Strengthening School Management Committees

This article originally appeared in MCC Intersections Volume 7, Issue 3

With the decentralization of educational governance over the past 15 years in Nepal, community participation in school management has become a vital component of improved quality of education. The government in Nepal has begun encouraging the use of School Management Committees (SMCs) as a means of ensuring community involvement in schools’ decision-making processes. Strengthening these committees is one of the most effective ways non-governmental organizations like MCC and its partners can contribute to improving the quality of education.

In Nepal, the law requires every school to form an SMC composed of nine members at least three of whom must be female. Members are elected for three-year terms, with committees including representatives from the local community, government and education offices, intellectual and philanthropic communities, a founding member of the school and the head teacher. Government-mandated roles of SMCs in Nepal are to assess teacher performance, identify and mobilize local resources, coordinate with stakeholders who might contribute toward the school’s development (donor agencies, NGOs, government offices), develop and monitor school improvement plans, oversee regular audits of the school’s financial management and motivate parents and community members toward greater ownership and accountability.

Sagma School
Head teacher Chandra Bahaduria leads a school management committee meeting at Sagma School in Morang, with the support of MCC partner Sanjal and its member organization, HRDON (2014).

In practice, MCC and its partners have found that, despite legal requirements, many schools do not yet have an SMC that actively understands and operates according to its mandate. Bal Krishna Maharjan, strategy advisor for MCC partner organization Sansthagat Bikas Sanjal, explains that prior to implementing the organization’s MCC-funded education project, the SMCs they worked with functioned only in a rudimentary way, which tended to create an environment that enabled poor accountability and teacher performance (and, in turn, poor academic results). Similarly, Suresh Adhikari, program coordinator of Sanjal’s member, HRDON, found that there was a significant lack of coordination among students, parents, SMCs and NGOs. With limited trust and accountability, students in the region where HRDON operates did not attend class regularly and expected to be promoted regardless of their performance.

Understanding the vital role of SMCs in improving quality of education for students,

Dhading School
Manu Thapa, SMC member at Jana Jagriti School in Dhading, shares about the impact of Sanjal’s support (2017). 

Sanjal and HRDON intentionally incorporated SMC capacity-building activities into the design of their rural education project. Among the strategies they found to be most effective in Nepal’s context were: orienting SMC members to their roles and responsibilities; regularly coaching SMCs in the process of developing and monitoring school improvement plans; organizing joint meetings between teachers and SMC members to discuss vision and goals; helping SMCs develop guidelines for raising funds to support school improvements; and creating criteria for SMCs to carry out teachers’ annual performance evaluations.

Sanjal and HRDON have found that the impact of strengthened SMCs on school and student performance is profound in several important ways. First, the participatory approaches used by SMCs have led to an increased sense of community ownership over schools. Adhikari explains that “SMC members are now actively involved in setting goals related to improving the quality of education, especially increasing the number of students and improving school infrastructure. The SMC members even contributed to the construction of a new two-room school structure by raising funds and carrying Stone from over three hours away!” Active involvement of SMCs has also increased the schools’ access to educational resources and to teachers with training in specific subject areas. Maharjan explains that in his working area, SMC members began to assume an active role in building relationships with government line agencies and sending delegates to district education office meetings, all of which eventually led to much-needed financial and infrastructure support for their schools.

Teachers now also feel a greater sense of accountability to their schools and to SMCs. With SMCs requiring annual evaluations on teacher performance, teachers are compelled to attend classes regularly, participate in professional development opportunities and meet basic teaching standards. SMC members have also become engaged in student enrollment campaigns, parental counseling and advocating for local peace and justice initiatives. In HRDON’s working area, SMC members became actively involved in supporting schools’ “child clubs” to create awareness around the harmful impacts of child marriage, offer counseling to parents and students and support students who had run away to re-enroll in school. Beyond promoting academic performance, SMCs can thus play a significant role in engaging young people and parents in a variety of relevant social issues.

While significant improvements to school management committee capacity have been made, there remain several challenges and obstacles. While SMCs in Nepal have a mandate to carry out annual performance evaluations, they do not currently have adequate authority to take action against poor teacher performance. Consequently, teacher performance continues to hinder change in schools to a certain extent. In addition, in geographic areas characterized by difficult terrain and long walks to and from school, it is challenging for SMC members to find time to meet regularly.

Among the biggest learnings around the promotion of SMCs by MCC Nepal and its partners is the acknowledgment that building the capacity of SMCs should be an integral component of any education project. Both Sanjal and HRDON have found that the most effective strategy to strengthen SMCs is simply regular and systematic coaching from NGO staff. With adequate SMC support, schools are able to comply with government regulations while also creating a flourishing and transparent community in which administrators, teachers, parents and students can collectively thrive.

Article written by Juliana Yonzon (MCC Nepal Program Coordinator) and Daphne Hollinger Fowler (MCC Nepal Country Representative).

Sagma SMC
A meeting of the School Management Committee at Sagma Secondary School in Morang (2016).

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