Too little, too late?

Posted on:16-08-12

Aishwarya Panicker, Accountability Initiative

In the few months that I have been assessing the relationship between government and businesses, several grey areas have emerged that have often left me wondering, wandering, and wanting, to dig deeper. Information is power, it is said. Information, however, presents a deep paradox. In one sense, it empowers people to demand their rights, to access the services promised by the state and to hold their elected leaders accountable for any mishaps in service delivery.  On the other hand, for some, information may lead to more vulnerability and greater insecurity.   The intensity and the degree with which horrific incidents against civil society members and even prominent government officials (for knowing too much and for taking action against those in power) have increased is mindboggling.  If you have been following the news in the last few weeks, you may have read of at least one such incident (At the end of this post, you will find a list of some not-so-well known incidents that have been captured by the media).  A central theme that runs through these incidents is the occurrence of inept or in most cases, refusal of action (a report by the Asian Centre for Human Rights captures this theme). Read more »

Enhancing Governance in Education

Posted on:10-08-12

Shailey Tucker, Accountability Initiative

Over the past few months, observations during several field-visits to our PAISA states[1] have led me to consider more deeply the quality of governance in our education system. At the school-level, we found problems of pervasive teacher absence and lack of motivation, with teachers not only being called away on other official duties or taking casual leaves, but teachers also busy with other non-teaching jobs, such as running their own hotels or holding their own private tuitions (to cite but two examples). Another major reason for teacher absence observed was inaccessibility, especially during the monsoon – lack of all-weather roads in a number of backward, remote areas rendered many schools shut as teachers didn’t show up. At the block-level, we’ve met officials who feel as if they are being bypassed or overlooked, as principals and the district administrations oftentimes interact directly. Community participation and management, long recognised as a mechanism to enhance the quality of education, was negligible in the majority of schools I’ve visited. At the same time, however, I also came across schools where the confidence and performance of students was a joy to see; where teachers made optimal use of constrained resources; and, of their own initiative, ensured regular involvement of parents and the community at large. Such schools were unfortunately few and far in between. This throws up the question, how best can we create a well-governed education delivery system that facilitates an enabling environment for teachers and administration officials alike - motivating them, holding them accountable for their actions (or rather, inaction), and ensuring that the interests of all stakeholders are aligned? Read more »

Boosting Demand for Social Sector Services

Posted on:07-08-12

Uthara Ganesh, Accountability Initiative

Government Spending in the Social Sector has been increasing over the years. In the financial year 2012-13, the government has spent Rs 25,555 crores on its flagship education programme, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan (1), Rs 33,000 crore on the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (2), and Rs 20,855 crores on the National Rural Health Mission (Read more »ion_2012-13.pd">3). 

The Case of the Missing Records

Posted on:03-08-12

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 »

Training volunteers for a survey

Posted on:30-07-12

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 »

Evaluating outcomes in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas

Posted on:24-07-12

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 »

Decentralised Education Delivery- Do GPs holds lessons for SMCs? Part 1

Posted on:20-07-12

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 »

Assessing Status of Schools through Composite Indices

Posted on:16-07-12

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 »

Increasing Child Participation in Monitoring and Evaluating Mid-Day Meals

Posted on:13-07-12

Mehjabeen Jagmag, Accountability Initiative

This year in May, a nine-year old in Scotland started blogging[1] 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 »

Delving Deeper into PAISA Data

Posted on:09-07-12

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 »