Boards in every school. Our project planned to build and train these local groups to be the driving force of dialogue about school development priorities.

        Also, the project planned to work with report cards as generators of feedback about improvement of services, which went hand in hand with plans of Ministry of Education.

        Therefore, the buy in mainly resulted from common incentives, such as working together on the design of some tools (report cards, education budget analysis, or even consulting legislation on the functioning of School Administration Boards).

  • #3208
    Profile photo of Brendan
    Brendan
    @brendan-halloran
    United States

    Interestingly, both of these two programs seem to be oriented towards developing relationships among relevant actors, rather than starting from the assumption of generating citizen input and then trying to get decision makers to act differently based on this information (‘feedback loop’). In one scenario, there was seeming high level buy-in from the beginning, whereas in the Ethiopia case it appears that interlocutors were involved in creating spaces for dialogue and trust building. The nature of these relationships and opening obviously goes a long way towards determining how change should be pursued in these contexts. Some of these insights have emerged from the work of the Mwananchi social accountability program, discussed here: https://politicsgovernancedevelopment.wordpress.com/2014/01/20/thinking-politically-about-social-accountability/

  • #3209

    Hi guys,
    Esquivel,
    (i) the issue of incentives to find out if government authorities will listen to our project is important. Furthermore, incentive, interest and response from these entities in public sector has sometimes to be created. You have tease them. We have to push them to the limits within they put at our availability for meetings and stuff. It is also important that even when government officially say they are not listening, believe me (!), they are listening and when they are serious about serving, then they will do something to change course and the way they are doing things. So they will be improving things around which, by the way, coincidently only, is the same stuff you have pushed them into. That’s exercising pressure!
    (i) There are specific functions in sectors that you can’t simply ignore but it will vary from context to context. In fact, if you go to a country you don’t live and want to work with these entities, make sure you know the structure well, talk to friends in the previous day, get to know people before meeting them so you which and whom to feel confident and safe when talking to you. That might require some off-duty efforts to get such trust.
    (iii) Definitely, there were places where experiences of CSOs whose projects were shadowed by similar projects in the same territorial boundaries. Public administration will pay more attention to things like, who actually brings money for implementation? Who actually demands less? So public official may avoid meeting you, may keep short meetings with you, less communication. That’s when you know that this is / will affect (ing) your project. They are responding less to you (and your work)So planning activities should consider such elements for everything that is to be done.
    (iv) …
    (v) Give them evidence, a good story and a good case, one they can’t avoid paying to. Be sure that these things do not happen overnight. But we all know that right? Yes, but we all seem to forget it at times just because we want to things happen. Goals and all. That can be dangerous.

  • #3212
    Profile photo of Bouhamidi Nissrine
    Bouhamidi Nissrine
    @nissrine-bouhamidi

    Hi all;
    In Morocco CARE has started the intiative by developing a participatory monitoring tool in educational system. officials from the ministry of Education are warm to the idea of the project but unfortunately not in the high level sphere of decision making. We need to prove first that the tool can work well before we can have the ministry of education sitting with us on the same table. The great effort should be done with parents associations (capacity building) to make the change from down to up but this is also a challenge given the luck of good governance inside such structures. Besides, an advocacy compain will be launched in collaboration with all CSOs working on education and social accountability and the first step is to revise all laws related to ressource management.

  • #3214
    Profile photo of Luis Esquivel
    Luis Esquivel
    @luis-esquivel

    Dear Victoria and Nissrine, thanks for sharing both GPSA experiences. Victoria, what you mention about buy in from the national level authorities, especially at high level is quite interesting. I wonder if there are other factors that could contribute to this buy-in. I’m asking because education is also a priority in Morocco, yet as Nissrine mentioned, there is limited buy-in from high level officials. Perhaps the experience in Moldova could be helpful for CARE Morocco. Could you elaborate more on this?

