Three new studies on educational decentralization

˙ PREAL Blog

We are pleased to share three recent publications (with full-text links) related to decentralization and school-based management (SBM) policies, and their effects on learning outcomes in the developing world.

The first is titled “Additional Resources versus Organizational Changes in Education: Experimental Evidence from Kenya,” by Esther Duflo, Pascaline Dupas, and Michael Kremer. Based on randomized experiments in Kenyan schools, the paper concludes that reducing pupil-teacher ratios (in the absence of other reforms) leads to reduced teacher effort and has  little or no impact on student outcomes. In contrast, management reforms such as using non-tenured “contract teachers” or increasing parental participation through trained school committees can significantly improve test scores.

The second paper, by Lant Pritchett and Martina Viarengo, is titled “The Illusion of Equality: The Educational Consequences of Blinding Weak States.” Using PISA and other test data from India and Pakistan, the authors conclude that “when government implementation capacity is weak, centralized control could lead to only the illusion of equality, in which central control of education with weak internal or external accountability actually allows for much greater inequalities across schools than entirely ‘uncontrolled’ local schools.”

The third is a book from the World Bank, titled Decentralized Decision-Making in Schools: The Theory and Evidence of School-Based Managementby Felipe Barrera-Osorio, Tazeen Fasih, Harry Patrinos and Lucrecia Santibáñez. It puts forth a conceptual framework for rigorously analyzing SBM programs, and provides an overview of available information from studies of SBM programs around the developing world, including Latin America. This book is a useful complement to the Bank’s 2006 Working Paper, “A Comparative Analysis of School-Based Management in Central America,” by Emanuela Di Gropello.

Each of these documents offers useful insights regarding centralized vs. decentralized control of school systems, along with effective ways to involve local actors and to increase student achievement.