- Checkmyschool.org allows parents, students and educators in Manila to monitor school funding and report on any issues, such as teacher truancy or misuse of funds.
- The site is an experiment in good governance and fruit of the Affiliated Networks of Social Accountability (ANSA).
- ANSA was started by WBI to strengthen and scale up social accountability efforts of grassroots organizations.
September 19, 2011―In May 2011, the principal of Alang-Alang’s elementary school in Leyte province, Philippines, was seriously concerned. Essential maintenance work after a natural disaster in her school had stopped, for reasons she feared were related to corrupt practices in the procurement of the public works. The school year was going to start in six weeks and unless the building’s roof was completed on time, 800 students from grades 1 to 4 were at risk of being left in the open.
The principal knew that the appeal process to the local authorities would take a long time so she submitted a complaint through www.checkmyschool.org, an interactive platform which provides the public with a comprehensive database on the government's education services and allows for direct feedback from citizens reflecting the immediate, needs of community stakeholders, especially school administrators, parents and students.
Within days of receiving the complaint from Alang-Alang elementary school’s principal, the Physical Facilities Division of the Department of Education investigated the matter and took the necessary action to allow the resumption of maintenance work and enable all students to start the academic year on time. Part of the Department of Educations’s commitment in the agreement on Check My School is to receive and act on verified issues and concerns reported through the website.
CheckMySchool.org and Accountability
Checkmyschool.org is an example of collaboration between government, private sector and civil society using ICT to improve service delivery that resulted from a positive working relationship between the Department of Education in Manila and the Affiliated Networks of Social Accountability (ANSA), an initiative supported by the World Bank Institute (WBI) to strengthen and scale up social accountability efforts of grassroots organizations.
The Department of Education entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with ANSA-EAP to undertake this initiative, and in partnership with Google is making use of Google Maps technology and mobile phone messaging to facilitate citizens’ monitoring of public education services in the Philippines. The slogan, “Promoting transparency and social accountability, one school at a time!” encapsulates the strategy to make the website relevant and useful to all stakeholders.
Feedback and Crowdsourcing
The information available in the site includes information on enrollment, teaching personnel, furniture, textbooks and test performance or proficiency ratings, among others. The site facilitates interaction through features that allow users to send feedback, comments, photos, videos, and additional information. Parents, students and educators can use the site to monitor the resources that the government has made available to the schools and complain when a teacher does not show up, textbooks are lacking or, as in the case of Alang-Alang, there is concern regarding misuse of public funds. Comments and complaints can be channeled through the website, email, Facebook or Twitter and even through text messages. The information is fed into the geo-referencing database by local school monitors who send in real-time data via their cell phones using SMS text messaging.
In the initial six months since its launch, checkmyschool.org has mapped 8,000 of the 44,000 public elementary and high schools in the country, and is aiming to gradually include all of them. In addition to this mapping exercise, checkmyschool.org is also establishing a network of information intermediaries (“infomediaries”), capable and technology-literate volunteers drawn from the community who play a key role in helping to engage public on service related inquires.
According to Dondon Parafina, ANSA-EAP coordinator of checkmyschool.org, it is this combination of local action and national reach that makes this instrument so powerful: “Seeing how communities from across the country are tackling similar problems, users of checkmyschool.org understand that they can also take action and demand the services that students deserve.”
This initiative, as most in the area of social accountability, would not work without the full engagement of the relevant authorities which need to be willing to provide their information to the public and be ready to see citizens monitor their performance. The Filipino government, starting from its president, has clearly signaled that it is taking this route of accountability.
Florencio Abad, secretary of the Department of Budget and Management declared, at the launch of the global Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA) in June in Manila, that, “exacting accountability through constructive engagement may be something new for many of our people, but the important elements needed to realize it are all there—their strong desire for change in government, their belief that change is now possible, and their hope that their participation in government will make a difference.”