Mohammad Jahangir Hossain Mojumder & Pranab Kumar Panday
Agenda-2030 sought to attain targets to set the world in a position that will serve our next generation with improved ways of life. SDG-4 stands as the key to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all." Earlier, the drive for MDGs resulted in increased students' enrolment that has caused an important shift from universalising access to education to supply quality education gauged by students' learning globally.
However, the World Development Report (2018) identifies the existence of a learning crisis-low level of learning outcomes of pupils in developing countries comparing to that of developed countries-impedes target-achieving-endeavours of SDGs. In response, it stays imperative to uncover what needs to be taught and how and yet the central indicator remains to explore-how are the produced graduates performing in their respective fields? It needs inputs from stakeholders, and the key challenges remain-getting all actors under the common umbrella of targets, identifying responsible authorities and the process of actions to hold them accountable.
In education, actors are performing either separately (most cases) or employing onetime tokenistic participation, which results in inappropriate lining-up of demands and outcomes. Then again, education has no more a philanthropic effort of the actors-teachers, administrators, education software developers, or textbook publishers-as all seek some sort of returns from their role of educating children.
Nowadays, education becomes an industry and is marked by expanded commerce worth $4.3 trillion worldwide (Merrill Lynch Bank, 2014), but the noticeable concerns stay with the involvement of business entities in shaping agendas and legal framework in education (Ball, 2012). Thus, to guide programmes to achieve SDGs, it needs fetching all actors of education-parents, students, teachers, schoolleaders, educators, communitymembers, civil society organisations (CSOs), business entities, employers and government organisations (GOs) in a democratic platform for policy formulation, implementation and assessment.
This continuous connectedness of multi-stakeholders ensures diagonal hybrid accountability (DHA) (Fox, 2015) involving social accountably (vertical) and accountability by GOs (horizontal) at the age of accountability (Hopmann, 2008) in 'audit society' (Power, 2000), where demands are spiralling for-judicious use of tax-payers' money and increasing public-trust in all sectors including education.
Social accountably in education entails an obligation to produce such graduates who remain effective to respond creatively to the needs of the business, society and state. It proliferates based on five global trends-specifically, 'massification, marketization, decentralization, standardization, and increased documentation of education'-which exhibit the value of education in society (UNESCO, 2017).
Stakeholders can demand assessment of learning through national and international methods to identify problems, prospects, solutions and produce evidence for better decision-making. CSOs can coordinate all actors to push the efforts through aligning all actors' inputs in education systems, and GOs need to offer extended space for engagement.
Reforms initiated by President Myung-Bak of South Korea without inputs from teachers and students resulted in notable pushback (Kang, 2012). In Moldova, pupils, parents, teachers, activists, local councils and community members jointly monitored school performance through participating in public hearings, budget monitoring and using scorecards to hold decision-makers accountable and offer solutions.
In Indonesia, educational institutions solved difficulties relating to governance and fund-supply with increased multi-stakeholders' (including local councils) engagement for ensuring transparency of actions, oversighting execution of service charter, mobilising and rationalising resources for physical enhancement, questioning the appropriateness of curricula, developing plans, monitoring attendance of teachers and students, and stopping malpractice. However, Indonesian efforts failed to transform pedagogical instructions of teachers and 'invited nature of people's participation' (Cornwall &Coehlo, 2007) depending on authorities' will, which disturbed the sustainability of processes.
In Bangladesh, recently, National University's (NU) step, for scraping formative assessment to awards marks for attendance in class and in-course exam, has jolted social media by reactions of concerned parties with arguments-though the opportunity of formative assessment was misused yet it assisted stakeholders many ways; NU should consult concerned-actors before the shift, and the decision deteriorated trust of teachers on NU. Questions are also surfacing about the courses NU offered-are they appropriate, are they taught in due manners and are the graduates fulfilling wants of employers?
