Samer Al-Samarrai (not verified)

December 13, 2011

Hi, I'm part of the Bank's education team in Indonesia and the points raised by Helen are really important (see comments). I think that most parents, whether educated or not, find it incredibly difficult to understand how their children can learn best. In all countries it is vital that schools and teachers have this know-how and are supported to teach children of varying abilities effectively. This is an enormous challenge here in Indonesia and for many other education systems around the world.

The difficulties for poor parents in participating effectively in their children’s schools cannot be overstated. Strong social hierarchies, complicated administrative procedures and other demands on time are significant barriers. But parents can support their children’s education in many ways and in ways that do not rely on their level wealth or education - in Magetan in East Java, local communities switch off their television sets in the evening to help schools in encouraging students to do their homework.

Despite the difficulties communities face, their involvement in school management can be important for learning. A recent randomised evaluation in Indonesia showed that improved community participation in school matters. The study showed that strengthening links between the school and village committee and ensuring school committee members were elected rather than selected had a positive and statistically significant impact on student learning.

Through the government’s commitment to school based management, school committees have begun to play a more central role in Indonesia. In many schools they participate in school planning and budgeting and provide oversight on the use of school operational funds. However, school based management reforms of this kind take time to lead to better student learning. A World Bank assessment recently showed that it takes about 8 years for accountability reforms of this kind to have any impact on student learning.

Helen is right (see above), fulfilling the World Bank’s education strategy will require greater participation of parents in the schools their children go to. An important first step is to support school committees so that they are effective at holding school managers to account and to ensure that parents serving on them represent the views of all parents. A second step is to provide better information on the quality of local schools. Too often parents have insufficient information to judge the quality of education that is being provided and push for improvements. Making progress in these areas can empower parents and contribute to the goal of good quality education for all.