Participa en Tu Comunidad Escolar

Be involved in your school community: tackling corruption in primary education

Veronica Portugal Chavez220x220Verónica Portugal Chávez

Activist

The Project

Decentralization has been one of the policies that have been driven by the federal government of Mexico to improve the governance of the country. In the academic world it is believed that the devolution of governmental functions to the local levels can be translated to efficiency gains in the execution of expenditures because local levels have more information about their own needs than higher levels. However, there is evidence that shows that under some circumstances further decentralization can cause loss in efficiency due to corruption and local capture. There must be previous conditions to have a decentralization process that can accomplish all the efficiency assumptions that the literature points out.

As a result of devolution to the local levels, citizen councils were created in primary public schools called Consejos Escolares de Participación Social. They are formed by parents, professors, the principal of the school, representatives of union of teachers and other members of the community. The goal of these councils is to increase governance in education by civic participation, however they haven’t had the power to influence a better education system. As a way to increase their influence, the education reform of 2013 tried to give an ímpetus on them. A evidence of this is that the education reform of 2013 changed the Law of General Education to include the parents in the education system.

At the same time, there exists a program called Program Escuelas de Calidad (PEC) that was designed to reduce the quality breach in schools through subsidies to finance improvement plans in the schools. The main goal is to give autonomy to the schools and promote shared decision-making among principals, teachers and parents through Consejos Escolares de Participación Social. Every school participating at PEC has a Consejo Escolar de Participacion Social. Findings of other NGOs and organizations like the OECD and the World Bank remark that the program lacks mechanisms of monitor of expenditure of resources and lacks the participation of parents. It´s decentralized nature can introduce incentives for local capture and manipulation of resources. Corruption is in the form of diversion of resources intended for textbooks and supplies and misuse of school grants for private gain

The importance of PEC is emphasized by a report of the World Bank. It says that Schools Based Management like PEC has helped to increase the quality of the education.Indeed,getting parents involved in school management has a positive impact on the educational outcomes of their children.

“Participa en Tu Comunidad Escolar” is a call to action. It is a project that seeks to empower Consejos Escolares de Participación Social by training on accountability and anti-corruption measures. “Participa en tu comunidad escolar” seeks to make primary schools in Mexico more accountable and tackle corruption by training the members of Consejos Escolares de Participación Social in the formation of capabilities to formulate a detailed school budget and monitor resources of the PEC in the framework of participatory budgeting through a series of seminars.

Activities

  • Create awareness on the relevance of civic participation on schools.
  • Give training of how to operate a Consejo Escolar.
  • Empower through the teaching of skills to create a strategic plan and a participatory budget.
  • Teach how to monitor resources

Game Changing Factor

It is unique because it is original. No one has launched a project like this. Participatory budgeting increases awareness, autonomy and accountability of schools. The OECD urges the need to create capacities on budgeting and monitoring of resources on Consejos Escolares. Also the Ministry of Education has encouraged in some reports to launch a pilot project in Consejos Escolares:

“It would be relevant to establish a training pilot project of the participants in the Consejos Escolares on strategic planning and self management to have the enough tools to accomplish the goals of the education reform of 2013”

The document also urges the need to have more studies about the operation of Consejos and the actions made by them to achieve school goals in order to have the best practices.

Furthermore, it is a project that involves all the stakeholders: parents, principals, teachers and members of the union of teachers.

In addition to the training and the improve in accountability, the project could bring other positive externalities: findings research show that the empowerment of Consejos it is a good mechanism to improve the performance of schools in standardized tests like PISA.

It is expected that with sound accountability and governance the performance of school can increase further. This is very relevant in a country like Mexico that has low results in standardized tests like PISA.

Reports from OECD remarks that the countries with best results in education are the ones who support the presence and preparation of the people involved( students, teachers and parents) and the development of relationships among them. In those countries, the participation of the community is effective in the management and decision-making of schools. It´s needed to pass from a model where the school informs to a model where the school and the community commit to build together.

Why I fight corruption

I have always been interested in the topic but specially in 2011 my interest increased when I attended a seminar about Education and Economic Growth in Huatusco, Mexico. The seminar was organized by the most prominent economist in the country. They organize this seminar every year about the inputs related to economic growth.During the seminar many key papers were presented about the state of the art in education and the results of PISA, TALIS and other international surveys. The main findings of the seminar were that Mexico can be the country of OECD that could achieve higher rates of economic growth if the country implements a reform of the sector.The other main result is that corruption in the system caused by the lack of accountability transparency in schools and lack of participation of parents in the education of their children is the main reason why Mexico is not on the road to achieve the predicted goal.

Indeed academic research has found parents do not participate in the life of the schools because they think that the education of their children is “good” and because they don´t have the tools and capabilities to ask for transparency.

As a conclusion I fight corruption in education because it is a sensitive sector. In Mexico, it is a privilege to attend a good school, not a right all child deserves.The consequences of corruption in education have caused the biggest problems in our nation: high inequality, low social mobility, low educative achievement, criminality and organized crime.

 

Verónica Portugal Chávez was a participant at the Transparency International Summer School on Integrity in Lithuania in 2014 and received seed funding for her project through the IACC/Summer School joint initiative.