Information for accountability: Transparency and citizen engagement for improved service delivery in education systems

Lindsay Read and Tamar Manuelyan Atinc at Brookings: “There is a wide consensus among policymakers and practitioners that while access to education has improved significantly for many children in low- and middle-income countries, learning has not kept pace. A large amount of research that has attempted to pinpoint the reasons behind this quality deficit in education has revealed that providing extra resources such as textbooks, learning materials, and infrastructure is largely ineffective in improving learning outcomes at the system level without accompanying changes to the underlying structures of education service delivery and associated systems of accountability.

Information is a key building block of a wide range of strategies that attempts to tackle weaknesses in service delivery and accountability at the school level, even where political systems disappoint at the national level. The dissemination of more and better quality information is expected to empower parents and communities to make better decisions in terms of their children’s schooling and to put pressure on school administrators and public officials for making changes that improve learning and learning environments. This theory of change underpins both social accountability and open data initiatives, which are designed to use information to enhance accountability and thereby influence education delivery.

This report seeks to extract insight into the nuanced relationship between information and accountability, drawing upon a vast literature on bottom-up efforts to improve service delivery, increase citizen engagement, and promote transparency, as well as case studies in Australia, Moldova, Pakistan, and the Philippines. In an effort to clarify processes and mechanisms behind information-based reforms in the education sector, this report also categorizes and evaluates recent impact evaluations according to the intensity of interventions and their target change agents—parents, teachers, school principals, and local officials. The idea here is not just to help clarify what works but why reforms work (or do not)….(More)”