8 Institutional Capacity
SESP has among its intermediate objectives “to develop the institutional capacity and management of central and district education institutions and public secondary schools based upon a decentralised system of planning and management”. Moreover, according to the Core Document, the “principal policy goal” of the SESP is to strengthen the involvement of local communities in the running and funding of their own schools, with assistance from and under the supervision of the national government.
The main strategies launched to achieve these objectives include capacity development of relevant actors at national, district and school levels to institutionalise the Annual Strategic Implementation Plan modality. In this, the school takes responsibility for the School Improvement Plan (SIP), which in turn creates the basis for developing District Education Plans at district level, and, at central level, developing a single ASIP for primary and secondary education. In addition, SESP includes funds specifically set aside for school mapping and strengthening programme monitoring activities, including the establishment of a school inspectorate in the MoE. The bulk of these interventions are implemented under component four of the SESP, “Institutional Management and Capacity Building”.
This chapter evaluates the relevance of the intermediate objective (Section 8.1), the overall effectiveness measured as progress towards the intermediate objective (Section
8.2), and efficiency and effectiveness of the various strategies launched under SESP for increasing the institutional capacity of the system (Sections 8.3 and 8.4). The assessment is summarised in Section 8.5 including an overall assessment of the sustainability of the benefits produced. Finally, Section 8.6 includes specific recommendations for the consideration of the GoN and its partners.
The inclusion of a capacity development and institutional strengthening component in the programme is clearly relevant. To emphasise the importance of such a component, it is noted that EFA similarly targets this area.
It is, however, not clear on what basis the specific interventions included in the programme target the most relevant areas and needs and more fundamentally, whether the capacity development component has been designed to achieve certain targets or address certain well-defined performance and capacity gaps. The lack of needs assessment and functional reviews to guide the allocations of funds suggests that the various capacity development interventions are based more on the ability of the various beneficiaries to argue their case than an objective and transparent needs analysis and functional review.
8.2 Progress Towards Target
According to the SESP Core Document, the main performance target for the component is the “development of an annual strategic plan (ASIP) and annual work plan and budget”.
Overall, interviews with central and district level stakeholders confirm that the ASIP planning modality has taken root and is being regularly prepared at all levels of the system. The MoE has consistently been able to secure funding for its ASIP from the Ministry of Finance, as evidenced by Chart 8.1 below. Actual allocations have generally followed proposed allocations, although a drop can be seen for financial year (FY) 2007/08. Moreover, according to the Programme and Budget Section at the DoE there has been a 95 per cent implementation of the ASIP.
Chart 8.1 – ASIP budget and actual allocations for SESP
Source: GoN, 2008d: 59
All the schools visited by the evaluation make five-year SIPs and there is provision of SIP-based funding. According to GoN (2008e), 64.5 per cent of schools have SIPs. The schools are required to update the SIPs annually and inform the ASIPs at DEO level (all schools make only SIPs, while DEO makes the five-year ASIP for the district). The ASIPs produced by the schools are in reality based on the quotas given to them by the DEOs, and the ASIPs of DEOs are in turn based on the quotas given by the DoE. A total of 2,718 grants were provided in 2006-07 according to the 2008 Status Report.
There is general appreciation of the ASIP planning modality among donors. The main issues currently appear to be the quality of the planning process as well as the contents of the planning documents. DoE reports that there is not enough capacity in the system to regularly check the contents of the many ASIPs prepared at district level. Similarly, DEOs do not have the capacity to systematically assess the plans developed by the schools. In summary, a good basis for a bottom-up planning system has been laid, but the capacity at the lower levels of the system does not yet allow for effective implementation of this system.
It has been stated that SIPs are made by interactions with the SMCs, Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), parents and other relevant local stakeholders. However, the case studies suggest that mainly the head teacher and some of the teachers were found to be involved. Other teachers and the SMC members expressed ignorance about the contents of the plan. Similarly, the EFA joint evaluation notes that, in the worst of cases, SIPs are developed by head teachers with or without SMC involvement, and “although SIPs are produced by almost all schools, their use of planning and budgeting is very limited”. Finally, several stake-holders at central level question the degree to which the modality has in fact helped the planning processes. Accordingly, the evidence suggests that SIPs have not yet been developed in a sufficiently transparent and participatory way, and implementation is rather poor.
