Decentralization of Education : Politics and Consensus
Fiske, Edward B.
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This book is designed to assist political and educational policymakers and practitioners in developing countries, as well as staff members of donor agencies and nongovernmental organizations and other outsiders who are seeking to help such countries move toward the goal of education for all. Its purpose is to identify the political dimensions of decentralization and to heighten sensitivity to them. Decentralization programs will vary widely from country to country, but there are common threads and, above all, fundamental questions to be asked in all situations. This book covers the following themes and topics: A case study of school decentralization. The first chapter tells the story of how one country, Colombia, went about decentralizing its schools and then adjusting this policy over a period of more than two decades. Colombia's experience demonstrates that decentralization is a complex enterprise and that the road from concept to implementation is by no means straight; Why decentralization is political. Understanding the political dynamics of decentralization is crucial to the success of any decentralization program. The second chapter defines and discusses the inherently political nature of school decentralization; Why countries decentralize. National leaders have many reasons for decentralizing, most of which have little to do with the improvement of learning. The third chapter describes nine countries that decentralized-for nine different reasons; What does decentralization accomplish? The fourth chapter is a brief survey of what we know about the effects of school decentralization on learning, administrative efficiency, school finance, and equity. One conclusion is that school decentralization, in and of itself, is no panacea. It can be a political success but still do nothing to improve teaching and learning, and it can have undesirable side effects, such as widening the gaps between rich and poor. It is a necessary but not sufficient condition for improving teaching and learning; The importance of developing consensus. If school decentralization is going to have a positive impact on learning without exacerbating problems of equity, it is important to involve as many stakeholders in the process as possible. The fifth chapter looks at the problems and possibilities inherent in building consensus; How to build consensus. Not many countries have tried to build broad public consensus around school decentralization, but the experience of those that have done so offers some practical lessons. This is the subject of the final chapter.