Kurt Moses
Xuejiao Joy Cheng
Publication Date
January 1, 2017

FHI 360

"Model report cards that aim to promote accountability include measures of outputs (such as test scores and promotion and graduation rates) and measures of parent perception. The research revealed, however, that most report card initiatives are missing clear, effective accountability measures and direct reporting to those individuals capable of making changes."

From The International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) Ethics and Corruption in Education series, established by UNESCO, this report on how school report cards (SRCs) can improve accountability and, thus, education in schools, contains: a literature review; a summary of report card practices in Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda; new indicators for accountability and anti-corruption effectiveness; and suggestions for improvement.

SRCs are reported to be more comprehensive than previously, with data-driven measuring of outcomes and better reporting to stakeholders. Where they are less effective, clear accountability measures and links to those who can make changes are missing. Corruption in finance, teacher behaviour, and information systems are areas of focus. Transparency and measurable consequences, which increase the accountability of schools, are key in some case studies.  

"SRCs can contain different types of information, including:

  • school funding levels,
  • condition of school facilities,
  • teacher qualifications,
  • teacher behaviours,
  • school management overviews,
  • student learning outcomes."

Competition between schools, stimulated by SRCs can be foundational for a market model (students attend where education is best - the consumer choice model). Formal sanctions or rewards to schools, based upon SRC results, can improve education. More public participation in improving results for SRC can result in positive behaviour change within communities. There are limitations and unintended consequences, such as lack of improvements due to lack of incentives to improve schools and lack of capacity to do so, among others.

Accountability approaches can include pedagogy, finance, management, and a combination of the three. Transparent tracking of finance, for example, can be reported, as can teacher absenteeism, including through an Android app on mobile phones, requiring a photo each day of the teacher with students. School inspectors that rotate through districts, rather than inspectors dedicated to specific districts, can minimise data reporting corruption. Inclusive and participatory approaches introduce buy-in from citizen voters, school administration, and government.

Box 4.1, page 103, includes a checklist for understanding SRC programmes and potential effectiveness through questions such as, for the information for accountability approach: Do service providers have the autonomy and resources to make the changes?

Among the lessons learned are the following:

  • "Pressures in the social sector are prompting stakeholders to demand more information about schools and schooling....
  • Increased emphasis on ‘data-driven decision-making’ has led more SRCs to emphasize comparisons, often at multiple levels....
  • School report cards are a complex undertaking." Implementation requires: motivation, clarity and simplicity of information, participation and inclusion, and a systemic approach - linking central authority to the power of recipients - their desire for information, educational needs, and desire to improve.
  • "Transparency and accountability....
  • Accountability for corruption...." SRCs often focus on student outcomes, but they can focus also on teacher behaviours and school financing. 
  • "Formal sanctions....", both effective consequences and incentives.

Suggestions related to communication include:

  • "Create mechanisms to encourage and ensure public discussion of information, as such debate has the potential to hold educators accountable, even in the absence of harsh sanctions (top-down SRCs, in particular, face challenges of adequate data distribution and discussion).
  • Present SRC data in meaningful ways by incorporating graphic elements, as well as comparisons with standards and other schools, and within the school over time.
  • Distribute information in a timely and relevant manner.
  • Provide school leaders with technical assistance by sharing best practices from schools with similar socioeconomic backgrounds or through guidance from peers or pedagogical advisors.
  • Make community members and local education authorities responsible for distributing information on school performance, rather than school principals, who may have less incentive.
  • Incorporate more anti-corruption elements into SRCs, such as sharing information on potentially corrupt practices and promoting community monitoring and dialogue." 

FHI 360 website, October 4 2017. Image source: World Vision Uganda