Accountability for Education

ARC’s work on accountability for education recognizes that progressive civic actors play a key role in setting policy agendas that are inclusive and equitable, and in holding governments accountable for resourcing and implementing their education policy commitments.


Civil society and social movements have played an outsized role in advancing the goal of Education For All, but there has been little analysis of what they have achieved or how. Recent social accountability efforts to address the global learning crisis have focused on critical scrutiny and monitoring of teachers and student performance, rather than focusing on the broader structural problems facing public education systems, which include chronic under-resourcing, lack of investment, and policy incoherence.

ARC’s work on education aims to help fill this gap through action-oriented research with partners in global and national education policy and practice. In a context of closing civic space, this work is crucial in convincing governments and policymakers to bolster support for social movements, NGOs, civic coalitions, and teacher unions, strengthening their advocacy for fairer and more effective education policies. Civil society actors can also learn from each other and showcase their own strategies and achievements, through better documentation and analysis of their role in education policy and practice.


Children waiting in line in a school in Sierra Leone.

Credit: GPE/Stephan Bachenheimer (CC 2.0 licence)

Accountability for Education: the Role of Civil Society in National Policy

ARC is a global learning partner for Education Out Loud (EOL), the civil society funding program of the Global Partnership for Education and the biggest fund for education advocacy in the world. During 2023, our role as EOL global learning partner is to generate evidence of the role of civil society in advocating for equitable, inclusive, and properly-resourced national education policy, and holding governments accountable for its implementation. We are also supporting the exchange of experience and knowledge between civil society actors, creating space for them to reflect on their own strategies.

This action research project is designed to be co-constructed by civil society stakeholders at the forefront of education advocacy and activism, so that it answers their questions and generates the learning that they need and want. Led by ARC’s Abrehet Gebremedhin and Naomi Hossain, working with Joy Aceron and Felipe Hevia, the project aims to learn from and with civic actors in the education sector. This includes reviewing the literature, analyzing civil society strategies, and convening experts and activists to shape the research questions and approach.

Joy Aceron’s contribution is informed by her leadership of G-Watch and her advisory role with Multiply-Ed, a youth-led multi-level accountability coalition for education in the Philippines informed by vertical integration, particularly the Textbook Count initiative. Felipe Hevia’s contribution is informed by his leadership of Medición Independiente de Aprendizajes (MIA, Independent Learning Measurement), and his participation in the People’s Action Learning Network.

ARC Publications on Education

Educational accountability or social accountability in education?

As a concept and an approach, ‘accountability’ has a mixed reputation in the education policy world. Some policymakers and policy entrepreneurs believe in the need to hold schools and teachers accountable for educational outcomes through standardized assessment, which they believe will motivate improvement. But this kind of educational accountability can ignore the fact that many actors are involved in making sure children learn in schools. A broader approach to social accountability for education involves generating better and broader criteria for evaluating education policy; identifying responsibilities for education and the sources of inequality in systems; and involving citizens more substantively in the policy process. A 2019 ARC Working Paper explores these issues and tensions.

Educational Accountability or Social Accountability in Education? Similarities, Tensions, and Differences (Felipe J. Hevia and Samana Vergara-Lope, 2019)

¿Accountability Educativo o Accountability Social en educación? Semejanzas, tensiones y diferencias (Felipe J. Hevia and Samana Vergara-Lope, 2019)


Sandwich strategies in the education sector

Champions of education reform have reached for ‘sandwich strategies’ – interactive processes in which reformers in government take tangible measures that reduce the risks and costs of citizen action from below. This can drive virtuous circles of mutual empowerment between pro-accountability actors in state and society, and sometimes lead to governance reforms and long-term change. ARC’s broad project on sandwich strategies includes three case studies focused on education.

Opening from Above Meets Mobilization from Below in Monitoring the Ogun State Home-Grown School Feeding Program (Oladeji Olaore, 2022)

The Home Grown School Feeding Program in Ogun state was part of the national Social Investment Programme in Nigeria, launched in 2016 to follow up on the campaign promises of the recently-elected President. The Ogun state government, encouraged by the MacArthur Foundation, enabled a coalition of four CSOs to monitor the operations of an in-school, locally sourced free school meal program operations in 140 schools in 11 of the state’s 20 local government areas.

‘Constructive Accountability’: Sandwich Strategy for Textbook Delivery in the Philippines (Joy Aceron, 2022)

Textbook Count was a partnership between senior officials in the Philippines Department of Education and national CSOs, with donor support. Going beyond a 2003 law that mandated a CSO observer role in procurement, the goal was to prevent corruption and increase efficiency in the purchasing, production, and distribution of textbooks by enabling CSOs to monitor each link in the entire supply chain.

Collaboration and Contestation: State Actors and MST Activists Reforming Rural Education (Rebecca Tarlau, 2022)

The Landless Workers Movement (MST) in Brazil is known around the world for its success redistributing land. Less well known is the movement’s struggle for the right to free, rural-oriented education for all living in agrarian reform settlements. The MST’s struggle over education policy in areas of agrarian reform has been a fight for both access and control. The MST has been able to participate in the co-governance of a parallel rural education system at both the federal level and in within some states.

Complaints systems and social audits in education

ARC’s growing body of work on participatory oversight institutions looks across many public services – including education. A review of the literature on citizen participation in complaints systems and social audits includes evidence on education, and a blog focuses in on complaints systems in education, concluding that they “are not only a matter of technical design and information flows but also about power relations. Citizens should be empowered to make complaints regarding public agents, and those agents should, in turn, be empowered to respond appropriately.”

Grievance Redress Mechanisms in the Public Sector:  A Literature Review (Suchi Pande and Naomi Hossain, 2022)

Towards Effective and Inclusive Grievance Redress Mechanisms in Education Systems (Suchi Pande, 2022)

Evaluating Education Out Loud

Abrehet Gebremedhin has conducted two independent evaluations of Education Out Loud, informing the future implementation and design of the program.

Mid-Term Review of Education Out Loud (Cowan Coventry and Abrehet Gebremedhin, 2022)

Examen à mi-parcours du programme Éducation à voix haute (Cowan Coventry et Abrehet Gebremedhin, 2022)

Rapid Review of Education Out Loud’s Operational Component 1 (Abrehet Gebremedhin, 2021)

Revisión rápida del Componente Operativo 1 de Educación en Voz Alta (Abrehet Gebremedhin, 2021)