10 ways to promote transparency and accountability in education

28 January 2018


Group photo from the 2018 IIEP Policy Forum in Manila, Philippines.

Open school data can foster accountability and combat corruption in education, but only when it is used effectively and any malpractice is addressed with clear consequence. Researchers and national policy-makers attending an International Policy Forum in Manila, organized by the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP-UNESCO) and the Department of Education in the Philippines, underscored this as they discussed open data initiatives from around the world. 

The Forum, from 24 to 26 January 2018, was based on the findings of a major IIEP-UNESCO study on open school data. National policy-makers from 15 countries and civil society representatives joined the researchers for a series of discussions on how to better use school-level data and to share information on current initiatives in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. 

"The Department of Education (DepEd) of the Philippines is a very strong advocate of freedom of information, and is active in promoting transparency and accountability. This Policy Forum is a great venue to craft strategies and efforts that will help advance the quality of education, with inputs coming from a strategic mix of people who are devoted to education and really know what they are talking about."
said Department of Education Secretary H.E Leonor Briones

“Corruption is a major barrier to quality education for millions of children and youth worldwide. While open education data has the ability to be a real game changer, we cannot stop at disclosure. Policies and capacity development initiatives must also exist to help close the gap between information and how it is actually used to improve the quality and service delivery of education."
said Suzanne Grant Lewis, IIEP Director.

"Open school data should not be considered only as a technical issue but rather as a political issue, which can help modify power imbalances within education systems and can strengthen routes towards more accountability in the sector,"
said Muriel Poisson, IIEP’s task manager on ethics and corruption in education.


School report cards 

Public access to information is widely accepted as a key to greater transparency and accountability in education. With open data, education officials – and the public-at-large – can monitor educational progress and identify any bottlenecks and malpractices in the system. 

Many countries are sharing school-level data through school report cards. They can cover many aspects of the school environment from student enrolment and achievement, funding, teacher qualifications and pupil-teacher ratios, school facility conditions, to materials such as textbooks. The information can enable the school community – and specifically parents – to verify that the school has received all of the services and resources it was entitled to. 


Recommendations to promote transparency and accountability 

Key recommendations to ensure that school report cards become a strong catalyst for improving transparency and accountability were formulated at the end of the Forum. They included:

  1. Create legal provisions for the disclosure of school data;
  2. Formulate a clear theory of change that makes the link between data and accountability;
  3. Consider power imbalances and cultural constraints when designing an open school data policy; 
  4. Select data that are critical to monitoring financial, management, or pedagogical accountability;
  5. Prioritize data that are relevant for both students and parents to encourage them to take part in school accountability efforts;
  6. Design mechanisms enabling “fair comparisons” between schools;
  7. Simplify the presentation of data while maintaining their technical accuracy;
  8. Create a range of avenues (both online and offline) for citizens to access data;
  9. Train school management committees, teachers, parents and selected community groups on how data can be used to demand accountability;
  10. Introduce a legal grievance redressal mechanism for parents and communities.

More on the IIEP Policy Forum

The Forum was based on the outcomes of an IIEP research project on open school data conducted in Australia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Authors of two state-of-the-art papers on Africa and Latin America also attended. Altogether, ministry of education officials in charge of open school data represented 15 countries (Australia, Bangladesh, China, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, and Thailand).

Major civil society organizations involved in promoting access to education data also attended, including CheckMySchool, Accountability Initiative, Pratham and Transparency International

Follow-up from the Forum will include the formulation of policy guidelines aimed at supporting access to more reliable, usable, and effective data. The related case studies will also be available for download via our website. Submit your information here and we'll inform you when the documents are published.