Sergij Gabrscek

School governance in the NEPC region

In the past few decades school systems around the world have begun some form of decentralization with a focus on local decision-making and community participation. Such participatory approach to school governance is justified in terms of ensuring efficient management of schools and contributing to citizen empowerment and democratisation. There are attempts worldwide to restructure and deregulate state schooling and to create devolved systems of education entailing significant degrees of institutional autonomy, through forms of school-based management and governance.

Increasingly, the role of management and governance is recognized as important for providing and delivering effective services at all levels of education. An important aspect of it is also accountability. It refers to the processes by which the education system holds itself responsible for delivering the appropriate services and meeting its goals for educating students.

The paper will look into the school governance policies in 10 from the NEPC region: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Russia. It will present a comparison and a critical analysis of the basic models of governance in participating countries with regard to distribution of leadership, management and funding responsibilities, stakeholder participation and partnership, accountability mechanisms and leadership styles of school principals.

It will provide an overview of different aspects of school governance, from the legal basis to the role of different stakeholders and in particular on the role of school councils. The shift from highly centralized system of governance in education towards a decentralized one, providing empowerment but also more responsibilities to the bodies at the school level, has been taking place. However, there is still a gap between the theory and practice – between the legal framework in most countries and the actual implementation of the decentralized system. There are still some centralized “safety” valves in the system that often prevent stakeholders to fully exercise their mandate in line with their needs. The school governance is often very formal, with the school principal as the central figure in the governance system, balancing between central authorities (who in most cases approve his appointment) and the stakeholders in their school governing body. This is in particular important when inputs and needs of students, teachers and parents are taken into account.

The education systems are one of the most conservative systems, where (slow) evolution is more likely to happen than revolutionary changes. Changes are therefore slow and take time. However, one of the most important issues that contributes to more transparency and really influences development of quality on the school level is the empowerment of stakeholders on the school level. This seems to be the critical element for changes to take place. The role of students, teachers and parents in the school council is an important lever for enhancing the quality of school. Members of the school council have their responsibility not only for the legal aspects of the school operation but for the overall quality and development of education at the school level. They also represent different stakeholders with their own needs and give a different perspective to school management. They are partners in the processes and should be aware of their role, not just as individuals in the school council but as representatives of their “election basis”.

The paper will present examples from different countries and discuss how to empower the members of the school council.

Sergij Gabrscek has been working in education for more than twenty-five years in a number of projects in different countries in the Western Balkans, Middle East, West and East Africa, Central Asia and NIS, working with national and international organisations. His work involved all levels of education in the areas of curriculum development, assessment and examinations, teacher’ professional development, quality assurance, monitoring and evaluation, non-formal and informal leaning and qualifications frameworks. His present position is Director of R&D Unit, CPZ-International Centre for Knowledge Promotion, Slovenia, leading national and international research and development projects.