Innovations in open government in education

01 July 2021

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Shutterstock/Andrew Babble
Children at a visiting center for education in Jaipur, India.

What happens when school budgets are unclear, when contracting for school meals is shrouded in corruption, or when there is little trust between parents and school authorities? IIEP’s ongoing research on open government in education shows how citizen empowerment, combined with open data and information on government actions, is improving education service delivery worldwide. 

A first series of case studies, produced as part of IIEP’s programme on Open government in education: Learning from experience, are now available. Each study – from Colombia, India, Madagascar, and Ukraine – hones in on a specific aspect of open government: open budgeting, open policy, open contracting, and social audits.

Anchored in transparency, accountability and integrity, open government makes data and information about government decisions, budgets, and actions public, and encourages stakeholder participation and scrutiny as a way to advance more inclusive and equitable quality education.

“By showcasing best practices – with evidence – these case studies can inspire similar open government initiatives that foster more responsive, effective, and innovative educational planning capitalizing on the power of citizen participation,” says Muriel Poisson, Coordinator of IIEP’s research on open government in education.

Mounting pressure: A catalyst for innovation 

In recent years, technological advances have given rise to an incredible amount of data and information, which has occurred in tandem with growing pressure for more transparent and accountable governments. For the education sector, this has pushed countries to explore innovative approaches not only to share information with the public, but also to consult citizens and engage them in education service delivery.

“Within open government, different modalities have emerged – such as social audits – and these models do not just demand information or transparency, but also accountability, feedback, response, and action,” says Kiran Bhatty, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research and author of the case study from India. “In the Indian context, for example, this has put a lot of pressure on the government and shifted the power balance between the people and those who provide benefits and services.” 

Open budgeting in Ukraine 

Open government can have a major impact on the effectiveness and quality of an education system. For example, in Ukraine, the case study explains how the Open School Platform addressed the issue of donations from parents, perceived as an informal “fee” for incoming pupils. As these payments are made in cash, there was no system in place to monitor these monetary flows and make schools or parents’ committees accountable. Launched in 2016, this open budget website helped build transparency around these payments, improved communication and collaboration among school personnel and public authorities, and led to more effective budgetary planning in response to school needs. 

“The case of open school budget in Ukraine shows the potential of open government to shift the relations between stakeholders from hierarchy to cooperation and co-creation. Yet, this shift requires mutual trust and commitment.”

- Oksana Huss, co-author of the case study

Open policy in Madagascar 

In Madagascar, the case study examines local consultation structures (LCS) in the municipalities of Sahanivotry and Masindray. These local groups convene education leaders, the municipal council, technical officers, civil society organizations, women’s associations, youth, political parties, and others, around an open policy approach aimed at diagnosing major problems faced by the education sector in a collaborative way, and at formulating strategies to improve the quality of local education together. 

“LCSs are informative, consultative, participatory structures whose legitimacy is as important as their legality. They commit local authorities to respond to citizens' demands for improvement.” 

- Harlianto Ravelomanantsoa, case study author

Open contracting for school meals in Colombia 

In Bogotá, Colombia, the case study investigates the open contracting model used to implement the School Meals Programme, which feeds nearly 715,000 students daily. The study analyzed how this model made it possible for stakeholders to understand procurement processes by providing direct and real time access to all the necessary information. By fostering transparency, the initiative has allowed for proper monitoring and oversight of food quality throughout the whole chain, from sourcing food to delivering to students in school. Overall, it has led to a sharp increase in the number of suppliers, from 13 in 2016 to 53 in 2017, and a total savings of 62 billion Colombian dollars between April 2017 and September 2019. 

 “The new Colombia Compra Eficiente process allowed us to detect corrupt practices.” 

- Adriana Gonzalez, Former Sub-Secretary of Education in Bogotá

The first social audit in India 

In India, the case study looks at the country’s first social audit of education, piloted in ten Indian states under the aegis of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights. The study illustrates how social auditing – which places citizens as the primary agents to monitor their right to education – can foster greater accountability and leverage the impact of open government. 

Overall, a number of tangible outcomes came out of the social audits, including schools opening on time, teachers becoming more punctual, and improved school meals because of increased public oversight. Marginalized social groups, particularly women, were also empowered as the initiative gave them an opportunity to voice their concerns and be heard. However, citizen-led monitoring can also be a source of backlash, as was the case in Delhi. To this end, the study suggests a number of recommendations for a non-confrontational approach built on collaboration.

”Citizen participation in education can often be perceived as antagonizing. However, we learned that this could be a smoother process if citizens and states saw themselves on the same page. When platforms for dialogue are formalized and institutionalized, local, simple solutions can be found together.” 

- Kiran Bhatty, case study author.  

Sharing knowledge

To help disseminate the findings and recommendations featured in the case studies, IIEP has collaborated with researchers and local partner institutions for a series of launch webinars with national stakeholders. 

What are IIEP’s initial recommendations for improving open government initiatives?

  • Mobilize specialized actors and institutions to support the initiative, including public authorities, public procurement agencies, civil society organizations, and others.
  • Ensure that the consultation process supports both access to information and broader exchange between stakeholders.
  • Provide capacity training for all stakeholders, including technical training on use of online platforms, legal expertise on public procurement, or preparation of school development plans.
  • Create various feedback opportunities, e.g. in-person exchange, online tools, phone hotlines, and make the impact of people’s feedback visible.

 

Coming up also on open government: additional case studies from Peru, Portugal, and the United States, as well as two thematic studies on School Management Committees in India and in Sub-Saharan Africa will be published in fall 2021.

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