This essay reviews the historical development of pre-university educational governance and management system in Egypt; in the light of the global influence on introducing the idea of decentralization and community participation in schools. It serves as an introductory paper for the report in which I will review the Board of Trustees reform that was introduced in 2005 in Egypt’s schools. In this paper I will review the literature for some important concepts like decentralization, and community participation , as well as give an overview of the BOT reform and its objectives.
Definitions and Related concepts:
Before discussing the BOT reform in Egypt schools, I will first introduce important concepts that will serve as basis for explaining the reform goals and objectives and later its evaluation; these are decentralization, and community participation.
According to Baradei and Amin (2010) decentralization involves “the transfer of authorities and responsibilities for the provision of educational services to lower levels of government and agents of the state.” (p 107) They clarify that decentralization of education, includes both administrative and a political aspects.
Administrative decentralization they explain is the transfer of decision making from a higher administrative authorities like (MOE) to lower administrative authorities; like educational directorates on the governorate level for example. Political decentralization on the other hand involves a higher level of democracy and autonomy at the local levels, and allows a higher level of participation of community members and stakeholders in the process of decision making.
Another way to view decentralization is through Bray’s definition that categorizes it into functional and territorial: “Functional centralization/decentralization refers to a shift in the distribution of powers between various authorities that operate in parallel [i.e., at the same territorial level … Territorial centralization/decentralization… refers to a redistribution of control among the different geographic tiers of government, such as nation, states/provinces, districts, and schools (Cited in Ginsburg, Megahed, Elmeski, and Tanaka 2010, p. 5).
Through reading both definitions it appears that administrative decentralization and parallel decentralization are not the best forms of decentralization that really allow a higher level of autonomy in decision making, and that political and territorial decentralization would better serve the opening up of educational system and reforming governance through allowing a higher level of autonomy to schools and communities.
Another related concept that should be defined before any evaluation takes place is the concept of community participation.
Baradei and Amin (2010) explain how community participation takes different forms, just like decentralization. They argue that there is “genuine participation, and Pseudo participation” (p. 110).
Genuine participation: which means that all members have the ability to take part in real decision-making and governance, and they have power to determine the outcome of decisions, and where participation is voluntary; whereas
Pseudo-participation participation takes the form of a consultative process and citizens are only kept informed of developments at the school level, and are expected to accept decisions that have already been made (Baradei and Amin, 2010, p. 110)
The Different Rationales behind Decentralization:
It has been argued that the discourse of decentralization has been based on four rationales; first democracy, second cost-effectiveness, and third reducing government’s financial responsibility, and finally conflict management and reducing government’s accountability (Ginsburg and Megahed, 2010).
These have been sources of praise at times and sources of criticism at others, since decentralization for only raising funds and sharing “financial responsibility” with communities does not really aim at the best for those communities, it rather aims at getting the best out of them’; using them. Whereas democratization through decentralization should really aim at giving power to the communities since they are more aware of their own needs; and can figure out ways to meet those needs if they were truly empowered, or as Liontos puts it “those who are closest to the action are more able to make the best educational decisions” (Cited in Hammad, 2010)
Global and Local Forces influencing Egypt’s School Management:
Pre-university Education management system in Egypt has always been centralized, with decisions in education policies and practices being in the hand of Ministry of Education and other state-lead institutions. The following diagram can give an idea of how detailed and how centralized decision making is in education on both levels; pre-university and tertiary education.
World Bank during the early 1980s which Berman explains “advocated a decrease in the amount of government involvement in the educational process, an increase in the private sector’s role, and greater application of market principles to the organization of Third World educational systems” (Cited in Ginsburg and Megahed, 2010, p.7). This recommendation initially aimed at helping the state gather the needed resources through community participation, and was not really about democratization.
In the 90s the Declaration of World Conference on Education for All in which UNESCO, World Bank participated also influenced Egypt educational reform initiative regarding school governance and management. There was once more an emphasis on the importance of decentralization of school governance and joining hands for school management and funding. This is clear in the declaration of the inter-agency commission 1990; Article 7 that highlighted that national regional and local educational authorities shall not be expected to offer all human, financial and organizational demands and that “Partnerships will be necessary: between education and other government departments…; between government and nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, local communities, religious groups, and families.… Genuine partnerships contribute to the planning, implementing, managing and evaluating of basic education programmes (Cited in Ginsburg and Megahed, p.10).
The World Bank support to community participation in school governance can also be traced in its report Effective Schools in Developing Countries but this time mixing the democratic and the human-capitalist rationales together: “[c]ommunity involvement is central to effective schools [because] the community may increase the school’s resources by providing in-kind contributions and by participating in school activities.… [Also,] schools are more effective when they choreograph their own activities (within a framework of a larger effective schools program) instead of being expected merely to follow a formula or script sent down from higher levels” (Cited in Ginsburg and Megahed, 2010, p.10).
