Bangladesh: using open school data to improve transparency and accountability
The number of countries providing access to school data to the general public has grown rapidly over the past decade, encouraged by the development of information technologies and under the pressure of social movements demanding the right to information. A wide variety of initiatives have been developed by both governments and civil society, to share school-level information in the form of ‘school report cards'. These provide key information about a school, e.g. on student enrolment, funding, number of teachers, teacher qualifications, pupil–teacher ratios, conditions of school facilities, textbooks, and student achievement. But now that such data are in the public domain, how can it be ensured that they are used to promote not only transparency but also accountability in the education sector? This case study compares the design and implementation of two major open school data initiatives implemented in Bangladesh – the open school data programme developed by the Directorate of Primary Education, and Transparency International Bangladesh report cards. It covers the types of information published, who publishes it and how it is accessed; the critical data for improving transparency and accountability; how different categories of stakeholders access and use it; the requisite conditions for improving transparency and accountability; and the limitations of such processes. The publication concludes by highlighting that open school initiatives led by civil society value downward and external accountability routes, whereas the government approach is more upward and internal. It ends with a set of recommendations, including: creating legal provisions for disclosing school data, publishing additional data (e.g. on income and expenditure, teacher absenteeism, eligibility criteria and amount of stipends, or the satisfaction level of parents), allocating budget for organizing mothers’ and parents’ gatherings to discuss school data, training teachers and selected parents on the usage of open school data, and introducing community-led monitoring of school performance.