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Everyone plans. Ranging from individual to the government, each produces its own form of plans. The only difference however is the mode of planning, which could be different from government to government and individual to individual. The centralized form of government plans and executes most of its activities through top-down approach while the decentralized form of government does it the opposite way. Similarly, an individual plans its activities either mentally or writing manually on a piece of paper. All these statements state that plan exists everywhere.
Educational planning, and I shall concentrate on this form of planning alone, is all about planning various forms of quantitative and qualitative educational reforms. It is into this context; Philip H. Coombs (1970) in his report "What is Educational Planning?" states that educational planning is "concerned not only with where to go but with how to get there and by what best routes". In doing so, educational planning should be able to help see more clearly the specific objectives in question, the various options that are available for pursuing these objectives, and the likely implications of each (Ibid). Further adding to this statement, the Working Party Report of the UNESCO (1963) mentions that education planning should not be an isolated activity; in fact it must be undertaken in the framework of comprehensive development planning and must be viewed in the target context of all the steps required for effective educational development (UNESCO, 1963 as cited in Prakash, 2008 p.2). This statement from UNESCO also underpins the importance of educational planning in the overall development of a nation.
The history of educational planning is not new; in fact it was more than 2,500 years ago the Spartans planned their education to fit their well-defined military, social and economic objectives (Coombs, 1970). Not only until 1923 AD, some 87 years ago, that the former Soviet Union structured a five-year education plan, which aimed at eradicating two-thirds illiterates during the plan period. However, in those periods the educational plans were used to be non-integrative; in the sense that educational activities were planned autonomously and that there was little or no linkages between education and other sectors. Since then, the pattern of integrative educational plans have been designed and developed in various nations. The comprehensive investment planning for education that incorporated nationwide capital planning for education is an effective example of the integrative plan that France developed in 1946 AD. However, it was not until the 1960s when educational planning became very popular in most of the countries, especially in the developing countries (UNESCO, 2003). These convictions strengthen the notion that planning in education has been seen as an extra step in eradicating various forms of deficiencies of a country, notwithstanding rich or the poor, democrats or the socialists. It is into this context I would look at the educational planning process from Communist countries like China and Democratic country like the United Kingdom and Republic of Korea and would reflect educational planning process of our nation, and in the end would suggest our position in regards to our educational planning. While talking about the United Kingdom I would only be exploring on England, not Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
In England, it is the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department for Business, Innovation and skills that look at the education sector from the central level. At a local level, the local authorities take responsibility for implementing policy for public education and state schools. The local authorities meanwhile, comprise of three layers: each layer having its own sets of responsibilities. The first one is the parish level, the second one is the district level and the third one is the county level. Besides some governmental rules and regulations, these local authorities can plan various forms of educational activities in its jurisdictions. However, in the past it was not as easy as the education planning and financing in England were done on the basis of equity. Every school, wherever it is located, got the equal educational conditions in terms of facilities, qualifications of teachers, student activities and so on. The central level used to calculate Standard Spending Assessment (SSA) using the complex formula that determined the needs of the schools in terms of numbers. They then used to determine the amount of Revenue Support Grants for each local authority by taking account of the difference between SSA and the sum of non-domestic rates and Council Tax of a given local authority. It is only after mid-1990s that the Government of England reformed the structure of educational planning in the country. In doing so, the central level authorities set many norms and standards to the schools, and at the same time provided numerous devolutionary opportunities for the local authorities to improve its educational status.
In England, there are certain areas where the central level plays a vital role in the educational planning of the country. The compulsory age of schooling is one of those areas. At present, the full-time education is compulsory for all children aged 5 to 16, which is decided by the central level in coordination with other departments. Free schooling up to certain years is another segments where the central decision matters the most but at the same time the central level provides autonomy to the local authorities to levy certain charges if it provides extra facilities like swimming, theatre visits and school trips to the students. In this regard, the local authorities have the option of planning various forms of activities in the schools without having to depend on the state for all finances. During time if schools develop it into specialist schools they get various forms of funds from the central level, which has extra motivated the schools. The number of students that schools enroll has now been directly linked to the amount of money schools receive. To counter balance the situation where schools would fraud the enrollment number, the central level authorities have given a unique ID to each student, which would be different for each student. Thus, it could be said that educational planning in England comprises of boundaries and beyond boundary is within the boundaries of central level norms and standards and sometimes even beyond the boundary that the local authorities can plan various level of educational activities. The development of schools into specialist schools is something that I have kept under the category of beyond boundary.
The National Curriculum System is another area where the central level has set a standard for schools to reach and maintain. Under this system, there are 12 compulsory subjects that schools must teach; for others schools can decide on its own. Another area is the compulsion of attendance records of teachers and students in schools. The teacher recruitment process whereby each teacher needs to agree on nationally set School Teachers' Pay and Condition Document is another area where central level authorities play a major role. Within this boundary, it is up to the local authorities to decide on its own. The Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) publishes reports of the quality of education at each school. Failing to maintain standard results to schools being placed in special measures, which may include replacing the governing body and senior staff. All these state that planning in education in England, a mixture of both devolutionary and centralized approach, after mid 1990s was the result of those reforms in education.