The sections below discuss the various capacity development interventions fielded through SESP to institutionalise the ASIP planning modality and strengthen the overall capacity of the system. It is important to highlight that SESP is only one of several programmes seeking to institutionalise the SIP and strengthen the capacity of the system. The strengthening of the SIP planning modality is, for example, also a main feature of the EFA programme.
8.3 Capacity Development
One of the targets of the SESP is to “develop the structures and capacity of national level institutions to develop policy, plan and implement the SESP as a sector programme”. Similarly, the SESP Core Document provides for the “development of district capacity to manage public secondary schools” and the “improvement of daily management and operation of public secondary schools”. The assessment of progress is, however, difficult to establish, since no baseline indicators have been agreed, nor any indictors to track progress. In the absence of such indicators, the sections below discuss the various capacity development interventions fielded through SESP and changes in the capacity at national, district and school levels.
The lack of a coherent strategy for capacity development of the education delivery system has been cited by the majority of stakeholders interviewed at central level. This is echoed by several review aide memoires, which point to the need for capacity development of education agencies for the overall programme to be effective. The 2006 MTR, as a case in point, confirm the need for the MoE to develop a human resources development plan, which is to pay particular attention to quality and capacity building of institutions such as NCED, CDC, and OCE. However, there has been limited follow-up of this decision.
The DoE has been reorganised, the number of sections has been downsized from 14 to 12, but there is no indication that this reorganisation was based on a functional review. Similarly, it is not clear in what way this restructuring is supposed to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the DoE. There is, for example, no explicit mention of targets and performance indicators against which the effects of the restructuring could be assessed.
The CDC also agrees that provisions for capacity development have been limited and lacking of a clear strategic focus as to how capacity development interventions could support the other components in the best possible way. As already mentioned it has been observed that technical backstopping provided to CDC has been inadequate. CDC itself claims to have prepared and submitted two or three capacity development plans, but has had little positive response from the DoE, resulting in a lack of capacity and technical expertise to develop efficiently and effectively the various curriculum activities under the component. A School Assessment Unit has been set up within CDC, but the staff has, according to CDC, not received adequate training. Finally, a continuous assessment system with a guidebook was created with the support of a consultant but there was not, according to CDC, adequate time on the contract to provide the necessary training and institutionalise the changes.
The framework for training institutions has been rationalised as a consequence of SESP. Three institutions have been merged into one, which operates according to a single planning document. This has resulted in a reduction of duplications and has at the district level led to the formation of ETCs to replace what was formerly known as secondary education development units (SEDUs). Accordingly, the NCED now operates through a network of 34 Education Training Centres which, according to the NCED, has brought training closer to the school teachers. In addition, as part of the programme, it was the intention to construct 200 LRCs, but this target was subsequently downgraded to 46 by the MTR due to budget constraints. It was further decided to construct LRCs only in districts where there are no ETCs. DoE has faced some difficulty in getting the requested budget for LRC construction; compared to an initial request, only a third was eventually granted by the Ministry of Finance (MoF).
Finally, limited capacity building has been provided to OCE. The main inputs include the installation of Internet and upgrading of physical facilities. These inputs have been characterised by the OCE as the most significant changes created by SESP. There is some way to go in terms of building the capacity of regional examination offices.
In the absence of a plan, the allocation of funds for capacity development has, as already mentioned, mostly been a result of the outcome of bilateral negotiations between DoE and the various entities; CDC, NCED, OCE etc. Despite the absence of the plan, some improvement of IT facilities and other technical skills has taken place, but it is not clear to what extent these capacity development measures have served to address performance gaps that would have an overall bearing on the effectiveness of the programme. Such a link is clearly missing in the programme.
MoE has provided some orientation to districts to improve the quality of ASIPs but, according to stakeholders interviewed by the evaluation team, the training provided has not been adequate to fully institutionalise the planning modality. Similarly, all the DEOs visited by the evaluation team have received support from SESP for the construction of a District Examination Office building (two rooms) within the DEO premises. This, according to the DEO, has made it easier to process the answer sheets of grade 8 and SLC examinations. Teachers are not allowed to take the answer sheets to their homes, but have to process them in the examination building.
However, the absence of a strategic plan for capacity development has also had implications at the district level. According to the DoE, no holistic capacity development needs assessment was conducted at the outset. Nor was any systematic capacity building provided to the DEOs and the rest of the delivery system at SMC level. Hence, training and capacity development interventions have mostly been carried out in an ad-hoc manner.
