Stakeholder Engagement in Education
Who are stakeholders and what role do they play in policy decisions?
A stakeholder is a person, group, or organization involved in or affected by a course of action and has an interest or a role to play in the decision making process. Public sector stakeholders can include politicians, government bureaucrats and technocrats from various sectors (e.g., health, education, finance, local government) and public sector staff who implement programs. Stakeholders from the nongovernmental sector can include representatives from civil society organizations, support groups or from faith-based organizations, or individual beneficiaries. They can be researchers, academicians, analysts or media personalities. Institutions outside the government play a role in policymaking by acting as advocates for policy change by providing data for decision making, and by providing funding for policy research, policy dialogue and formulation, and implementation.
Stakeholder analysis is an extremely useful technique for identifying, understanding, and prioritizing stakeholders. This is a process of systematically gathering and analyzing qualitative information to determine whose interests should be taken into account when developing and/or implementing a policy or program. This allows policymakers and managers to interact more effectively with key stakeholders to increase support, detect and act to prevent potential misunderstandings, develop action plans; and to guide a participatory, consensus-building process.
Stakeholders in education can be characterized as :
- Learners as Stakeholders : children, students, young people
- Family Stakeholders : Parents, guardians, grandparents, other extended family like aunts, uncles and cousins etc.
- School Stakeholders : Educators, facilitators, counselors, administrative staff, custodians, cooks, bus drivers, resource officers etc.
- Community Stakeholders : local organizations, businesses, industries, faith-based institutions, NGO’s, politicians, bureaucrats, political parties, multilateral organisations, civil society organisations etc.
Stakeholder engagement is crucial to ensure that the ideas and concerns of all relevant stakeholders are well represented through a collaborative and transparent decision making process. In education, the issues may be national or even global in scale but their relevance and impact varies widely from community to community therefore, challenges in the education system can be effectively dealt with at a local level. Reliable stakeholder engagement process is thus essential to discover priorities and cultivate appropriate solutions. Successful collaboration between all stakeholders means deep listening as well as active doing. Open, transparent dialogue results in all parties feeling seen, heard and valued which ensures; better insight into stakeholders’ views and opinions, the ability to make big decisions more quickly and at reduced cost, stronger likelihood of positive outcome thanks to access to various perspectives and broader awareness of the decision made.
Learners are key stakeholders in education and deserve a seat at the decision making table. Although the learner’s primary role is that of a recipient, they should be encouraged to exercise their decision-making role in the education process. More often than not, decisions are made for students without their participation or consent. Various individual students and student organisations are working towards voicing their opinions however, the aim of student engagement should be to involve countless new ideas and perspectives encompassing socioeconomic, racial and geographical diversity.
Parental involvement in a child’s learning remains among the key factors contributing to a child’s success in school and life. Parental engagement and collaboration with other stakeholders can be associated with better learning outcomes, low dropout rates and greater educational aspirations. Empowering parents and guardians also contributes to cognitive and social development and a stimulating home learning environment for all families, and for disadvantaged families in particular.
The empowerment of teachers will facilitate the empowerment of students. Providing teachers with a significant role in decision making, control over their work environment can empower them to take up a crucial role of an instructor, mentor, supervisor, counselor, and community leader. The administrative staff also plays a key role in initiating, framing and encouraging all other groups of stakeholders to play their part.
Community involvement brings diverse and complementary perspectives in understanding barriers to learning beyond those in the immediate school environment, for example, by improving housing conditions, supporting parents, improving access to healthcare and other services, and making a wide range of extra-curricular opportunities available. The multi-faceted needs of the learners have to be the centre of any form of collaboration to take a holistic approach.
Emerging opportunities for Stakeholders in India under NEP (2020)
The National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 aims to transform the education system and bridge the gap between current learning outcomes and those desired. Recognizing the need to keep up with a rapidly changing world and knowledge landscape, the NEP 2020 focuses on the holistic development of students by ensuring access, relevance, equity, quality and strong foundational learning. The new policy has numerous takeaways for education sector stakeholders.
- Students or beneficiaries: NEP (2020) offers more flexibility and choices for students. Increased focus on skill (cognitive, emotional) and competency development, multiple opportunities and flexibility across course choices, and hands-on practical exposure through internships, research opportunities etc., allows students to achieve considerable success and empowerment and aid in their transformation into a generation of activated, aware and empathetic young people and adults.
- Central and State Governments : Central government can ensure efficient management of the policy initiatives in terms of regular consultation with state governments and constituting new bodies to supervise implementation. State Governments can focus on developing a framework tailored to local needs for institutional restructuring and consolidation with clear 5, 10 and 15-year targets.
- Educational Institutions : Under NEP (2020), schools have the autonomy and flexibility to adopt student-friendly curriculum and pedagogical methods. They have the opportunity to develop activity-based and experiential-learning pedagogy which will require upgradation of both physical and digital infrastructure to provide learners the space and resources required. Higher education institutions can aim at expansion and increasing enrolments in terms of ODL and online programmes and branch campuses in other countries.
- Teachers : The introduction of professional standards for teachers will clearly define roles and responsibilities of teachers, and allow them to undertake necessary preservice training, monitor and enhance their own capabilities and competencies. With clearly defined roles, there will be reduction in time spent on non-academic tasks, and increase in time spent on core academics and teaching.
- Other Stakeholders :
- Vocational training providers can collaborate to develop credit-based, continuous learning focussed, employment-oriented courses aligning with market needs at affordable prices.
- Education Technology players have an opportunity to collaborate with schools and higher educational institutions to provide vocational degree or certificate programmes online.
- Architects can design infrastructure conducive to an effective learning environment .
- Book Publishers can enhance inclusivity by developing textbooks and learning material in local languages.
- Fintech and Analytics industries can develop technology solutions for monitoring academic and administrative aspects, and offer various scholarship opportunities to students.
- Civil Society Organisations and NGOs can carry out efficient advocacy programmes and create channels to spread awareness and voice their opinions.