Is the government only stakeholder interested in financial autonomy of schools?

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Within a short period of independent development, our country is recognized as a modern and competitive state trying to carry out major reforms in various areas of society, particularly in the field of education. The government is step by step consistently expanding the autonomy of secondary educational institutions in order to raise the level of competitiveness and the quality of Kazakhstani schools within the world educational space. In this sense, to compensate the huge gap in budget allocation compared to developed countries, and at the same time to raise the effectiveness of state spending on education, Kazakhstan set the provision of financial autonomy as one of the top priorities of secondary education system (MES strategic plan for 2014-2018).

Nevertheless, the issue of financial autonomy in Kazakhstani context is the controversial subject of extensive discussions not only at the state level, but also in the field of educational policy experts and in society as a whole. Even if the overall process of overhauling is going well, it is still preceded by great difficulties in financing system of education, which by the way raise the several vague questions. Did the government take into consideration the perceptions of other stakeholders (school principals, teachers and parents), do they need and are they ready to implement?

First of all, it is obvious that improving the quality of education is a strategic goal of not only Kazakhstan, but also in the educational policy of many countries. However, in my humble opinion, in Kazakhstani case the government’s expectations, as a major stakeholder, are too high.   Consequently, according to empirical study held in Kazakhstani schools, host of Head of schools stated that they are categorically not interested in the financial management (Omarbekova, 2014). The most common explanation for this choice is based on two important reasons. Firstly, according to Omarbekova (2014), school principals are not yet ready to an additional amount of work on public procurement as a compulsory part of the reform, and secondly, they associate the financial autonomy with an increase in reporting obligations to the government. Thus, due to too high expectations which imply great responsibility, the financial autonomy becomes a challenge for the school principals.

Secondly, the lack of understanding about the initiative still remains a problem. On the account of the survey conducted by Sharipbayeva and Bantugelova (2013) in 2011, the clarification was indicated as a main issue. They claim that the Head of schools in most cases did not have a clear understanding of the financial autonomy, let alone the rural schools, which had never heard of such a procedure. So, it is unclear for me, how did the government want to smoothly implement the reform, if their basic stakeholder does not know the issue well?! Therefore, I think that such a radical reform does need not only top-down instructions, but also bottom-up clarifications from the policy-makers.

In general, the realization of this reform under the strict control and a high degree of responsibility of officials can optimize not only the budgetary costs, but also may give a new impetus to the development of education. However, such kind of radical change in secondary education system should be done carefully and gradually, taking into account the perceptions of all the stakeholders. Only then, I believe, the financial autonomy can be implemented smoothly and successfully in Kazakhstani context.

References

MES. (2014). Strategic plan for 2014-2018. Retrieved from: http://www.edu.gov.kz/

Omarbekova, A. (2015). Autonomy in secondary education: Independence and accountability of secondary general education schools in Kazakhstan. Educational studies, 2, 152-172.

Sharipbaeva A., & Bantugelova N. (2013). Podushevoe finansirovanie: za i protiv.[Per capita financing: pros and cons]. Astana, KZ: Publishing center Sandzh

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4 thoughts on “Is the government only stakeholder interested in financial autonomy of schools?

  1. Superb work, Makha! (5/5) This is a great way to expand on the ideas that you wrote about in the fall. I see lots of similarities between that piece and this one, but you have taken the question of HE finance and looked at it from a new angle. I also love the blending of styles that I see going on here. You present a formal, well-reasoned argument, but you add emphasis, even incredulity, when you ask: “So, it is unclear for me, how did the government want to smoothly implement the reform, if their basic stakeholder does not know the issue well?!” This glimpse into your true feelings and opinions is exactly what we are aiming to develop this semester.

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  2. I like your post, @makha09! I agree with you in many points, especially that ensuring autonomy should be done ” carefully and gradually” and that before providing financial autonomy to institutions, the government should be clear on the competence of the stakeholders. Both arguments you present here prove that. However, I think that 16 years of independence is not a very short period, as you say, or comparatively not very short, and much should have been done by now. After all when we teach a baby to use a spoon, we give it to him/her so that the baby could learn how to feed himself.
    Another point is that transparency is a key factor in monetary transactions. Thanks to technologies they can be observed by anyone from any place, you know that. May be instead of constantly expressing discredit to school management, the government should vent more trust? What do you think?

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    1. @aigulazhigaliyeva, I’m awfully terribly sorry for my late response on your thought-provoking points you rose on my blog. As a truly Kazakh procrastinator, I only now started writing my comments, so I hope the expression as “Better late than never” works 🙂
      As for your first point, although the 25 years of Independence may not seem to a short period as I have mentioned above, but according to the experience of other developed countries the implementation of such a radical reform as financial autonomy needs even more time to carry out. In this sense, I do believe that our government shouldn’t “rush and hurry” to make things done by now.
      In terms of transparency, I think it’s too early to vent trust on school managers, as the issue of transparency is too dubious to prevent negative effects. For instance, In Russia, the realization of this initiative has led to corruption. In order to get as much as possible funds, schools often introduced non-existent students into their lists, and under these mythical figures they received a real money from the budget which constituted approximately 102 million of rubles. Therefore, in my opinion, the strict control should remain as a “must action” of the government.

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  3. Thank you for sharing interesting thoughts on another “blurry” reform. Your questions are gonna be rather rhetorical, however, who knows?! You raised actual porblem of top-down and bottom-up relationship which is common to the majority of reforms in education of KZ. I suppose this approach of providing reforms for the whole country from a small group of people in top is irrational and needs to be rethought.

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