School Management Committees: A Move Towards Open Government in Education in India

This study focuses on the effectiveness of school management committees (SMCs) – a form of community participation – in initiating transparency, ushering in citizen engagement and building accountability in education in India.

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In India, 50 years of government policies aimed at educational decentralisation have resulted in an increase in open government initiatives in the education sector. In particular, school-based management structures have been strengthened in the form of School Management Committees (SMCs), which form the main interface between schools and the communities that they serve.

This study examines to what extent community participation in education through SMCs can help ensure the implementation of the 2009 Right to Education Act. To this end, it critically reviews about 50 studies related to the functioning of SMCs in India according to three major parameters of open education, namely: transparency, citizen engagement, and accountability.

The goal is that all groups, and especially those who are disadvantaged, obtain an equal voice to represent the specific education needs of their children.

Overall, the author applauds the numerous initiatives taken to extend open education in India through SMCs. However, she emphasizes that the involvement of school-based management structures needs to be more sustained and meaningful. In particular, the study found that SMCs were often unaware of their roles and responsibilities, had limited participation in school activities, and received inadequate training.

In conclusion, she recommends that priority be given to the capacity building of SMC members on open budgeting and the regulation of school finances, the monitoring of academic activities, as well as the developmental and learning needs of children coming from disadvantaged sections of society. Furthermore, she calls for societal change in the long term, by which disadvantaged sections of the population and women represented by SMCs have their knowledge, skills and capabilities enhanced; the community feels empowered and schools are accountable to the community.

Selected Recommendations

  1. Ensure transparency and accountability in the process of forming SMCs to guarantee they are democratically structured and represent disadvantaged sections of the population
  2. Provide SMC members with capacity building opportunities to ensure they have the skills needed to contribute to open budgeting, the regulation of school finances and the monitoring of academic activities
  3. Better equip SMC members and other stakeholders to provide equitable and quality education for all, by increasing their knowledge about the developmental and learning needs of children coming from disadvantaged sections of the population
  4. Provide SMC members and teachers with training regarding the rights of children, particularly the rights of girls, Muslims, and Dalits, and increase local authorities’ knowledge of legal processes related to child rights violations
  5. Give SMC members more autonomy to ensure that schools are held accountable for the education of their students

Want to learn more?

To share these recommendations and discuss major findings of the case study with relevant stakeholders including researchers, decision-makers, public officials and civil society representatives, the IIEP will host a launch webinar together with NIEPA on 6 December 2021. Date to be confirmed.

About the Author

Dr Sunita Chugh holds a Ph.D in Education from Jamia Millia Islamia University, and is currently working as a Professor in NCSL‑NIEPA. Her academic interests include education of the urban marginalised, school leadership, fostering partnerships with stakeholders, the right to education and its implementation. She has published research papers in reputed journals on issues concerning the education of disadvantaged groups, and positioning school leadership in the Indian context.

This case study is one of seven case studies on open government initiatives commissioned by the IIEP in Colombia, Ukraine, India, Madagascar, Peru, Portugal, and the USA. It forms part of the IIEP’s overarching research on ‘Open government: Learning from experience’.

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