This paper examines the quality of policy intent and policy implementation in education policies related to school-based management (SBM) in rural Senegal. For this purpose, we adapted the World Bank diagnostic tool for the SBM system known as SABER-SAA (System Approach for Better Education Result for the policy domain of School Autonomy and Accountability), to conduct a survey of various actors in the education system of Senegal. In terms of policy intent, the results of the assessment show that Senegal is making progress on strengthening the participatory roles of school councils in school operations, and on the management of operational budgets at the municipal level. However, the field survey data show that there are differences between policy intent and implementation, and differences among stakeholders in the degree of policy implementation. In terms of the participation of school councils in school activities, we found that when school councils were active in the implementation of procedural policies, such as holding general assemblies, the amount of financial contributions to the school were larger, and there were more council inspired activities. Furthermore, the variables indicating a more active role for school councils also had a positive and statistically significant association with pass rates in the primary graduation exam. The degree of functionality of the school council was also assisted by supporting measures, such as training and monitoring visits. Other factors positively associated with increased pass rates include: a shared vision by school directors and school councils on commune responsibility towards a school, and the use of comparisons of school performance with the performance of other schools as a motivator for making improvements in the subject school. These findings suggest that strengthening the implementation of policy in the area of participatory school councils, as well as improving linkages with sub-national administrations, is important for better learning outcomes. We also recommend that better use of student assessment information by schools should be promoted in the context of rural Senegal.
Keywords: SABER, system approach, benchmarking, school-based management, school councils, community participation, accountability, assessment, decentralization, primary education, Senegal, World Bank