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Mobilising citizens for transparency and accountability in education through Textbook Count

Date added: September 30, 2016

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A new generation of strategies for government accountability is needed, one that fully considers entrenched, institutional obstacles to change. Vertical integration of coordinated civil society policy monitoring and advocacy is one such strategy. Engaging each stage and level of public sector actions in an integrated way can locate the causes of accountability failures, show their interconnected nature, and leverage the local, national and transnational power shifts necessary to produce sustainable institutional change.

This case study summary is one of seven that reflect on civil society monitoring and advocacy initiatives in the Philippines – all of which aim to improve government accountability in different sectors – through the lens of vertical integration.

Textbook Count was a joint programme of the Department of Education and Government Watch (G-Watch), a programme of the Ateneo School of Government that implements accountability initiatives with civil society organisations (CSOs). The programme aimed to ensure that the right quantity of textbooks, with the right quality, reached public school students at the right time, following the right processes.

Acknowledged as being a successful programme, this case study summary reflects on some of processes, mechanisms, actors and activities at play at various stages and levels of Textbook Count. Because CSOs covered all the critical stages of the Department of Education’s Textbook Delivery Programme, there was a proactive effort to ensure compliance with standards of quantity, quality and processes. This prevented or minimised the kind of non-compliance with standards that led to pilferage, inefficiencies, anomalies or corruption.

Lessons for vertically integrated campaigning:

  • Textbook Count’s weakest link in terms of scope and scale, was at the provincial level, and its strongest monitoring capacity was at local and national levels; this pointed to the need for deliberate efforts to build coordination at the intermediary level, between the local and the national
  • Textbook Count served as an indirect advocacy initiative, supporting Department of Education officials who favoured enhanced participation, transparency and accountability, while providing evidence which could be used to constrain corrupt officials
  • In accounting for the results or gains of a given initiative, it pays to understand the complexity of the multi-level and multi-faceted actions that have to be undertaken, the wide variety of actors that need to be engaged, and the scope and limitations of the gains in light of the changing context in governance.

See also "Going vertical: citizen-led reform campaigns in the Philippines", with all case studies here

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