Improving accountability in education: The importance of structured democratic voice

William C. Smith, Aaron Benavot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Accountability, a cornerstone of contemporary education policy, is increasingly characterized by external monitoring and an emphasis on outcomes or results. Largely absent in discussions of accountability are the voices of stakeholders who work, learn, and teach in schools and other educational institutions. This article highlights the critical importance of structured democratic voice. This process involves enabling diverse education stakeholders to make use of organized opportunities to articulate their views, especially in discussions of planning and evaluation, in ways that their concerns are heard and valued. Using illustrative examples at the regional, national, and local level, this article discusses how structured democratic voice can help re-imagine approaches to accountability while strengthening the enabling environment, increasing trust in the system, and improving policy ownership. Notwithstanding the challenges of building local capacity and sustaining political commitment, this article highlights the important consequences of implementing a process of structured democratic voice: in particular, sustaining educational reforms over time and meeting ambitious collective goals in education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)193-205
JournalAsia Pacific Education Review
Issue number2
Early online date27 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2019


  • accountability
  • structured democratic voice
  • trust
  • education reform
  • enabling environment
  • participatory governance


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