April 11, 2012 – World Bank education, governance and social development specialists, and staff met on April 10, 2012 to discuss challenges faced by Cameroon’s education system and appreciate the potential of pilot initiatives aimed at addressing some of these challenges. This meeting was triggered by the recent publication of the World Bank report entitled “Governance and Management in the Education Sector in Cameroon.”
Although significant progress has been reported about Cameroon’s likelihood to reach the Millennium Development Goal of Universal Primary Education by 2015, Cameroon still has a long road ahead concerning primary education completion rate, gender disparity in enrollment rate, retention of pupils in school and regional disparities in access to school. While the Second Public Expenditure Tracking Survey (2010), reports an increase (0.3 point) in the net enrollment rate at primary level in 2001-2007, and an increase in the literacy rate by 0.8 point over the same period, “less than half of the school age population completed primary education in 2009” attests the Cameroon Economic Update, Issue No. 3. As a result of this reality, “a large proportion of youth leaves school without mastering basic skills such as literacy and numeracy” and are consequently unable to adapt to changing job requirements.
The newly published report by the World Bank throws light on potential causes behind this reality. It posits that “the significant differences in education outcomes among regions and the overall poor performances of the education systems [in Cameroon] can be partly linked to two main concerns: the inefficient management of the education system and the lack of accountability regarding resource allocation”.
The main findings of the study suggest that accountability for school functioning and performance is weak and the monitoring of teachers’ performance in the classroom fractured and ineffective. In addition, resource allocation (human and material – ‘Minimum package’) in schools are arbitrary and not a function of realities and needs. Finally, citizens’ participation in the promotion of good governance in schools has very little impact on the overall school performance. As a consequence, the government of Cameroon, funding partners and the civil society are faced with a complex, cumbersome and inefficient system of management in the education sector, with serious effects on its performance.
These results were discussed and endorsed by stakeholders (teachers, heads of schools, provincial delegates, and Parents Teachers Associations, etc.) at two regional dialogues organized in the Far North and North West regions of Cameroon; and the action plan designed at these workshops was presented to authorities at central level, at a roundtable session in Yaoundé. According to stakeholders, priority action should be placed on improving teachers’ performance management, addressing issues relating to the good management of the “minimum package”, and reinforce community participation in the management of the school. These actions have the potential to greatly improve education outcomes and learning achievements.
INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS PILOTED TO ADDRESS CHALLENGES FACED BY EDUCATION SYSTEM IN CAMEROON
The Report Cards initiative
Despite increased resources, quality remains low in most Cameroonian schools. Among the explaining factors, low management capacity at the various levels of decision-making plays a key role. Lack of performance-based management tools as well as limited accountability at the school level are also strong impediments to improving the system functioning and to sustain quality improvement. In close collaboration with the Ministry of Basic Education, the World Bank launched in 2011 an initiative with the objective to prepare education report cards (produced at school, district and regional levels) with comparative data on context (urban/rural, road accessibility, distance to health center…), available resources (teachers, textbooks, school grants…) and performance (exam pass rates, drop-out rates, repetition rates, parity ratios…) availed to different management levels and to schools. To date the education report cards have been designed and prepared at school, district and region levels thanks to the data annually collected by the Ministry. Also, methodological guidelines have been prepared in order that the Ministry could easily update report cards every year. The two key remaining tasks are: i) the finalization of the simplified version of the school report cards tailored for communities – embedded with graphics and images and ii) the use of the school indices (context index, resources’ index and performance index, included in the school report cards) for a revision of funding formula for all primary schools in order to progress towards results-based financing.
The Budget Transparency Initiative
Cameroon scores below the regional average on several Access to Information indicators (cf. Freedom House or Global Integrity), and only scored two points on the 2010 Open Budget Index (compared to a Sub-Saharan African average of 30). Piloted in the Adamawa and North West Regions, the Budget Transparency Initiative promotes budget transparency at multiple levels – from schools and health centers to local councils, divisions, and regions. Through simplification, analysis and dissemination of budget information the initiative seeks to raise awareness and build capacity among government officials and local institutions to engage in dialogue with citizens around budgetary issues, and to encourage demand for good governance.
In the initiative’s first phase, a total of 60 primary and secondary schools, 20 Health Centers, and 12 Local Councils in both regions have opened their books to their communities and disseminated simplified budget information in public meetings. In addition, radio programs and theatre performances were used to raise awareness of the importance of transparency of government revenues and public expenditures. Furthermore, a Budget Transparency Index for Local Councils was created to compare municipalities in terms of budget transparency and encourage dialogue among mayors on how to improve access to municipal financial data.
The Development Marketplace initiative
Through its governance program, “Banking on Change: Tackling Sector and Demand-side Governance issues in Cameroon” the World Bank launched a Cameroon Development Marketplace competition in 2011, to which more than 200 civil society organizations participated. It aimed at identifying and funding innovative civil society initiatives towards strengthening community participation for better local governance of Education, Health or Forest Resources Management. Six out of 15 projects were financed in the sector of education for a total of 120,000 USD.
“These initiatives feed an interesting policy dialogue and show that change is possible,” noted Abel Bove, World Bank governance specialist. “They contribute to support ministries in charge of education to make informed decisions for good governance; make information available to the public in order to stimulate accountability and lastly, stimulate citizen’s participation in the promotion of good governance.”