Autonomy, participation and learning: findings from Argentine schools, and implications for decentralization

Other title(s): Autonomy, participation and learning: findings from Argentine schools, and implications for decentralization

Author(s): Eskeland, Gunnar S.; Filmer, Deon

Date: 2007

Pages: p. 103-127

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Student learning can be raised by school autonomy and parental participation through separate channels, but this paper suggests a mutually supportive effect. Increased school autonomy increases the rent that can be distributed among stakeholders at the school, while institutions for parental participation (such as a school board) empower parents to command a higher share of this surplus, for instance through student learning. Results from a sample of sixth-grade and seventh-grade Argentine students and their schools suggest that autonomy and participation raise student test scores in such a multiplicative way. For subsamples of children from poor households, children of uneducated mothers, schools with low mean family economic status, and public schools, the results are the same or stronger. The data available do not allow the potential endogeneity of autonomy and participation to be ruled out with certainty. If decentralization moves responsibility from the center toward local level governments, the results are relevant if this raises autonomy and participation in schools. More generally, the results are relevant for efforts to moving decision- making towards users and the local community. More importantly, perhaps, we illustrate the importance of checking who is empowered when higher-level strings are loosened.

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