  • #3215
    Profile photo of Judith
    Judith
    @judithnakamannya
    Uganda

    In Uganda, World Vision Uganda has applied tools like the monitoring standards and community scorecard. The monitoring standards are drawn from what the government provide as the minimum service delivery package on basic education. These standards are drawn and agreed upon together with the technical staff from the Ministry of Education. This has promoted bye-in on the side of government to accept the results when field reports from the community are presented to them with action plans that need to be taken. This has proved a success in some areas were the technical personnels at the local level have a vision and desire to see things changing in the sector.

    However, the challenge is that as community structures are empowered to initiate demand for accountability, the way it carried out has a high degree of determining how the government responds to the action plans presented to them requiring for their actions. This reaction from the community members is usually twiggered by the reality that many times they are not aware of what is the standard is thus they go for anything presented; but when they discover, they feel they have taken so long to react and their reaction turns out to be aggressive rather than dialogue.

    • #3216
      Profile photo of Ghazia
      Ghazia
      @gaslam
      United States

      Hi Judith; Great post. Involving government officials in the process of setting up standards and formulating score cards can go a long way in getting their by-in in the process. You mention (end of first para) that you saw success in some areas where technical personnels at the local level have a vision. What happened in the other areas? Do you think it is the vision of the technical personnel that makes the difference or other factors may also be important? What about the upper levels of government? And how does it tie-in with vertical accountability i.e. are local level officials held accountable by their bosses? How do score cards affect this accountability relationship.

      Thanks again for your post. And looking forward to hearing more on this!

  • #3217
    Profile photo of Saad
    Saad
    @saad
    Morocco - USA

    I’m glad to join the debate :-) I’m Saad from Morocco and I’m working as adviser for some GPSA grantees on SAcc. I would like to discuss some aspects that are very relevant for the project in Morocco taking into consideration the opinions of those who are implementing similar projects in Moldova and Uganda. I think the buy-in of the government depends a lot on the context, the existing or potential relationship between the Project initiators and governmental agencies… I think in the case of Morocco, where the system still very centralized, even if regional entities exist, the budget and all the significant decisions are taken at the central level. I think it’s very important to have a strategy focusing on Political economy analysis (PEA) that help the organization in setting goals dedicated mainly to how to approach the agency and the timing (sequencing) of each intervention and how to involve the government agencies at central or local level. I think these aspects are part of the implementation of the project. Some would develop them in an informal way given the conditions and context, but I think these are key for the success of the project.
    I attached here a GPSA note on how to engage allies and build partnerships, I think it could be interesting about bringing some aspects to the reflection. Reaching to the government and make it an ally can need indirect ways or other partners to reach out.
    It would be interesting to know more about how in Moldova, or Uganda the involvement of the government happened. Was the project initially launched with government agencies or it happened later during the project’s life. Was the sequencing of interventions important in involving the government? which methods and channels were used (informal ones were used?).
    It’s a very interesting debate. Thanks a lot for your post and replies. I’m looking forward to hearing more on these aspects.

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    • #3235
      Profile photo of Christina
      Christina
      @cwright
      US

      Good points from Judith. For positive communication/collaboration with government it’s important to make use of tools and information already made available by them so as not to be seen as re-inventing the wheel or working totally independently. And in a context where government officials want to be seen as effective and transparent, they will be more likely to be receptive and responsive to calls for change/improvement, particularly if they perceive that the feedback they receive is based on data and information that they have a hand in providing. It’s refreshing to see from the examples in this thread that different countries are taking different approaches because there is no one-size-fits-all way to hold public entities accountable for acting on demands for improved services. Ideally, it’s good to pilot and tweak approaches to see what works best before going full on, and building capacity at the community level, making sure CSOs and citizens understand the information generated, as well as their rights and roles, is an important element in working toward better government response. I would be interested in hearing about more positive examples of how community feedback has led to positive changes at the school level and how to encourage more effective parent-teacher associations.

