This realist review addresses the question: 'Under what circumstances does enhancing community accountability and empowerment improve education outcomes, particularly for the poor?' Community accountability and empowerment interventions, it has been argued, improve educational outcomes by improving the quality of educational services and the participation of students and families in education. However, there has been no agreed understanding of what is meant by ‘community accountability’ or ‘community empowerment’ in relation to education. The range of interventions which, it has been claimed, affect accountability and empowerment, is broad, and evidence of impacts has been mixed.
Sixteen studies were identified that provided evidence of impacts on student-learning outcomes, in India, Indonesia, Uganda, Kenya, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. Many of these studies also reported intermediate outcomes. An additional 14 studies were identified that identified enrolment, attendance, retention and/or year-repetition outcomes or intermediate outcomes such as reduced corruption and hence increased access to resources, improved teacher attendance, improved teaching and learning resources, improved facilities and so on.
This review contributes to existing knowledge by: identifying the categories of intervention within which community accountability and empowerment interventions fit; collating the evidence for intermediate outcomes and student-learning outcomes from the included studies; proposing and providing examples of 11 mechanisms through which community accountability and empowerment interventions may work; identifying 11 categories of contextual features (representing a total of 28 elements of context, or ‘circumstances’) that affect whether and where community-accountability and empowerment interventions work; proposing relationships between mechanisms and the elements of context most likely to affect them; and proposing a new conceptual model for the relationship between accountability and empowerment.
Westhorp, G.; Walker, B.; Rogers, P.; Overbeeke, N.; Ball, D.; Brice, G. Enhancing community accountability, empowerment and education outcomes in low and middle-income countries: A realist review. EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK (2014) 217 pp. ISBN 978-1-907345-72-2