By Victoria Vlad
Social Accountability (SAcc) tools in education, and in any sector, are a new concept in Moldova. This was actually confirmed by a survey that we used to assess the needs of five regional CSOs for training in early August. Here’s what we learned during our two-day training.
Assessing CSOs’ knowledge and practice in SAcc:
The survey assessed CSOs’ capacities in SAcc, which confirmed the lack of practice of our five project partners in implementing SAcc tools. Only one organization had experience in organizing public hearings on school budget. However, none of the five organizations had ever developed independent budget analyses, Education Stakeholder Report Cards or participated in the Mid-Term Budgetary Process in Education. Moreover, three organizations self-assessed their level of expertise in implementing SAcc tools as “medium”.
Strengthening regional CSOs and local coalitions:
Our organization, the Expert-Grup, an independent think-tank in Moldova, has been implementing a project in the education sector under a GPSA grant. The project “Empowered Citizens Enhancing Accountability of the Education Reform and Quality of Education in Moldova” aims to increase social accountability through citizen engagement in monitoring the impact of reforms and budget allocations in education. To this effect, five leading regional CSOs were selected as partners of the project in Balti, Chisinau, Ungheni, Cahul and Soroca. These 5 CSOs will in turn lead local coalitions in a total of 20 schools for the first year of project implementation. The objective is for these coalitions to be engaged in:
- understanding their school’s budget, and agreeing on priorities that should be reflected in the budget;
- organizing public hearings;
- understanding the Education Stakeholder Report Cards and supporting their application at the school level;
- using ScoalaMea.md website to access information and provide feedback.
Thus, a total of 20 attended the training to learn about good practices of SAcc in education, which was conducted by Denisse Miranda, the Governance and Transparency Coordinator a FOPRIDEH, (Federation of Private Organizations for Development of Honduras), a GPSA Global Partner. The main task of the group was to come up with a plan for developing a social accountability process, whereby local CSOs and the local coalitions, would rely on a set of tools for developing a Citizen Oversight Mechanism and process at the district and school level. These tools will help the local coalitions access, understand and use information, as well as to act upon this information. We believe that regional CSOs will play a supporting role, not only by facilitating the engagement of local coalitions, but also by linking school-level with district and national-level issues, under the Expert-Grup’s overall leadership. The team is yet to finalize a tailored civic oversight mechanism, not focusing on one particular tool, but on developing a unique, tailored process with tools that will be customized to the country’s context.
A few lessons can be drawn from the discussions that took place during the training. First, the project’s activities should be widely disseminated, inviting as many community members as possible to participate in the training. Second, each community intervention should be tailored according to the local context and demands. Third, the information campaigns have a higher probability to have an impact at the local level, rather than aiming to inform the general public who might, in the end, not get involved in any project activities.
Assessing the education policy debate at the local and national level:
Meanwhile, the Expert-Grup has also identified the need to assess the quality level of the education policy debate among local and national education policy experts. In addition to the survey that we conducted with our project partners, we also conducted a survey among local and national education policy experts. The results showed us that the quality level of the education policy debate is rather weak (see box below). A users’ survey on education services (members of local coalitions in schools) will also be conducted to assess the satisfaction level with the quality of education services. These surveys, together with the one that we will be conducted among our project partners each year during the project, will allow us to measure the different stakeholders’ perceptions on how the education sector is evolving, in regards to the quality of debate, user satisfaction and the skills acquired to engage in social accountability exercises related to education.
|How do education policy experts qualify the quality level of the education policy debate in Moldova?
|Quality level of the education policy debate
|Do you consider that policy makers pay enough attention to problems of the pre-university level?
|Do you think that society is sufficiently involved in the education dialogue?
 The five partners are the CONTACT-Balti Center, the Foundation for Advancement of Moldova, the Regional Center for Sustainable Development, the Youth Resource Center “DACIA” and the Association for Democracy Cooperation and Communication “Dialog”.
Working for the Independent Think-Tank EXPERT-GRUP as an economist, involved in projects in budget transparency and social accountability, coordinating communication around BudgetStories.md, an open budgets and data visualization project. In her work, she explores topics on open governments, data and budgets, transparency and social accountability, and is especially interested in the influence of public policy on the business environment.