  • #3219
    Profile photo of Yvonne Mmangisa
    Yvonne Mmangisa
    @ymmangisa

    Why would education authorities in your country listen to the feedback you will generate? Are they interested in this already?

    The Ministry of Education in Malawi is already interested in the feedback that the project, Strengthening Social Accountability in the Education Sector, will generate as they were already brought in the loop from the beginning.
    – Government’s strategy on community participation in school management augers well with the activities of the project which seeks to empower communities to hold their schools accountable. It has expressed interest in seeing how our interventions will contribute towards that.
    – Millions of textbooks are being supplied to Malawian schools although the pupil:textbook ratio remains high in many schools in Malawi. The education outcomes are also not improving at the required rate despite this huge investment in textbooks. The procurement monitoring component of the project is being seen as a way of helping government to pinpoint bottlenecks in the textbook delivery, use and care. The Responsible directorates in textbook procurement and distribution have been very cooperative in providing information which we can use to monitor this. Although this is still at promises level, the outlook is good. Government has indicated that they look at this project as a way of saving on resources should books reach the destinations, student taught how to take care of books and their proper uses.
    – The directorates in the Ministry of Education indicated that usually the figures on enrollment do not reflect the actual figures on the ground and believe that the presence of this project on the ground can help to provide realistic figure on spot. Timely evidence of delivery and amounts delivered would also help government to monitor its plan and know when to intervene.
    – The rate at which teachers miss classes for various reasons remain high. This reduces the pupil-teacher contact hours leaving the children at disadvantage. If causes of teacher absenteeism can be unearthed and trends established, the government will be better able to align its support to the schools. The community led initiatives in addressing teacher absenteeism will also contribute towards increase of teacher-pupil contact hours which enhances performance monitoring for pupils and the level of attention given to them. This will be done through implementation of a community scorecard process with infromation generated through the SMS platform for monitoring teacher absenteeism.

    How did you (or are you planning to) identify the specific education officials that will use your information? In other words, how did you identify who has the decision-making power to address the challenges you are trying to solve?

    Since CARE already works in the education sector, there is an existing relationship with the Ministry of Education and has capitalised on this relationship to establish connections with the directorates responsible for procurement and teacher absenteeism. This team has eventually helped to identify people to work with. Our entry point was the office of the Principal Secretary, who has authorised the directorates to work with the project.

    Although the information generated is useful, are there reasons not related to the project that could prompt education officials to ignore your feedback?

    Malawi has been rocked with a big financial scandal recently in some government ministries which has led to loss of donor confidence and subsequent withholding of aid. This may cause problems in reception of the information the project may generate especially if it points at malpractices in the distribution process of teaching and learning materials. However, the Ministry officials have indicated that it is in their interest to understand the underlying causes of the two problems and clear themselves in case of allegations that are sometimes leveled against them. Where education officials may be benefiting, it may be difficult for them to use the feedback given for obvious reasons.

    Are you taking proactive measures to understand the motivations of education officials and align feedback generated to such motivations?

    CARE is in constant touch with the education officials and invites some to the project meetings in order to make sure that their motivations are being understood clearly. For example, the Directorate of Supplies Unit, a unit responsible for distribution of all textbooks in Malawi has complained that there are usually allegations that books get missing before they reach their destination. The director has indicated that she would like to see this project help to pinpoint the exact spot where such malpractices take place for her action. CARE has put the directorate in the loop as one direct beneficiary of the feedback generated. As the project is being implemented, CARE will continue to dialogue with the relevant directorates to ensure that at any given time, relevant and meaningful feedback is being generated and shared with relevant officials.

    If education authorities are not listening to you, what would you do to change their minds and convince them?

    Evidence gathered from the interaction with schools and communities will be used to generate feedback to the ministry. Use of the media to share the evidence generated with the wider public may also help to convince education officials to listen. Working with other civil society organizations to enhance and strengthen the voice on the feedback will also help to demonstrate how important the issues raised are and the need to address them.

