Avani Kapur, Accountability Initiative
If you have ever visited a government office, you would have been astounded (like I was) to see numerous files stacked in dingy offices, gathering dust. Yet, there often appeared to be a method to the madness and if you requested for a file, it was easily pulled out.
Despite this, in recent years there seems to be growing number of cases where records go “missing”.
I first became aware of this “strange” phenomenon when we started working on the PAISA Project. As you all must be aware by now, through the PAISA Project we analyse government documents at different levels (Government of India (GOI), state and district) and complement that with school-level surveys in order to ascertain the following: How do funds flow through the system? Is money utilised? When is it utilised and how are funds spent? Read more »
Laina Emmanuel, Accountability Initiative
I am here in a district with two colleagues conducting a PAISA survey of the Mid-Day Meal scheme. The survey is long (28 pages long, to be precise) and we are looking at a number of variables regarding MDM funds, such as when do schools receive their funds, when do they spend it and how much do they spend.
If you thought designing a questionnaire (aka tool in this part of the world) for a survey is the difficult part, then you need to see the effort that goes into training. Volunteers, with usually no background in accounting, have to be taught to read passbooks, stock registers and utilization certificates, no mean feat! Read more »
Garima Sharma , Accountability Initiative
Headlines that declare: “Navodaya Vidyalayas help the poor”, in addition to those that celebrate the success achieved by Navodaya students in national examinations, such as the UPSC Civil Services Examination, and the IIT Joint Entrance Examination, seem to seal the popular appraisal of the central government’s Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Scheme as one that is successful. Whereas the average school-wide rate of passing in the school-leaving board examination is 80.64% in schools across the country, it is 90.11% (i) in Navodaya Vidyalayas. What is touted as the greatest success of Navodaya schools, however, is the fact that they facilitate the above-mentioned success “to serve the objective of excellence coupled with (those of) equity and social justice”, by affording the acquisition of quality education to rural students (with a focus on girl children, and students belonging to Scheduled Castes and Tribes), who may have otherwise been unable to partake in it. This blog argues that the current method for the evaluation of Navodaya Vidyalayas, which sheds positive light on their functioning and educational provision, is not comprehensive in terms of its analysis. Read more »
Vibhu Tewary, Accountability Initiative
A theme that has been emerging on this blog in the past month has been the curious case of the School Management Committees (SMCs) - the last but crucial leg of the quality education marathon. Laina Emmanuel and Yamini Aiyar(1) have discussed both problems and solutions to the problems that the SMCs face, namely those of understanding responsibilities and roles, and of implementing plans. Here, we can see two types of issues- one is empowering the SMCs, and Yamini Aiyar suggests a few interventions to aid capacity building. Additionally, the other problem relates to increasing the accountability of these SMCs towards the community and the children, and to incentivising their proper functioning. If we want a truly decentralised system, as the RTE mandate suggests(2), we require decentralized accountability as well as better incentives which would push SMCs to perform better. The decentralised accountability would be in addition to the centralized monitoring (say, through real-time management information systems, as Yamini Aiyar suggests), and would involve the communities keeping SMCs in check. This would create a more holistic form of accountability with pressures from both top and bottom. Along with accountability, incentivising better SMC functioning would be also critical. Read more »
Anirvan Chowdhury, Accountability Initiative
If you have been tracking our work as we have been tracking development funds of the Indian government, you would have realized that it has been just about a year since we embarked on our ambitious survey to track fund flows in elementary education. Our district studies were based on a first crack at the data we collected through the school survey and from government budget documents. Read more »
Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative
This year in May, a nine-year old in Scotland started blogging about the quality of meals in her school, complete with a picture, a ‘food-o-meter’, that rated the meal on a scale of 1 to 10 and the number of pieces of hair in her food. When Martha Payne’s blog became popular, the local council panicked and banned her blog, fearing that the reports could get the catering staff fired. The Council’s reaction only increased Martha’s popularity. Read more »
Ambrish Dongre, Accountability Initiative
By now, you are all familiar with the PAISA reports and the DRC report. These reports have convincingly shown us that the current financial management system for elementary education is riddled with process-related inefficiencies. None of the tiers within the government (State/ District/ School) receive its total allocation, and there are significant delays in fund transfers. Read more »
Aishwarya Panicker, Accountability Initiative
I recently read Jeffrey Robinson’s book “The Laundrymen”, an expose on the diversification of money laundering in the United States. This blog post, inspired by the book, collates my ideas on illicit money-flows –a theme I have been exploring since my previous blog post titled “White paper on black money”
What intrigued me most in this book was the fact that numerous agencies exist to combat this menace. Bringing this closer to home, developments in the Indian institutional framework to counter these flows present an interesting angle. Read more »
Ministries of education worldwide have promoted community engagement in education with the goal of ultimately improving learning. One vehicle for such engagement has been school committees, generally including a combination of parents, teachers, school officials and community members. Read more »
Yamini Aiyar, Director, Accountability Initiative
As some of you may recall, the PAISA team spent the better part of last year collecting and analyzing data on fund flows in elementary education finances in the 9 PAISA districts. This effort culminated in the production of the PAISA district studies. The study highlights two major anomalies in the current financial system for education. One, and this is no surprise to anyone familiar with the nuts and bolts of India’s administration, fund flows and planning systems are riddled with process related bottlenecks. As a consequence, even basic things like pushing money through the system takes significantly longer than it ought to. Funds are transferred toward the end of the financial year and spent in a tearing hurry. The second finding points to a larger structural problem in the planning and budgeting system for elementary education. Our findings highlight that the current system is extremely centralized (a trend that is likely to get further entrenched as more and more money for elementary education gets routed through the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan). So deep is the tendency to centralize that even school grants, that are meant to be discretionary grants spent on needs identified by school headmasters, are in fact spent based on formal and informal instructions provided by the district administration. Read more »