The evaluation team’s interactions with DEOs revealed a mixed picture with respect to the capacity development opportunities offered through SESP. It was reported by the planning officers in Kailali and Doti that there were no specific training provisions for DEO staff other than the annual orientation workshops for the district education officer and the planning officer. In Jumla, on the other hand, several training courses were offered annually, which the DEO staff made use of.
Irrespective of the actual volume of training being offered to the DEOs, the impact of such training is limited by a high turnover of district education officers and other staff in all the DEOs visited by the evaluation. For instance, an official at the DEO in Kailai stated that he had seen three DEOs during his two-year tenure. Similarly, in Doti there have been six DEOs in the past ten years. A similar situation is the case of DEO Jumla, where the previous DEO was away from the district for a substantial period of time, leaving the school supervisor as acting DEO for almost two years (from mid 2007 to the first quarter of 2009). Moreover, many of the school supervisor positions in all the DEOs visited by the evaluation team have not been filled, which seriously jeopardises the capacity of the DEO to monitor and supervise lower secondary and secondary schools/levels. There are also examples of district staff being away for long periods of the year. Similarly, the EFA joint evaluation points out that supervision is one of the weakest links in the school management system in Nepal. The joint evaluation concludes, for example, that limited classroom observations are undertaken by HTs, RPs, and/or school supervisors. Moreover, several school supervisors in the districts visited admitted to having limited knowledge, skills and time to do field visits to schools.
The Resource Centres are responsible for extending on-the-site professional support to the teachers. However, feedback from district case studies indicate that their role has evolved to a more administrative charge, focusing on data collection and information sharing on plans and policies. District case studies further show that Resource Centres are generally understaffed and under-resourced, with only one RP at each centre to cover clusters of up to 40 schools. Furthermore, the RP position is not permanent and there is no written job description for the position. As a result, RPs have very limited capacity to enforce and supervise the development of SIPs at the individuals schools. Based on the district case studies, RPs find themselves poorly equipped to provide on-site professional development support to the teachers. Although the RPs may be biased in their assessment to secure more resources, the evaluation team agrees that the current provision for the RPs and the RCs is not commensurate with the very ambitious aspiration spelled out in the SESP and EFA programmes.
CDC committees have been established at district and regional levels to assist in the curriculum development process, but CDC is faced with the challenge of providing adequate budgets to these committees. In the districts visited by the evaluation team, the CDC had only had one meeting during the period.
Legal provisions are in place for the formation of a School Management Committee in all schools. The Education Act and the Education Rules and Regulations have clear provisions for the selection of the SMC, composition of its members and its duties, roles and responsibilities. The SMCs in all schools visited have been selected at a parents’ meeting. According to GoN (2008e), 17 per cent of SMC members are women, 9.1 per cent are Dalit and 33.5 per cent are Janajati.
Where the constitution process of SMCs is believed to be non-transparent, the ensuing accountability of the SMC to the community will also be limited. It is notable that the formation of SMCs in the majority of schools visited by the evaluation team had been based on an election between different party panels and, in some cases, (Bardiya and reported by Banke DEO too) communal fighting destroyed the school. The national Dalit organisations further point out that excluded groups, particularly Dalits, are not adequately represented in the SMCs, and female representation and participation in SMCs is often only a face value act as reported by some central level stakeholders interviewed by the evaluation.
SESP has provided capacity development interventions to institutionalise and consolidate the SMCs. However, only the SMC chair, the member secretary (by default the head teacher of the respective school) and the female members have been entitled to management training provided by the DEO. The other members of the SMC have not been given any kind of orientation or training. According to the DoE, capacity building of SMCs is one of the areas where achievements have not been as good as expected. Capacity is particularly weak in rural areas, and there is some evidence to show that they are not clear about their mandate. In some cases, as reported by the TUN, SMC chairs are seen as powerful and possessive, and there have been cases of mismanagement and harassment of teachers and recruitment not being made on the basis of merit.
It was reported by the SMCs that their primary role was in the improvement of the overall environment of the school, such as construction of classrooms, fencing off of the school compound, provision of other services, and solving any other problems faced by the school. SMC members also stated that they were actively involved in conducting enrolment campaigns and in monitoring the regularity of teachers’ and students’ attendance. The evaluation has also seen evidence of involvement of the SMCs in approving all decisions made by the school, such as approving SIP, recruiting teachers, fixing the level of school fees, making decisions related to construction related activities, etc. However, the SMC members interviewed by the evaluation team also indicated that they had difficulties in monitoring the quality of the actual teaching-learning or pedagogical processes happening inside the classrooms.
