How do members of different stakeholder groups balance concerns for increasing access with improving quality in the Tanzania education system?
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The purpose of this study was to explore how education stakeholders in Tanzania express and balance their priorities, perspectives, and concerns regarding the expansion of education access on the one hand, and improving quality of education on the other, as a means to enhance educational achievement. The study also explores how each group of education stakeholders (i.e. policy makers, teachers, parents and activists) perceives its respective role in the educational policy process within the context of contemporary policy engagement and influence. Numerous studies attribute quality of education as an inclusive term that contains access, inputs, process and output or outcome of education. Others regard access and input of education as separate but equally important concepts of quality of education. For the latter, quality of education includes process and outcome of education but excludes access and inputs of education. They, however, understand these quantitative aspects as important components of education achievement. Through the use of both quantitative and qualitative data this study contributes to, and provides new insights into the ongoing debate on the access and quality of education concepts. The study was conducted in Tanzania between November 2011 and March 2012. The total number of questionnaires collected was 271 (143 female and 128 male) from 15 districts of Tanzania mainland. Similarly, the total of 27 education stakeholders (13 female and 14 male) in five districts across Tanzania were interviewed. The study found out that while activists based their concerns more on the outcome of education, the other groups of stakeholders - teachers, parents and policy makers - balanced their concerns more on access, inputs and process of education. Despite the differences in their priorities, all groups, however, understand that all aspects of education achievements, namely, access, inputs, process and outcome are important for education achievement. The study further informs that education reform is the policy agenda, which needs all stakeholders' engagement. The measurements of access, inputs, process and outcome are effective only when they are addressed holistically within the contemporary policy framework. Meaningful and broader participation of all stakeholders ensures transparency and efficient use of financial and human resources and that should translate into higher performance and achievement in the overall education sector.