Abstract: Promoting Social Accountability in Primary Rural Schools of Afghanistan and Pakistan (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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Promoting Social Accountability in Primary Rural Schools of Afghanistan and Pakistan

Friday, January 13, 2023
Alhambra, 2nd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Mustafa Rfat, MSW, MPA, PhD student, Washington University in Saint Louis, MO
Background. Afghanistan and Pakistan are left behind in the quality of education at an alarming rate. Both countries have a rapid growing youth population and most of them live in rural areas with little education investment. To foster effective education systems and provide quality education, experts encourage the establishment of various mechanisms of accountability, such as introducing regulatory performance-based, or professional accountability. Many of such systems are characterized by the submission of school staff to external oversight. “Social” accountability is largely absent. This study aims to explore the understanding of social accountabilities with teachers and opportunities of establishing localized systems for change.

Methods. We used group model building (GMB), part of system dynamics, a methodology for studying and managing complex systems that change over time. The methodology involved 104 participatory GMB workshops with school communities (children, parents, teachers, school committee members) to examine feedback loops, change over time, investigate the causal mechanisms at play in the system, identify ways of improving school social accountability mechanisms and evaluating their impact on the quality of the learning experience of children. We conducted thematic analysis following the six-step framework of Braun & Clarke (2006), using the analytical software, Dedoose.

Results. Findings show that, teachers are committed to provide good education (91% of workshops). They suggested ways to improve their own accountability. A majority mentioned that increasing teacher’s qualification through training and professional development (57%) was essential to increase motivation. They also mentioned better salary (20%), more teacher hiring (32%), adequate school resources (46%) and some even mentioned better school management supervision (19%) and recognition of their work (31%). Teachers who feel accountable for learning outcomes engage in positive class discipline (24%) instead of corporal punishment, engage with parents in parents’ teachers meeting and regular communication (54%). They brought forward positive outcomes associated to social accountability: students’ interest for the class content and motivation to learn (44%), family satisfaction in and better engagement with the child education (20%), better performance in conveying class content (70%), more inclusion of diverse students and better consideration for all students’ needs (59%) and better parents’ engagement in school management (8%).

Implications. A few key lessons are learned from this exercise. First, teachers complained their voice is hardly heard. Second, teacher accountability is strongly connected to improved students' outcomes and accomplishments. Unlike teacher appraisal, teacher accountability has become a new standard where teachers take the lead to secure the quality of outcome. To improve the performance of education systems and provide quality education to underprivileged children, teachers confirm experts’ views that social accountability based on the civic engagement of individuals and/or civil society organizations pushing for the implementation of equitable education are an effective approach. Our study contributes to feeling a gap in data about teachers' perceptions, that jeopardize the capacity for policymakers to adopt proper policies to meet teachers' needs.