ATP trainees enjoy a study visit in France and Switzerland

13 April 2015

As part of IIEP’s Advanced Training Programme in Educational Planning and Management (ATP), trainees participated in a study visit from 22 to 27 February 2015 in the regional education area (Académie) of Grenoble. The main theme of this year’s visit was decentralization. The study visit included four days in France, and one in Switzerland (Geneva), allowing participants to compare the French decentralized system with the Swiss confederal system. The agenda was developed by the French National Commission to UNESCO and the ‘Canton’ of Geneva’s Department of Public Instruction, Culture, and Sports.
 
The study visit was an opportunity for trainees to observe education planning and management on the ground, to compare French and Swiss education policies, and to draw lessons which could be applied in their own countries.

Two ATP participants agreed to share what they learned during the visit: Alfred Kweku Ampah-Mensah, Research Fellow at the University of the Cape Coast Institute for Educational Planning and Administration in Ghana; and N’Doli Joseph Koffi, Research Officer at the Directorate of Planning, Evaluation, and Statistics of the Ministry of Education from Côte d’Ivoire.

IIEP:  During the study visit, all trainees were assigned a subject to focus on in greater depth. What was the subject you worked on and what did you learn about it?

Alfred Kweku Ampah-Mensah: I was assigned the subject of the education system and the labour market. I have always believed that education should lead to [some kind] of employability. Our group focused on professional, vocational, and technical schools. For me, the practical education of these schools, and their collaboration with employers and the industry were what I really enjoyed. In Ghana you don’t have these deep levels of collaboration between the schools and the private industry. The private sector takes on young people as apprentices or interns, but that’s it. In this respect, I found the visit to the University Technology Institute in Saint Martin d’Hères particularly interesting. The university works together with companies to develop study programmes and curricula, and they decide together what programmes are no longer useful.

N’Doli Joseph Koffi: I worked on the role of the head of an institution. During this study visit, we realized that municipalities and departmental and regional councils have greater responsibilities than in Côte d’Ivoire. Schools with the statute of ‘local public educational institutions’ also have greater administrative and financial autonomy than in my country. Heads of secondary schools that were trained in a specific institution, are, however, limited in management by an Administrative Board, and also at the financial level. In Switzerland, school autonomy and the responsibilities of school heads are much greater than in France. School heads can recruit their teaching and administrative staff. In Côte d’Ivoire, neither lower, nor upper secondary schools have the statute of a public institution. Furthermore, specific training for future school heads does not exist. Teachers pass a test to become a deputy head or assistant, and the school head is chosen from among these individuals.

IIEP: This year’s study visit concentrated on the subject of decentralization. What did you learn about the collaboration of the different administrative levels in France? What are the differences between France and your country?

Alfred Kweku Ampah-Mensah: The Ghana Education Service implements education policies and is present at the national, regional, and local level. As in France, we have regional and local assemblies in Ghana that have some responsibilities in education. But I have learned that decentralization, in the strict sense, would give power to the local-level administration, rather than the local level representing the government. However, up until today, [most of the] authorities at the local level in Ghana represent the central level.

IIEP:  How did the study visit complement the Advanced Training Programme in Educational Planning and Management?

Alfred Kweku Ampah-Mensah: Visiting the schools and the theoretical sessions were complimentary. The knowledge we gained in the preparatory session before the study visit in Paris, as well as the plenary sessions we had during the study visit, helped to understand the French and Swiss education systems and to ask the relevant questions in the schools. Actually, we were trying to relate what we observed in the study visit to what we have learned in the courses. I particularly enjoyed visiting the schools and seeing on-site how the schools work in France and Switzerland.

N’Doli Joseph Koffi: Just before the study visit, the organization of the French education system was explained, but it was the people we met during the visit, the school visits, and meetings with the administration that allowed us to better understand what we had heard during the lecture. Visiting two countries that manage their education systems so differently gave us a deeper understanding of both systems, and the comparison between the two allowed us to better comprehend alternative strategies and the effects they can have.

IIEP: Is there anything in particular that you have learned during the study visit or the ATP that you will take with you to Ghana/Côte d’Ivoire?

Alfred Kweku Ampah-Mensah: For me, the courses about plan preparation that we have been doing since the study visit are very interesting because I had never learned about plan preparation before. During the study visit, we were looking for strategies that the French were employing. These strategies now serve as an inspiration for our plan preparation. For example, we do have a lot of out-of-school children in Ghana and we have problems integrating them into the school system or labour market. During the study visit, I realized that, in France, people that do not have work can come back to school and acquire some skills. These are strategies we could also think about and adopt for those who have dropped out of school.

N’Doli Joseph Koffi: We are at IIEP to learn and discover what we could suggest to our different governments. What I have learned personally is that the decentralization of the education system is essential for municipalities, departmental education councils, and regional councils, so that they are truly involved in and committed to the management of the system. In France, the buildings, classrooms, equipment, etc., are managed by the community. At the lower secondary level, the departmental education council is responsible, and at the higher secondary level, it is the regional council who is charged with the management. The distribution of competencies is straightforward, and permits municipalities to be involved in school life. In my country, there are some decentralized structures, but with less responsibility. It would be important for the State to implement an effective policy of decentralization. The law exists, but it must be accompanied by the appropriate strategies, and involve, therefore, the concerned communities.

 

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