Community participation in education (Summer 2019)

[Individual articles from the Summer 2019 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog each week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website.]

MCC invests significant resources into providing access to quality education, believing this is a key ingredient for building healthy, sustainable communities. This emphasis aligns with the call for universal primary education in the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (2000) and the more recent Sustainable Development Goals (2015), which together reflect a growing consensus that access alone is not enough and a commitment instead to “inclusive and equitable quality education” for all.

Building on a long history of supporting education through placing MCC workers as teachers in schools and paying school fees for individual students, MCC’s approach has gradually shifted toward models that focus more on strengthening local education partners. This shift grows out of an awareness that education—too often imported by colonial powers and beneficial for only a select few individuals—must be shaped and owned by local communities if it is to truly bring positive change at the community level.

This issue of Intersections explores the many ways community participation can make education efforts more effective, accountable, relevant and sustainable. We begin with the important question of how school staff can develop good communication and collaboration with parents and students to reduce the disconnect that often exists between schools and families. Then we dig deeper to see how formal structures like school management committees or oversight committees can give community members an active role in making decisions about school priorities, holding teachers accountable and managing financial and other resources that can be leveraged to improve student learning. We also look at one partner’s experience with supporting community-led models for early childhood education and examine the importance of the community’s role in child protection. Finally, we learn from a tribal school in Odisha, India, about how Indigenous community ownership at the deepest level can shape a school’s ethos and identity and ultimately make the difference between education being a tool of oppression imposed by a dominant culture or the tool of community empowerment that we aspire for it to be.

Lynn Longenecker is MCC’s education coordinator.

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