    • #3325
      Profile photo of Ghazia
      Ghazia
      @gaslam
      United States

      Thanks, Yvonne! for such a great post. Very informative. Your discussion identifies a number of ways in which government can be incentivized to constructively engage with the civil society. I also really like the last paragraph where you suggest additional strategies of how to make government interested in your work. Thanks, again!

  • #3236
    Profile photo of Gilbert
    Gilbert
    @gilbert
    Uganda

    Thank you Luis for this interesting discussion. Buy-in by public officials creates a good climate for engagement and discussion on reforms. In 2012 AFIC worked collaboratively with the Ministry of Education and Sports in Uganda. Their input was essential in identification of need and process for developing the citizen monitoring tool. They reviewed ToR for consultant, reviewed draft tool and provided comments ahead of finalization of the tool (herewith attached) and provided, at our request list of schools where the draft tool was to be pre-tested. They provided a list of over 500 schools where they indicated that we could train citizen monitors to monitor construction. Unfortunately, we didn’t get resources to implement this request. This was a very good example and indication of the ministry’s openness to work with us.

    In June last year, AFIC made an information request for copy of teacher transfer policy through an online portal http://askyourgov.ug/request/transfer_policy_for_secondary_sc. There was no immediate response and after two month we made follow-up with an email. They quickly responded by asking one of the officers to respond to our request. This however didn’t take place. In October, the ministry was quoted as having issued a policy in respect of teacher transfer http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Ministry-sets-new-rules-for-teachers/-/688334/2517254/-/m01ntm/-/index.html. Given the importance, the Monitor Newspaper carried an editorial on the same issue acknowledging the importance of the policy and calling upon the ministry of Education and Sports http://www.monitor.co.ug/OpEd/Editorial/Enforce-new-rules-on-teachers–transfers/-/689360/2517616/-/rvrhr9z/-/index.html. This was followed by transfer of over one thousand two hundred teachers and head teachers across the country in January 2015 http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/Education-ministry-transfers-1-276-teachers/-/688334/2578566/-/7gyitpz/-/index.html.

    Unfortunately despite this clear link between the information request and policy action, no formal response to the information request has been received. Under the GPSA, we will seek to strengthen communication and feedback with various public sector agencies through formalization of relationships.

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    • #3324
      Profile photo of Ghazia
      Ghazia
      @gaslam
      United States

      Hi Gilbert

      Great examples. I have two questions. First, in the first example you give — what was Ministry’s attitude when you told them that you dont have resources to implement the tool after having done preperatory work for it? Do you think this instance would affect their behavior regarding collaboration in the future? Second, what strategies are you planning to employ to “strengthen communication and feedback” (as you say in the last para)? How would these strategies be different from what you have already done in trying to get information from the government?

      Thanks for your contribution.

  • #3672
    Profile photo of Jorge
    Jorge
    @jorge-martin
    Chile

    Interesting discussion of engagement in the field of education. Citizens’ Movements arising around the world since 2011 shown the strength that organized citizens have to determine the public agenda in different countries, including Chile, place that I live for over four years ago. The Chilean, as in other countries, found an effectiveness expression pathway of its demands, using internet social networks or manifesting in the streets. I note that the authorities respond to these demands using to legitimize their proposals and used for win the elections. I see that the reforms will have a better perform ir they have an authentic mechanism of participation. Listen different voices in the case of Educational Reforms is imperative to legitimize government’s proposals. However, the goverments must attend to the contingency and they can,t listen many voices and include them in the reforms. In the case of the Education Reform in Chile is difficult to include the views of teachers, schools and parents, in the way that all of these social groups have very different values and aspirations. I think political parties have a fundamental role, because they are the institutional nexus between citizens and government. The parties should be the pathway for develop inclusive proposals, that includes the different voices and generated a truth consensous and better analysis of the issues, like in the field of education ..

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