Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Participatory decision making in Sri Lankan schools: An analysis of stakeholder perceptions

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posted on 2024-03-01, 01:05 authored by Chethana Wickramasinghe Malepathirana

This research investigates the state of participatory decision making (PDM) in Sri Lankan schools and explores the factors influencing its implementation. Despite the government's efforts to decentralize educational management and promote stakeholder participation in schools, previous studies suggest that the desired level of engagement has not been achieved. The existing literature highlights the lack of comprehensive research on PDM practices in Sri Lankan schools, indicating the need for further exploration. Adopting an interpretivist qualitative research approach, this study examines how school stakeholders engage in PDM, their understanding of PDM, factors influencing school-based PDM, and stakeholder expectations related to PDM in Sri Lanka. A survey was administered to sixty-two participants in six public schools, followed by an in-depth study including individual and focus group interviews with principals, teachers, parents, and past pupil representatives from school governing committees in three public schools located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Findings revealed limited stakeholder understanding, particularly among parents and past pupils, about their role and power as school stakeholders. Principals and teachers perceived their participation as influential, while parents and past pupils were relegated to consultative roles. Parents and past pupils demonstrated contentment with the status quo, placing trust in the expertise of principals and teachers. Incongruences between structural demands for school-based PDM and individual, power-related, political, and cultural factors within schools emerged as significant influences contributing to the observed levels of PDM understanding and implementation. Each school presented unique challenges, dilemmas, and coping mechanisms in implementing school-based PDM.

The study concludes that the above incongruences hinder effective PDM implementation in Sri Lankan schools. It emphasizes the necessity of addressing the misalignment between structural requirements and individual, power-related, political, and cultural dynamics. Recommendations include bridging stakeholder understanding gaps, fostering equitable stakeholder engagement, and creating an enabling environment that supports inclusive decision-making processes. This research contributes to the academic discourse on PDM in Sri Lankan schools, shedding light on the complexities and challenges faced. It calls for a critical examination of existing policies and practices to promote more meaningful stakeholder involvement, and facilitate effective decision-making processes in the Sri Lankan educational context.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Education

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

160204 Management, resources and leadership

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

3 Applied research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Education


Service, Brenda