THE NEED FOR A RAPID APPROACH TO EDUCATION DECENTRALISATION
The way in which public primary and secondary education is financed and delivered varies from country to country. While in some countries like France, education delivery is highly centralized at the national level, others like Canada, the country has no central ministry of education. In the United States education is managed and delivered mainly by local school districts. In the past few years education has become a phenomenon for delivering efficient education services in most developing countries in Asia and Africa.
Decentralisation is defined principally as the transfer of decision making authority closer to the consumer or beneficiary. The most popular form of decentralisation is devolution. This entails the transfer of decision making powers to lower levels of government with the expectation that social services including education responsibilities are transferred to general-purpose governments at the regional or local levels.
Examples are the decentralisation of basic education to local (district) level governments in India and Pakistan. In rare cases additional responsibilities are given to single-purpose governments, such as the local school district in the United States. When education responsibilities are transferred to general-purpose governments, those governments must make decisions about how much to spend on education versus other local services.
As part of the ongoing Education Decentralization Roadmap Campaign Project, Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC) in collaboration with STAR-GHANA advocates for a more effective management system for public basic education in Ghana.
In Ghana?s decentralisation agenda, District Assemblies will be expected to take full responsibility for the delivery and management of basic education, while central government ensures national standardization through newly established institutions such National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), National Inspectorate Board (NIB) and the National Teaching Council (NTC). In the meantime there seem to be a general consensus that the management and delivery of secondary education should continue to be managed from national and regional structure. This it is believed will strengthen our national integration and nation building efforts.
In every decentralized system, the level of accountability and service delivery is much greatly improved because the ultimate beneficiaries of the service in the decentralized units are closer to where the decisions are taken. And so beneficiaries are able to raise their concerns and ask questions for quick response.The question of whether the district assemblies have adequate capacity to deliver decentralized services has been used by opponents of decentralisation to oppose decentralisation, but Civil society organizations (CSOs) have demonstrated support for government and the Ministry of Education to expedite action to adopt the devolution type of decentralization in delivering basic education. The best way to deliver good quality education to the children of this country is to ensure that we pursue vigorously the decentralization agenda.
Under a decentralized education system, every district manages its own budget and accounts to their constituents. It expected that District Education Officers and District Education Managers including the District Education Oversight Committees will find ways of solving the access, quality and supervision challenges facing the districts because the beneficiaries are right there to ask questions and raise the necessary alarms.
So one of the ways in which decentralisation can resolve the issues of supervision is to directly hold district education authorities accountable through the constituents, that is why government must adopt a rapid approach towards education decentralisation.
Under a decentralized education system, local authorities will have the free hand of prioritizing activities at the district level and therefore they will make the right decisions concerning the allocation of resources for essential education, especially what appears to have been the main challenge facing us as a country in the achievement of quality education outcomes- SUPERVISION
The current deconcentrated management and delivery structure that we operate has over concentrated resources, power and decision making at the GES headquarters. Is it not ironical that resources never lack at the headquarters, but district education offices lack the resources to do simple tasks like school supervision? The equitable distribution of resources is one of the reasons why a decentralizededucation system is much more efficient than centralized education system as we currently have.Accountability at all levels will be greatly enhanced in a decentralized education system because District Education Officials will have the authority to transfer, hire, fire or sanction and account for results.
Practical and Technical aspects of education decentralisation that needs to be addressed
To every extend education decentralisation should have been done yesterday, but unfortunatelythere are still legal and technical issues which needs immediate attention by government to be able to achieve full education decentralisation. A successful decentralisation hinges on four pillars:
? A contextualize legal regime
? Institutional infrastructure
? Social and political relations
? Decentralisation financing model
The decentralisation legal regime that we have is being pursued under a broad national decentralisation framework, so the education decentralisation can only move as far as the framework is implemented. The legal basis for decentralizing education itself is hindered by some legal conflicts between the Ghana Education Service Act, 1995 ( Act 506) and the Education Act, 2008 (Act 778). The Minister for Education was mandated under Act 778 to take steps to amend the Act 506 and to bring it into conformity with the Act 778, but unfortunately, Act 506 is still in existence.
A project funded by USAID called Ghana Education Decentralisation Project (GEDP) designed an Education Decentralization Framework and identified aspects of Act 506 that do not conform to Act 778. The project also designed operational guidelines for the three Autonomous Bodies (NCCA, NTC and NIB) and came up with suggested areas of Act 506 and Act 778 that conflicts and a consolidated Act which took aspects of Act 506 that are constitutionally mandated and incorporated those aspects into the Act 778. The Ministry of Education has been working to ensure that there is one Act within education system that promotes a decentralize education system and recognizes the Ghana Education Services Council.
The challenge is that the processes required drafting legislation and getting it through to the needed processes takes a lot of time making it cumbersome to accelerate. The passing of the consolidated Education Act will create the legal basis to roll out education decentralisation without offending Act 506.
There is also, under decentralisation institutional challenges, the right institutions to implement the entire process. We partially have the NCCA, NTC and NIB in place but they are not in full operation. This challenge has to be addressed if we want to make progress in education decentralization. The Education Decentralization agenda also needs to take into account the social and political relations that will be affected. Decentralisation is a complex social experiment and always requires the use of flexibility, consensus and difficult negotiations.
Another big challenge is financing education under a decentralized system of governance. What kind of financing model will be adopted to ensure education does not suffer under a decentralized system of governance when District Assemblies will be required to deliver basic education? This will change the terms of budgeting, financial reporting, and administration in District Assemblies.
Countries where decentralisation has happened, there were two types of approaches, some adopted the rapid approach where they ensured that all the challenges are identified, solved with results-drivenpolicies with mechanisms to sustain it. This underscores the need fora strong political will by government to build the fountain blocks of the implementation structure.
Countries that adopted the slow or gradual approach did not also achieveany positive outcomes and the institutional transformation to effectively improve the delivery of education to all.
Our policy makers must adopt the rapid response to our ailing education system which turns out to be producing failures rather than brilliants, once wede lay,the more difficult it is topush the agenda.
Moving forward with Education Decentralization
In as much as we advocate for a decentralized system of education, government must also take into consideration these policy options explained in the above. Theproblem of deployment of staff in line with the new institutional architecture under a decentralized education system needs to be revised thoroughly.
As it where, some technical staff maybe transferred from some less demanding posts to critical action focused levels. As a result, there will be are-arrangement, re-allocation and re-assignment of people subjecting the entire system to serious havoc.
The financial model under which Education Decentralisation can be funded should be revised. Some policy options for our consideration include:
? Central versus local funding?
? Conditional versus unconditional grants?
? Negotiated versus formula driven grants?
Answers to these questions should be driven by the aspects of education that would be funded by central government and what aspects would be funded by the district assemblies.Suggestions have been raised on different forums that funds for education to Districts Assemblies should be ring-fencedin such a way that assemblies would have no way of varying the purpose of the funds.
The purpose of education decentralization has always been linkedto four distinct objectives: democratization, regional and/or ethnic pressures, improved efficiency, and enhanced quality of schooling. More specifically, decentralisation in Ghana is a much broader concept drawn from our 1992 Constitution, and this is designed to increase the voice of the local citizen and to empower the citizen to more fully participate in decision-making at the local level.
One of the potential benefits of decentralisation is increased accountability to the citizen/beneficiary, resulting in improved efficiency in the use of school resources. The improved efficiency results from two effects. One effect is the better match between services provided and the preferences of citizens. The other effect is increased output relative to resources or expenditures.
Ghana National Education Campaign Coalition (GNECC),