Many initiatives were taken by the central government of India and the state governments respectively to improve the accessibility and quality of school education in India. The Government of Karnataka has taken a ground-breaking step to make school education more participatory with the involvement of parents in the school’s decisions. The government established School Development and Monitoring Committees (SDMC) to ensure community participation in the education of their children. The SDMCs under the Karnataka Panchayati Raj Act of 1993 have been operational since 2006. The law mandates that each school should constitute SDMC.
The field site, Nangali Gram Panchayat constitutes of eight villages. The schools in all the eight villages have SDMC setup. We interviewed the teachers, headmasters and in some schools the parent members of the committee regarding the functioning and need of such a committee. The teachers responded that they have formulated SDMC keeping in mind the guidelines specified in the Act. Most of the school headmasters were generous enough to show us the minutes of the meetings that they have conducted over the last few months. The law mandates that the meetings of SDMC should be held atleast once in a month. But in most of the schools (75%) that we visited, the meetings were held once in three or four months. The data (on papers) shows that the committees are formed, however in practice/on ground, we discovered that the committees are formed but the meeting were not conducted atleast once after the commencement or orientation meeting. When asked about the problems they are facing in functioning of the committee, the teachers said that the parents do not turn up for the meetings and hence if there is no quorum, the meeting gets either postponed or cancelled.
We found that approximately in 60% of the schools, the members of the committee were not aware of their duties and responsibilities. The teachers and the headmasters were hesitant to introduce the parents to us. What surprised was the fact that in some schools, some members were not aware that they are the members of a committee. Most of the parents are part of these committees just for the sake. The parents of most of the students work as daily laborers and it is very difficult for them to leave work and come for the meetings. They say if they do not work and attend the meeting then their children will have to starve for a meal. Their only source of income is their daily wage and they cannot compromise on it. The schools where parents are not participating are facing extreme danger of polluted water, shortage of books and uniforms, leaking roofs etc.
In contrast, The two schools we visited has committee that is constituted and functioning regularly. The result of such participation is seen from outside the school itself. The schools have pukka (concrete) buildings, toilet facilities, water tap connection etc. The parents are participate efficiently, meet regularly and decide on the issues that the school is facing and take it to the higher authorities. The parents also monitor the attendance of the teachers which results in the improvement of learning outcomes of the students.
We believe that there is need for community participation and monitoring mechanisms for the better functioning of the schools and SDMC is a great platform to fulfill this. Having said this, our experience with the eight schools in Nangali Gram Panchayat is that there is lack of capacity building training amongst the members of the committee. If there is proper training, awareness workshops, and some incentive for parents to participate in the school planning then SDMCs can achieve the goal with which they have been instituted.
 The Law is, ‘ The Karnataka Gram Panchayat’s (School Development and Monitoring Committees) (Model) Bye-Laws, 2006’