This paper examines the quality of the policy intent with respect to the school-based management system in Burkina Faso. It discusses the difference between policy intent and policy implementation; focusing on the functionality of school councils and their synergies with decentralization and assessment policies to achieve better learning results. A new policy diagnostic tool, developed and revised by the World Bank and its partners including JICA was adapted to the context of Burkina Faso. This tool is based on international evidence of good practice collected under the System Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) program, relating to the policy domain of School Autonomy and Accountability (SAA). First, for the quality of policy intent, those policies that concentrate on the roles of school councils are assessed as advanced, and as emerging directions on school autonomy through decentralization to communes of operational budget management and teacher deployment, while policies on standardized student assessments are said to be advanced on their frequency of use. Differences among stakeholders in the degree of policy implementation were found using survey data collected in 2013 from various level actors, including rural school directors, school councils, and local administrations. Regarding school councils, called COGES (Comités de Gestion des Etablissements Scolaires), these differences are on whether such councils exist and on how functional they are. The degree of functionality, as measured by community and parental voluntary contributions to schools, is significantly associated with variables relating to implementation of procedures in COGES, such as organizing a general assembly and the Federation of COGES, while controlling for other community contexts. The level of functionality of COGES significantly explains the observed differences in the quality of education services and learning achievements in Burkina Faso. Moreover, the use of student assessments is also positively related to learning achievement. The indicator representing the common views of stakeholders on decentralization also shows a significantly positive association with the functionality of the COGES system, and the availability of supplementary lessons. These findings suggest that strengthening policy implementation within participatory COGES, along with decentralization and the use of assessment tools, is important for better learning results.
Keywords: SABER, a systems approach, benchmarking, SBM (school-based management), COGES (school councils), community participation, accountability, assessment, decentralization, primary education, Burkina Faso, World Bank