Recently, there were discourses in the media-foreigners are remitting huge cash from Bangladesh, as the country lacks relevant skilled graduates, or offers low-quality graduates with a little learning experience. However, responses against such warning inputs stay low and slow, as, like NU, other institutions and GOs also exercise top-down approach in education, with bureaucratic control and little input from grassroots with low or tokenistic participation. Additionally, the education sector, according to TIB, suffers from extensive corruption. This makes voice and views of multi-stakeholders-essential to be part and parcel of decision making.
Presently, in education, Bangladesh follows accountability manifested by principles of outcomes and hierarchy, which mark by result orientation without quality teaching-learning and threatened to feel by teachers respectively (UNESCO, 2017; Stensaker& Harvey, 2011). Top-down managerialism recedes trust in the profession by teachers (Fitzgerald 2008) and performance-based accountability for teachers-in which testing becomes synonymous with accountability and quality (Smith 2016)-increases blame on teachers.
Crisis narratives of learning outcomes also allocate blame on teachers, schools, lack of public trust, and ask for continuous monitoring of progress-identifying ineffectiveness in teaching-learning or lazy and demotivated teachers. Here, a meaningful way will be the collaboration of all actors with a shared responsibility to ensure quality governance, instructions, teaching and planning, and the process will ensure DHA without creating threatening environment finding faults.
Similarly, 'structured democratic voice' platform (Smith &Benavot, 2019) creates opportunities for diverse education stakeholders to share views in planning, where their voice is heard and valued.
The process remains important for achieving ambitious targets in education with responsibility divided upon multi-stakeholders. Fullan (2011) argues that extensive engagement of stakeholders with shared responsibility for ensuring 'internally focused accountability' is supposed to contribute achieving expected outcomes by supplying data to measure learning crisis, set goals, shift instructions, guide process and monitor progress.
The production of graduates needs to follow CPU (Conceptualisation-Production-Usability) model (Boelen&Woollard, 2009) relating to the planning of actions for achieving a set of competencies, implementing those actions to acquire the competencies and test the role of graduates for positive washback on development.
The process requires continuous research for assessment of curricula, roles of actors, outcomes, impacts; and implementation entails promise from leadership, inputs from stakeholders, and through all these, the processes become inclusive, understandable, and responsive for decolonisation and modification of curricula.
The student should also be included as a key stakeholder in all social accountability actions-admission methods, curriculum development and teaching methods. The goal is to produce graduate 'fit for purpose' by the purposeful use of resources, active teamwork of communities, advocacy with potential employers, and engaging students with social services, encouraging (quality) outcome-based principles, benchmarking-education, research and service delivery focusing on the efficacy of processes for ensuring quality, equitable, relevant and effective outcomes; as elements of political, economic, cultural, environmental, social might deter seamless development.
DHA needs support from contextual factors and cannot be practised in isolation. It requires amicability of decision-makers to be accountable and stakeholders' desire to hold them accountable getting engaged with empowered voice, demands and data. If a system of participation applied properly as proposed by DHA, it can accrue benefits for the actors attached.
Stakeholders become confident to see their voice has been valued and consequently, the trust will increase. Teachers and leaders will receive benefits of enabling environments accompanying capacity, resources, information to address the learning crisis. The government can gain benefits by receiving information and inputs from the front-line personnel in education which results in efficacy improvements.
Overall, the endeavours for improving education become less fractured and vulnerable to shocks and interest of strong vested groups. However, the preconditions-'political commitment, partnership synergy, inclusiveness, and deliberativeness'-require grave attention (Pagatpatan and Ward, 2017); and tendencies of centralising everything and onetime tokenistic engagement can reduce the quality of accountability. Therefore, the policy makers should take all the necessary actions to ensure accountability in the higher education sector that would help them to resolve learning crisis for SDG-4.
Mohammad Jahangir Hossain Mojumder, PhD is an Assistant Professor of the Department of Political Science, Chowmuhani Government SA College, Noakhali. Pranab Kumar Panday, PhD is a Professor of the Department of Public Administration and an Additional Director of the Institutional Quality Assurance
Cell (IQAC) at the
University of Rajshahi
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