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The decentralisation of education in a developing country: the case of community high schools in Solomon Islands

This study was undertaken to investigate the decentralisation of education through the establishment of Community High Schools (CHSs) in a developing country - Solomon Islands. The study examines, in particular, the local and global forces which have influenced the establishment of CHSs and the factors which may be facilitating or impeding their development at the level of implementation. A major interest of the study is to examine the extent to which the establishment of CHSs have reflected local concerns or international influences in the light of involvement by the World Bank and other international aid donors. Specific research questions were posed to investigate the efficacy of educational decentralisation through the establishment, development and operation of CHSs in Solomon Islands, and the role played by the people responsible at four levels namely; the central government, church and provincial education authorities, schools, and communities during the implementation process. The study participants at these four levels were asked to describe what they perceived as the goals or reasons for establishing CHSs, where they saw the forces or factors for establishing CHSs were coming from, and to identify any tensions which they may have created. Participants were also asked to comment on the consultation procedure used by concerned parties when establishing CHSs, their views on whether the CHSs have achieved their goals or aims and how have these been monitored or evaluated. The additional benefits to be gained from establishing CHSs were then elucidated from participants before inquiring about the financial and other inputs from local and international sources for establishing CHSs and the impact of the involvement and contributions from parents and communities. Research questions were also posed to determine how CHSs were being managed, the provision of relevant training for those responsible, any plans in place to establish more CHSs, and any moves to decentralise more control of CHSs to the school, and parents and community levels in future. Finally the study sought responses from study participants on the major forces or factors they perceive as impeding the establishment development and operation of CHSs. A qualitative-oriented methodology was used to collect the data in order to answer these questions. The techniques used include: interviews, questionnaire, content analysis and observation study. The major data gathering was carried out during two intensive rounds of fieldwork in Solomon Islands during January - March 2000 and November - December 2000. The study found that participants from the four levels strongly supported the original aims for establishing CHSs as determined by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) and the World Bank. The study also revealed that these goals or aims formed part of the local forces or factors for establishing CHSs besides other factors regarding the demographical, geographical, socio-cultural, and political nature of the country. Participants also indicated the influence of external forces or factors for establishing CHSs, particularly those being exerted by the World Bank, sectoral studies commissioned by the MEHRD through bilateral donor funding and other publications, and similar decentralisation moves being undertaken in other countries. These external forces have been found to create some tensions between the World Bank and bilateral donors, and MEHRD officials, while the local factors have exacerbated on-going conflicts at the national and community levels. The study also revealed that there was insufficient consultation between all the concerned parties concerned in the process of establishing CHSs, resulting in the neglect of proper procedures and the seemingly unrestrained establishment of CHSs. Nonetheless, study participants felt that CHSs had achieved their goals. The study was unable to identify any proper mechanism in place to demonstrate how the MEHRD has or is going to effectively monitor or evaluate the aims it had set for CHSs to accomplish. It was apparent from the data that respondents considered CHSs as having additional benefits beyond those expressed by the MEHRD and the World Bank. Seeing that CHSs are being located within the communities, there was strong support for them to include in their curriculum the teaching of the local language and cultures, and for local participation in the development of materials for such use. Respondents felt that these have not been emphasised well enough in boarding NSSs and PSSs because of their heterogeneous student intake. The use by the community of CHSs facilities for adult education and vocational training courses after school hours or during the holidays was also seen as an advantage. Apart from the five World Bank funded CHSs, the study found that funding for the other CHSs from external sources have been minimal whilst the payment of annual grants from the central government or church and provincial education authorities was either sporadic or non-existent. On the other hand, the data showed that the involvement and contributions from parents and communities has been the foundation of the CHS success story. It was also revealed that the overwhelming support displayed by parents and communities for school committees, principals and teachers in the establishment, and ongoing operation and management of their respective CHSs has instilled an overall sense of pride and ownership for the school. This led to the central, and church and provincial education authorities being content to leave an increasing share of management matters to the schools and their school committees. Nevertheless, the data pointed to the fact that relevant training had not been provided for school level managers and members of the school committees to prepare them for their new roles. Study participants suggested that such training must be developed and immediately embarked upon by the MEHRD in view of existing plans to establish more CHSs as well as the planned moves to decentralise more control to the lower levels. Furthermore, respondents saw financial, logistical, supervision, staffing, land, politics, management, and geography as some of the forces or factors as important in impeding the establishment and operation of CHSs. Based on the study objectives and findings identified from the data, recommendations were made on how to improve the management and operation of CHSs in order to make them more responsive to the demands and challenges facing the decentralised education system in Solomon Islands. Educational decentralisation, in its wake, has made heavy demands on the very limited financial and human resources, and services of the government. The study highlighted that a reformation of education is desperately needed and ownership by, and participation and partnership with the parents and local communities must be at the core of how well the government responds to the problem areas that exist within the education sector.
Type of thesis
Sikua, D. D. (2002). The decentralisation of education in a developing country: the case of community high schools in Solomon Islands (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14418
The University of Waikato
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