Philippines: Check-My-School: Monitoring Made Easy with Dedicated Volunteers and ICT Tools

February 6, 2013

  • The quality of education in the public sector often suffers due to poor services like lack of classrooms, textbooks and toilets
  • A project called Check My School uses mobile and Internet technology to help the community monitor services
  • Supported by the World Bank Institute and the Open Society Institute, the project reports both accomplishments and lessons learned

"I think the priorities that need to be addressed in a school, in order for our children to have quality education are giving more attention to toilets, classrooms and textbooks." In this particular order, these are the main concerns for 48-year old Emma de Mesa, parent and volunteer for Check my School.

Making the rounds one afternoon in Epifanio delos Santos Elementary School in the city of Manila, Emma checks in with the school principal, who proudly shows off a newly-renovated toilet on the ground floor. Just months ago, Emma discovered the lack of working toilets in the school. She has since coordinated with the principal on the status of repairs via short message service or SMS.

Though her own two children are now grown up, Emma actively visits schools assigned to her within Metro Manila, as part of the community monitoring project of public schools that combines on-the-ground visits and the use of information and communication technology (ICT).

"This is to ensure that children, our children, will become more comfortable, and they will be able to concentrate more in their studies," Emma explains on the importance of having clean and working toilets in school.

The project hopes to promote transparency and social accountability in the Philippine education sector by tracking the provision of services in public schools. This is done by community groups who verify on the ground, data released by the Department of Education or DepEd. The practice has helped to identify and resolve problems more efficiently.

Barely a year since the project began, the governments of Indonesia, Kenya and Moldova are already looking to adapt Check My School in their countries. The project is seen to complement the efforts of these countries, which have released information under the Open Government Data Initiatives.

" I think the priorities that need to be addressed in a school, in order for our children to have quality education are giving more attention to toilets, classrooms and textbooks. "

Emma de Mesa

Parent Volunteer, Check My School

According to a new World Bank Institute study, among the lessons learned from its pilot year of implementation include:

• The ‘constructive engagement’ between the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific (ANSA-EAP) and the Philippine’s Department of Education (DepEd) encouraged government to share its data on public schools with ANSA-EAP, and even help build relations with schools.
• The Check My School project complements the Philippine government’s own efforts in encouraging school administrators to involve community organizations and parents in school affairs.
• The project’s innovative approach in experimenting with different ICT tools, including the use of its official website--checkmymyschool.org--and social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter shows promise for effective monitoring.
• Working with institutions such as the Ateneo School of Government and its own partners allowed the project to tap into local networks of civil society organizations, youth groups, and socially-active individuals.
• The mobilization of networks of committed volunteers, complemented by leadership and skills-training empowered volunteers to conduct validation activities.

Looking at Emma’s dedication in ensuring that public school children are not only getting quality education but are learning in a conducive environment, it’s easy to see that perhaps this could be the most important lesson from which governments can draw.