My last two blogs, Lessons on School-Based Management from a Randomized Experiment and Empowering Parents to Improve Schooling: Powerful Evidence from Rural Mexico, have focused on empowering parents to help increase accountability in schools. However, too often, decentralization programs are designed without adequately conveying the messages about their purpose to the intended audiences; or, it is done in such a way that the program is rendered useless.
Literary writers do not think much of the law. In the last century, Anatole France wrote, mordantly: “The majestic equality of the laws prohibits the rich and the poor alike from sleeping under bridges, begging in the streets and stealing bread.” More recently, Aarvind Adiga says, “The jails of Delhi are full of drivers who are there behind bars because they are taking the blame for their good, solid middle-class masters. . . . The judges? Wouldn't they see through this obviously forced confession? But they are in the racket too. They take their bribe, they ignore the discrepancies in the case. And life goes on.”
I recently attended a community paralegal training on promoting accountability in health care delivery in Makeni, Sierra Leone. During the training, a community paralegal named Elizabeth Massalay talked about bringing her niece to a clinic in Moyamba district to receive immunizations that the government provides free of charge thanks to the Free Health Care Initiative (FHCI), which offers free health services to pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under five. Mothers queued for free immunizations, painting a hopeful picture for a country that ranks 180 out of 187 in the 2011 Human Development Index and where almost one in three children die before reaching the age of five.
However, against this promising backdrop, Elizabeth saw that the nurse was demanding six cups of rice from each mother before providing the immunization. Elizabeth was witnessing how breakdowns within state institutions—including absent nurses, improper user fees, and “leakage” of up to 30% of FHCI drugs (according to government and UNICEF statistics)—undermine health care delivery. Responding to such breakdowns requires an understanding of health policy and regulations—what the state must provide and to whom—and knowing where and how to apply pressure when the state fails to do so.
At a screening at the World Bank of Miss Representation on March 8, I had the opportunity to interview the film's director, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. What struck me during the interview was Newsom's firm commitment to changing how women and girls are portrayed in the mainstream media and her use of social media to instigate a conversation and advocate for change. Newsom also mentions that she wants to build a bridge to men and boys, who are a big part of the solution and talks about an upcoming project aimed at men and boys. Hope the interview provides some insights and provokes discussion.
Maya Brahmam's Interview with Jennifer Siebel Newsom
"We think we need to develop a national policy to help guide our efforts to use information and communication technologies [ICTs] in education. What should such a policy contain?"
This is a question we get not infrequently here at the World Bank. Sometimes this is in response to recognition that a country is about to spend a lot of money buying computers for schools, and there is a realization that there is no policy in place to help guide this effort. Other times it is a result of recognition that there has been no or little policy guidance in this area despite the fact that lots of money has been spent (for example) buying lots computers for schools -- and this hasn't worked out quite as well as hoped. Some countries have had policies in place -- sometimes quite good policies -- and they are now looking to 'move to the next level', but aren't exactly sure what that means, and so are seeking outside input, especially because of the challenges and opportunities offered by new technological developments. (We see other scenarios as well, but will stop listing them now.)
There are a few ways to help answer such a question.
One approach is to help guide policymakers through a systematic, consultative process to formulate and policies related to, and plan for, the deployment and use of educational technologies, as part of a wider policy formulation and planning process that looks at broader developmental and education goals, and then seeks to investigate and articulate how and where the use of ICTs can help meet these objectives. This is a process that was (for example) followed as part of the World Bank's World Links program a decade ago, and which was extended and formalized through the development and use of the ICT in Education Toolkit for Policymakers, Planners and Practitioners, which was supported by a number of organizations (and used extensively throughout Asia by UNESCO as part of its advisory work in this area). Of course, not all policy planning processes are as systematic and well laid out as that identified by the Toolkit -- many of them are, in practice, rather ad hoc.
Another way to answer the question (and these approaches aren't mutually exclusive) is to show people what other policies say, to the extent that you can find them. Whether systematic or ad hoc (or somewhere in between), there was input that seemed to us to be missing from pretty much every ICT/education policy development process in which we have been engaged. Wouldn't it be useful if there was a comprehensive global database of ICT/education policies from which countries could find inspiration and establish useful benchmarks for their own related policies?
In preparation for Sri Lanka’s next Country Partnership Strategy with the World Bank, we’ve been consulting with numerous groups, including those representing youth, for their ideas and feedback. Traveling to all corners of the country and interacting with many youth groups in Sri Lanka, it is clear that youth want more -- more opportunities, more facilities, more acceptance, more inclusion.
In contrast, discussing the same issues with the older generation, their view is that youth are unskilled, lack exposure to real-world challenges, are not dependable, and are too picky about available jobs.
The gap between the perceptions and aspirations of the two groups seems like the two rails of a railway track that are never destined to meet.