Although the SMCs may still be acting as a rubber stamp in some cases, the provision of letting the SMC approve all school-related decisions can and has paved a way for greater involvement in education-related affairs at school level. Similarly, the EFA joint evaluation indicates that while SMCs have traditionally only played supportive roles, they seem to be gradually taking a more assertive role.
Management training to head teachers is in place in all the schools visited by the evaluation team. The HTs are also given training on SIP, social audits and school mapping. The HTs interviewed by the evaluation team generally expressed satisfaction with the training. However, some of the HTs interviewed expressed a wish that some of the SMC and PTA representatives and active teachers could benefit from such training. Furthermore, short refresher training courses on different management and leadership skills as well as financial/account keeping are required. Central level ministry officials interviewed by the evaluation team, on the other hand, have questioned the impact of the training provided to the HTs. Accordingly, the evidence does not allow for a clear overall assessment of the effectiveness of the training.
Evidence from district case studies suggests that the relation between head teachers and SMCs is generally good, but there are examples of power struggles between HTs and SMCs. Some SMCs, for example, get involved even in relatively detailed decisions about who is to teach which subject without having the required subject/teaching-related experience. Finally, the evaluation has observed that schools with higher SLC pass rates also seem to be better managed. The best performing schools (schools displaying SLC pass rates from 47.3 to 90.9) visited by the evaluation team all gave the impression of being well managed in terms of:
- Active and respected HT with good management skills
- Good relationship between SMC and HT
- Political consensus on improving school despite political party affiliation
- Active interaction with community and inclusion of local intellectuals
- SIP preparation used actively to mobilise community stakeholders
- Clear plans for school infrastructure improvements expressed in SIPs and used for mobilising external support
- Regularity of teachers and good team spirit among them.
Clearly, many other factors influence school performance, but the above have all consistently been observed in the best performing schools. This confirms the importance of capacity development and institutional measures to improving educational outcomes.
8.4 Monitoring and Evaluation
The Core Document establishes a matrix of SESP indicators for monitoring purposes broken down into educational indicators and reform indicators. Specific targets are available for some of the educational indicators (for example GER), but for most of them, targets are not explicit, which makes it difficult to assess progress. As a case in point, the desired relative increase in SLC pass rate was never made explicit, although this was expected to be done through a SEPS baseline study, which was apparently never carried out.
The responsibility for assessing progress against these indicators is not firmly placed with any specific organisation. Instead, the Core Document stipulates that SESP will be “monitored and reviewed” by stakeholders on an annual basis. In reality, most of the monitoring work has been carried out by the DoE. According to the DoE, the Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) unit in the MoE has been in charge of monitoring progress against GoN-defined indicators, while the DoE has been doing the more detailed M&E work against the abovementioned matrix of SESP indicators.
The amount of work done by the REMIS and M&E sections at the DoE is comprehensive as documented by the Flash Reports, statistical collections and Status Reports. Nevertheless, there is still scope for further refining the system and its indicators. As a case in point, it would make sense to break down the Janajati population into more groups, as it is composed of groups with a high and low degree of resources, making the current practice less useful for analytical purposes.
MoE has for its part, in addition to its normal M&E work, a school inspectorate that was established at the outset of SESP, as documented in the aide memoire from the 2003 review of the programme. The requirement for this inspectorate to be operational was among the preconditions for ADB support to SESP. Overall, the capacity, budget and scope of the inspectorate’s work is assessed as being rather limited. The inspectorate has itself indicated to the evaluation team that there is a need “to improve on working tools”. To better assess the quality of the work carried out by the inspectorate, the evaluation team had further request ed copies of inspection reports. None of these have been shared with the evaluation team.
At district and school level, reporting of data runs smoothly, but field (district) level programme monitoring and feedback into the annual review and programme planning by DoE were reported to be limited by DEOs.
According to the Planning and Budget Section at DoE, 66 per cent of schools have completed social audits, but it is unclear to what extent findings have been accepted and followed up on as relevant.
SESP has not had a clear vision or strategy for capacity development. Despite the absence of such a framework, rationalisation of the institutional framework has been implemented, and each of the central agencies has received pockets of capacity development. The overall relevance and efficiency of the various capacity development interventions have been reduced by the absence of a coherent strategic framework to guide the allocation of the funds. Hence, the overall impression is that funds have been spent on an ad-hoc basis rather than according to a commonly agreed framework. Nevertheless, several of the individual interventions have been highly appreciated by the recipients and it is evident, based on visits to the various institutions, that there is a continued need for capacity development and upgrading of facilities and IT systems.
