Decentralization pertains to the extent of authority granted to individual schools. It manifests in three forms: deconcentration, delegation, and devolution. One prominent example of decentralization, through devolution and delegation, is School-Based Management (SBM), also known as site-based management. In this framework, schools possess the autonomy to make decisions regarding budgets and curricula, although ultimate authority remains with the central entity.
Despite School-Based Management envisioning specific schools as the focal point for educational policy changes, it acknowledges that governments will always play a role in the broader administrative and policy framework influencing daily school operations.
SBM initiatives commonly involve transferring decision-making responsibilities, particularly for school operations, to a consortium of principals, teachers, parents, and community members. The pivotal distinctions among SBM methods lie in the “who” (the party receiving decision-making authority) and the “what” (the extent of devolved autonomy).
More than 800 School-Based Management models exist in the United States alone, according to estimates.
Strengths of decentralization include the ability for decision-makers to promptly make choices without constant referral to higher levels. Subordinates, being well-versed in regional circumstances, can make informed decisions, fostering diversity in leadership approaches. Lower levels gain decision-making experience, allowing upper management more time for strategic thinking. Resource management becomes more efficient as decision-makers at each school are familiar with its unique requirements, leading to a transparent use of resources and a more inviting educational atmosphere due to community involvement.
However, decentralization poses challenges, such as the risk of losing top-level control. Strong decentralization may lead organizational units to operate independently, potentially conflicting with the broader educational system’s interests. Duplication of management functions across departments can increase costs, and lower-level management may misuse power for personal gain, contrary to educational goals. Organizational discrepancies may arise, as different divisions may not follow standardized methods, complicating coordination and control. Additionally, lower management levels might lack the necessary knowledge and skills, potentially resulting in failures in decision-making and resource management.
As there is no universally applicable system, governments should take into account various factors when establishing the optimal configuration for a country’s education system.