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Collaboration or Compliance: A multiple case study approach exploring teachers' perspectives on interactions with parents within the framework of social accountability in rural Sitapur, India



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Efforts to improve learning outcomes in developing countries have led to a growing interest in increasing the capability of citizens, including parents, to directly hold teachers accountable and make them responsive to their needs for better quality education (World Bank, 2004; Joshi, 2014; Ringold et al., 2012). This concept, also known as social accountability, refers to the extent and capability of citizens to hold service providers accountable and make them responsive to their needs (Fox, 2015; Joshi & Houtzager, 2012; Malena et al., 2004). While initiatives focused on social accountability in health and education sector have proliferated in recent years, the focus has mainly been on empowering citizens and building their capacities to demand accountability, encouraging them to actively participate in dialogue with the service providers, and measuring its impact on final outcomes such as improved service delivery (Joshi & Houtzager, 2012; Fox, 2015; Joshi, 2013). However, an important aspect of this model that has received less attention is the interface between citizens and service providers. Within education sector, this implies that the relationship between teachers and parents significantly influences the connections established between the two parties and the potential for meaningful discussions about children’s learning (Dyer, Jacob, et al., 2022). Understanding this relationship is crucial as it also impacts the responsiveness of teachers to parents, thereby enhancing our comprehension of the mechanisms that contribute to the success of social accountability initiatives. When teachers and parents have a collaborative relationship characterised by dialogue, open communication and willingness to work together, teachers are more likely to be receptive to the concerns and demands of parents. Such a collaborative relationship enables teachers to better understand and appreciate parents’ perspectives, which can lead to a greater level of responsiveness. However, when the relationship between teachers and parents is strained or lacks collaboration, teachers may be less responsive to the demands of parents, even if they are legitimate.

This thesis aims to expand on the mechanism to achieve success in social accountability initiatives by exploring the relationship between teachers and parents from the perspective of teachers in rural Sitapur, India. By examining teachers' perspectives on their interactions with parents, the thesis sheds light on the nature of their relationship with parents, which has anticipated effects on teachers’ responsiveness towards the parents and implications for the development of an accountable education system. Using Joshi’s (2014) framework of social accountability, the thesis addresses the overarching question: What can we understand about the teacher-parent relationship through government primary school teachers' perspectives on interactions with parents in rural Sitapur, India? To address this question, the thesis adopts a multiple case study approach, drawing on semi-structured interviews with 17 primary school teachers (including head teachers, regular teachers, and para teachers), teacher survey data and two observations. It examines teachers’ perspectives on the opportunities they have to interact with the parents, their willingness to engage in these interactions and what their experiences within these interactions convey about the relationship forged with parents. Spread across six government primary schools, these teachers were purposively sampled based on their initial willingness to be involved in a larger evaluation study that aimed evaluate whether schools’ accountability for learning can be strengthened from the grassroots by bringing schools and communities together to improve children’s learning in rural Sitapur, India (Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, 2018).

The findings from the thesis show that despite the presence of opportunities within and outside school mandates for teachers to interact with parents, there is a lack of collaboration and reciprocity between teachers and parents. Teachers’ perspectives on the formal interactions with parents exhibit a compliance driven mindset, where the focus is on parental presence over participation in official meetings. These interactions are characterised by one-way information flows and an absence of dialogue between teachers and parents. Moreover, negative experiences in the past, lack of being able to realise the expected benefits from interactions have resulted in teachers categorising parental interactions as a low-priority task and assigning only functional roles to parents that do not seek dialogue or collaboration. This diminishes the likelihood of teachers responding to parents’ demands or concerns. The findings highlight that the lack of connectedness between teachers and parents does not stem from a lack of willingness on the part of teachers, but rather from a lack of understanding of the requirements for building a reciprocal relationship with parents. Teachers seemed to be unaware that the interactions with parents are not conducive to collaboration.

The main contributions of this thesis are twofold. First, it critically examines the prevailing models of social accountability that focuses primarily on empowering citizens. It emphasises the pivotal role of the teacher-parent relationship in influencing teachers' responsiveness to parental demands and providing a platform for parental expression. By recognising the significance of this relationship, the findings emphasise the need to understand the micro context and unpack the causal chain within the social accountability mechanism (Joshi, 2014). Second, the thesis adds to the limited evidence in the existing literature around social accountability in education. It emphasises the importance of interactions in helping build a collaborative relationship between teachers and parents within these initiatives. While previous studies have acknowledged the significance of creating spaces within social accountability mechanisms, the immediate relationship between teachers and parents has been understudied. Understanding this relationship underscores the need to create an enabling environment for social accountability initiatives and recognizes the specific dynamics between teachers and parents (Fox, 2015, Grandvoinnet et al., 2015). Overall, the thesis enhances our understanding of mechanisms within social accountability by examining the perspectives of teachers in rural Sitapur, India, regarding their interactions with parents and the resulting relationship between the two.





Rose, Pauline


Education accountability, Global South, Parent teacher collaboration, Social accountability, Teacher Discourse


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
Economic and Social Research Council (2489789)