The reforms in educational planning in the Republic of Korea happened recently. It is into the March of 2001 AD only that the Republic of Korea allowed schools to decide how to use the money allocated by provincial authorities. Earlier, schools had little or no voice in matter related to educational financing. Schools were seen and viewed as the places where students learn and teachers teach. The responsibility for financing was borne by the provinces of education under the belief that schools don't have adequate manpower and skills to do on its own. Those provinces also set up the school budget and administered the complete process of those budgets. They never trusted the morality of school administrators too. In this regard, those old plans could not reflect the specific requirements of each school.
The reforms in education after 2001 AD has seen the Republic of Korea getting into the act of decentralization in every sector including education. Parents and teachers are getting more involved in the overall management of schools. The formation of School Council, a decision-making body of a school comprising of parents, teachers, and community leaders and a head teacher, is an example of those involvements. Similarly, the government of Republic of Korea introduced the new school-based financing system in order to increase the efficiency of school financing and guarantee the autonomy of each school in the process of planning and managing the school budget. The end result has seen provincial office of education allocate a kind of block grant except teacher salary to each school, considering the number of students, the location of school, and specific requirement of school. It has provided each school certain level of freedom in planning and managing school curriculum and budget, which could then be deliberated and monitored by School Council. All these efforts were made in order to better equip schools through decentralization and participatory planning approach.
In China, education is a state-run system. It was in 1985 AD that the national government parted its responsibilities for basic education to the local governments. In doing so, it also created a nine-year compulsory schooling for all. However, in 2001 AD the Chinese government convened a working meeting on basic education, on which various forms of decision were made on the reform and development of Basic Education. The decision pointed out clearly that a management system under the leadership of the State Council, implemented by the local governments, managed at different levels and with stress on counties would be conducted for compulsory education in the rural areas. The meeting also felt the need for making governments at the county level responsible for planning the local education, and the allocation and use of the funds and the overall management of teachers. All these activities were realized to make county dominated management as accountable as possible for the development of education. It also suggests that the Chinese Government, despite having state-run education system is trying to maximize the participation of local level actors in the development of education.
Apart from the above-mentioned reforms, the Chinese government also reformed the management system of basic education. It was done to ensure that the most needy schools get the most priority. In doing so, the Chinese government divided schools into various categories; like rich and the poor, rural and urban based schools and so on. Both the central and the local governments increased the financial transfer payment towards the poor and most needy areas, and respective local governments also paid attention to strengthen their functions in increasing investment in rural education. This type of planning was intended to deepen the internal reform of schools and at the same time enhance the capability of schools in actively adapting to the changing needs of the society.
Asides, the Chinese government took an extra step in educational planning when it introduced the non-standard education system in the country. By non-standard, it referred to network education, night school, university for workers, correspondence college, broadcasting and television school, self-study examination and training schools. This type of educational planning helped build a lifelong learning system in the country.
Nepal started the structured planning process in 1956 AD. In doing so, Nepal already formulated numerous medium-term national plans ranging a period of 3 to 5 years. The currently running Ten-Year Implementation Plan (TYIP) is an example of those medium term national plans. In addition to those medium term plans, Nepal also started to develop periodic plans that were intended to incorporate education component for the development of national level education plan. As a result, the educational issues were looked into two forms: one in the macro level and the next into the micro level. In the macro level national plan like TYIP or the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), the respective ministries develop drafts of the sectoral plans and submit it to the Nepal Planning Commission (NPC), which then incorporate it into the national plan as specific chapters. In the case of education, it is the Ministry of Education that follows this procedure. As for micro level plan, the District Development Committee (DDC) under the guidance of NPC is responsible for preparing periodic plans for their respective districts. In doing so, DDCs are required to prepare district periodic plans on a participatory basis by covering all the development sectors including education. The District Education Offices (DEOs) meanwhile provide information and technical services to the DDCs while preparing the plan. These exercises show that, on one hand we are following the time-bound planning designs and at the same time, we are also trying to embed every development sector into each other to prepare a comprehensive macro and micro level plan.
In reality, the preparation of District Education Plan (DEP) is a process through which the DEOs provide education related information and technical services to the DDCs when in time of preparing District Periodic Plans. In doing so, the DEOs follow certain procedural guidelines to identify the education related issues in the district, followed by prioritizing processes, budget allocation and monitoring mechanisms. Here, the DEO also take into account the local needs expressed in Village/Municipal Educational Plans (VEP/MEP) and also the School Improvement Plans (SIPs) and other local demands. Practically, it has been felt that there exist little or no relation at all in regards to the SIP, VEP/MEP and the DEPs. The unpublished report "Best Practices of DEP (2007)" from Dr. Pramod Bhatta also states this statement.