Increasing Participatory Governance in Education in Malawi

Malawi (Dedza district), 2017-2018, Open Society Foundations

What we achieved

Primary Education Advisors trained in inclusive school review
schools across Mchinji and Dedza are using the inclusive school review toolkit
local language radio programmes on the right to education and the National Education Standards
toolkits developed for communities, schools, and government education advisors

[The training] showed us why working together to promote the school is necessary because we have our different roles.

more respondents from marginalised groups felt they participated regularly in school management activities
more respondents said they had good knowledge of school management activities after one year
more respondents agreed they could effectively influence school management decisions
year on, school leaders in Mchinji said that these guidelines led to more inclusive school meetings and school improvement plans


To make lasting improvements in the quality of education, schools need to involve the whole community to bring about change. However, parents and community members often feel disempowered and unable to make changes to improve their school. People with disabilities, young people and the extremely poor are particularly excluded.

In order to make a sustained impact on the lives of vulnerable learners and encourage attitudinal change, education improvements need to be driven by the communities in which they are based.

People like me have rights. People like me have ideas which can assist in the improvement of schools.

Community member living with disability

Aims and objectives

Link’s Increasing Participatory Governance in Education in Malawi (IPGEM) project used existing connections to schools and communities in Dedza to explore why particular groups were marginalised from the school improvement process and work to remove the barriers to participation.

The Inclusive Community Engagement in Malawi (ICE) project used this learning to re-design the processes for school review and improvement planning, making systems more inclusive and accountable at community, school and government levels.

Rather than creating a parallel system, IPGEM widened participation within existing structures, improving accountability and transparency in school improvement.

We helped community members understand the National Education Standards and encouraged contributions to the school review process. We also ensured everyone had a voice in school improvement planning, so the priorities for school improvement reflected the views of the whole community.

The holistic approach taken for ICE saw training and resources provided to teachers, local authorities and communities to ensure every tier of the education system supported the rights of every child to learn.

As a result, schools underwent systemic, community-led improvements, community members began advocating for best practice in education, and teachers were able to better support all children in school.