Another important landmark in the introduction of both decentralization and community-participation is the UNESCO community schools initiative in Upper Egypt that was based on the idea of community participation. The project aimed at empowering communities through making them active participants in the education of their own children starting by offering the place for the school to be built, to participating through school councils in the educational process (Zaalouk, 2006).
Influenced by international developmental organizations discourse as well as developmental projects in Egypt, the state started to gradually open the educational governance and management system. Starting by the creation of school councils as avenues for increasing the
involvement of teachers and members of the local communities (Hammad, 2010) then 2001 and 2003 ministerial decrees granting Alexandria’s governor and then six other governors authority over educational reform in their governorates (Ginsburg and Megahed, 2010). Followed by the ministerial decree 258/ 2005 which introduced Board of Trustees (BOTs) in all schools in Egypt; to move from top-down centralized decisions in schools, to decentralized decisions through BOTs.
Board of Trustees (BOT): as an approach to Decentralization of School Management Systems
BOT in Egypt overview:
According to the decree the BOT constitutes of 15 members: 5 parents who do not work in the school, 5 public figures elected by the governor, and the governor who can delegate any official teachers elected by the school teachers; the school headmaster who serves as the executive manager of the BOT; and the school social work specialist who facilitate the affairs, and the BOT chairperson who is elected by the BOT (Baradei and Amin, 2010). Decisions of issues discussed by BOT must be made by majority vote, provided that at least seven members are present (Hammad, 2010, p.3788).
Unlike the previous Parent-Teacher Councils, BOTs have been given more financial autonomy, and were allowed to collect donations, and raise funds for handling different BOT activities (Hammad, 2010). This allowed each school to have a separate bank account to handle the school finances. Initially BOT chairperson and the school secretary had the rights to manage this bank account, however in 2006, a new decree 334/2006 moved the signature and withdrawal rights from BOT chairperson to school headmaster and secretary, which is a one step backwards from decentralization (Baradei and Amin, 2010).
BOT Responsibilities according to the 258/2005 decree are as follows:
- Participating with school management in developing an integrated plan to implement the BOT objectives and to develop the school;
- Monitoring and following up on the implementation of the plans and working with school management in facing problems and difficulties.
- Supporting and Modernizing the education process through innovative financial mechanisms including community contributions and private sector donations;
- Maintaining effective connections with business men, public figures and civil society organizations and involving them in community participation activities;
- Cooperating with the school management in designing an implementation plan for maintaining the school building, premises, and equipment;
- Supporting educational interventions that target special students and those with disabilities;
- Assuring cooperation between the school and relevant institutions like universities, NGOs, youth centers, and public libraries;
- Supporting the effort of building a school-based database that covers students and teachers issues, in addition to physical infrastructure issues;
- Providing consultancy and advice to the school management regarding educational and schooling issues;
- Preparing an annual report that provides detailed information about the board’s activities and their allocated budgets
(Baradei and Amin, 2010, p. 116).
After reading the list of responsibilities of the BOT, it seems that the majority of its duties are related to the financial aspect of governance and management from fund raising, to budget planning, and networking with business men who would in turn fund schools or facilitate infrastructure development and improvement. It also appears that the type of decentralization here is more of administrative than political, as there was no reference to the role of community members in influencing the education process except in point 9 that gives the BOT a consultancy and advisory right in relation to “educational and schooling issues”. A statement that seems vague and does not really empower the BOT educationally.
What is interesting is that the government decentralization movement was accompanied by a centralized way of management, as BOTs are subject to monitoring and controlling practices exercised by the Department of education at the district level, and the Central Agency for Audits at the central level (Baradei and Amin, 2010).
Whether the BOT initiative that started in 2005 introduced authentic community participation or a pseudo participation in Baradei and Amin’s terms, is something that the coming paper will discuss based on the literature that reviews the result of the BOT reform across different governorates in Egypt.
Baradei, L. El, Amin, K.Z., 2010. Community participation in education: A case study of the Boards of Trustees’ experience in the Fayoum governorate in Egypt. Africa Educ. Rev. 7, 107–138.
Ginsburg, M.; Megahed, N.; Elmeski, M.; Tanaka, N., 2010. Education policy analysis archives Reforming Educational Governance and Management in Egypt : National and International Actors and Dynamics. Education Policy Analysis Archives. 18, 1–54.
Hammad, W., 2010. Boards of trustees (BOTs) as avenues for shared decision-making in Egyptian Schools: Teachers’ Perceptions. Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences p.3787–3791 Retrieved: 15 January, 2016 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877042810006300
Zaalouk, M., 2006. The pedagogy of empowerment: Community schools as a social movement in egypt. Cairo; New York;: American University in Cairo Press.