The SESP has been instrumental in institutionalising the ASIP planning modality. The SESP has contributed to laying the foundation for a more participatory process that could lead to greater involvement of and ownership by the local community. Important contributions to this process have also been made through the EFA programme, emphasised by the fact that ASIP covers both primary and secondary education. However, the quality of the process and the output still remains to be fully assessed. The capacity of the system still has some way to go before the intentions of the ASIP planning modality can be fully harvested.
However, there is very limited data and indicators available to document the extent to which the capacity of the system has increased as a result of the various interventions. This in turn makes it difficult to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the capacity development interventions, but it is evident that most stakeholders see the interventions financed by SESP as inadequate. Similarly, at district and school levels, capacity development measures have been rolled out in a way that most stakeholders characterise as inadequate. Such statements may obviously have a certain bias, coming from potential recipients of additional capacity development interventions. Even so, the evidence relatively consistently suggests that higher quality, higher volume and better timing of the various capacity development measures could have made a difference, given the importance of preparing the system for the many challenges associated with large increases in enrolment.
As a case in point, the significant reduction in the number of LRCs being constructed and the limited staffing of the RCs will not be sufficient in a situation where support and supervision provided to the schools is limited. Moreover, ordinary SMC members have not received orientation, and only limited capacity development has been targeted at the DEO and RP-level.
Overall sustainability of the institutional capacity component is assessed to be low. The results created so far with respect to planning depend on the degree to which MoE, DoE and the rest of the implementing entities continue to build capacity for the development of ASIPs and insist on making these plans the building block for the sector. This in turn requires an increased focus on strengthening the participatory nature of the planning process and a closer monitoring of the quality of the planning documents. The sustainability of the capacity development interventions is similarly limited as long as the various inputs are provided in an ad-hoc manner without reference to a commonly agreed framework or strategy. Similarly, a more thorough needs assessment and functional reviews are required.
8.6 Specific Recommendations
The preceding sections have confirmed the importance of institutional capacity measures as a main driver for improving the overall performance of the secondary education system. In this spirit, the following detailed recommendations are proposed for consideration of the GoN and its partners:
- Increase ASIP monitoring and guidance
For the ASIP Planning Modality to fully develop into an instrument for participatory planning and execution, more emphasis is needed from the central level in terms of monitoring and guiding districts, and from the districts in terms of monitoring and guiding schools on how best to undertake the process – and in terms of assessing and advising on the actual contents of the ASIP document and ensuring its actual implementation rather than just formulation.
- Develop a strategic framework for capacity development at all levels of the system
The recommendation is made in view of the fact that increase in capacity is a sine qua non for effectively handling the increased number of students enrolling in secondary school. A capacity development plan should be developed in an open and transparent way by the MoE/DoE with full participation of all relevant agencies at central, regional and district levels. A clear definition and operationalisation of capacity should be the starting point for such an exercise. The evaluation notes that a task force has been constituted under the chair of the Joint Secretary of the Planning Division of the MoE to ensure the completion of a capacity development plan. It is important to ensure a more participatory, strategic and informed modus operandi for coordination of capacity development interventions. The GoN may consider establishing a coordination forum involving the various educational agencies, which in the interest of inclusion and participation will ensure that funds for capacity development are allocated according to needs.
- Increase the capacity of RCs so that they can effectively advise schools on preparation and implementation of the ASIP planning modality at the school level
The RCs need additional manpower or more limited areas of supervisions to allow them to effectively act as sparring partners and advisers for the schools. Secondly, the RPs themselves will need additional capacity building to effectively take on this role.
- Provide additional training and orientation to all the SMC members
Such training should focus on the proper roles and mandates of the SMC, including the division of labour between SMCs, head teachers and PTAs, what are the basic elements of effective schools, and ideas regarding how local authorities engage in education reforms elsewhere. Some of these can be done through efforts to enhance the linkages of SMCs to NGOs working in the education sector. Such capacity development could be effectively provided through SMC peer-to-peer sharing of experience.
This page forms part of the publication 'Joint Evaluation of the Secondary Education Support Programme' as chapter 10 of 14
Version 1.0. 17-05-2010
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/10395/index.htm