Governance in Education: Raising Performance

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Potential solutions

Raising teacher performance requires the introduction of effective incentives, means to assess or audit performance, and accountability mechanisms. How to do this in practice remains a challenge but some initiatives have shown promise. A review study by IIEP (2006) suggests that financial incentives matter but have to be accompanied by some combination of accountability mechanisms and/or non-financial incentives such as training opportunities, a good work environment, and availability of resources as discussed above.

Making regulations clear and transparent

The quality of public school teachers partly depends on the type and number of regulations that are in place (when enforced). Adoption of context-based regulations can help improve performance by addressing the specific needs of any given education system, i.e. if more attention is given to one aspect, for example, teacher education, certification, or recruitment (Table 6) over another, based on which contributes the most to inefficiencies in the sector. However, clear and transparent regulations are only a first, necessary but not sufficient step to improve teacher quality. Without appropriate incentive structures and accountability mechanisms, regulations become irrelevant. For example, India has a good track record in recruiting and hiring qualified teacher but coupled with weak incentives and virtually no accountability, teacher performance remains relatively poor (Pritchett and Murgai 2006).

Transparent recruitment and promotion systems

Teacher knowledge and awareness of how the recruitment and promotion processes work are vital to attract strong candidates. At the basic level, advertising of higher posts to teachers already in the system contributes to the perception that the hiring and promotion process is fair and transparent. Hiring and promotion by selection committees is preferable to the actions of a single administrator, and decisions of the selection body are more credible if they are open to questioning and clarification. Participation of communities and parents in the selection committee, either as voting members or simply as observers, offers transparency and fairness in the recruitment and promotion process.

Innovative hiring mechanisms and incentives for remote posts

To ensure the distribution of experienced teachers to rural and remote areas incentives for relocation must be sufficiently attractive and transfer systems transparent. Education reform in the city of Bogota, Colombia introduced a more transparent system for transferring teachers. Under the new deployment procedures, transfers were only to take place at the end of the school year, all transfer requests were centralized, and software that incorporated relevant criteria to assess school needs and teacher characteristics, was introduced in order to increase transparency (Hallak and Poisson 2007). Given the resistance of teachers it took several years before all transfers were made under the new system. A comprehensive benefits package (housing, insurance, hardship allowances, family relocation, and opportunities for continuing education and training) and/or rotations with defined service periods can also serve to make remote and rural areas more attractive (or at least more acceptable) to qualified teachers. Another, potentially complementary strategy is to hire local teachers under the presumption that people with roots in the area will be more willing to return and remain in the area. Some evidence from Punjab, Pakistan, suggests that female teachers who live in the community in which the school they work at is located have lower absentee rates (Ghuman and Lloyd 2007).

Leveraging information to improve provider performance

Collecting and managing education data accurately and in a timely fashion at all levels of the education system allows service providers, whether local government, school official, headmasters, and teachers, to be held accountable for their performance (if the relevant stakeholders have the means to impose sanctions). But incentives are needed for the agencies at all levels of the education system to record data since unless data collection and use are required and enforced, data collection tends to become erratic or even stop.

Combining monitoring with incentives

Monitoring attendance is necessary but not sufficient for discouraging teacher absenteeism. Offering financial (e.g. financial bonuses and penalties), and non-financial incentives (e.g. a good work environment or professional recognition) for regular attendance combined with accountability measures (real probability of being transferred, demoted, or otherwise disciplined) can help address persistent absences (see Box 4).

Performance pay combined with accountability

Well-designed financial incentives based on performance have the potential to improve teaching quality if teacher performance, on which rewards and penalties are based, can be measured accurately, and if combined with accountability. The major challenge is implementing such schemes on a large scale and following through on accountability. In India, performance pay for private sector teachers is associated with better student performance but this is not the case for public sector teachers (Kingdon and Teal 2002). This implies that there is some factor in the private sector that elicits a response to performance pay that does not exist in the public sector. It may be that the accountability (possibility of being fired or demoted) in the private sector makes the performance pay incentive effective, which may also allow the private sector to set wage levels below those of the public sector.

School-based teacher management

School-based teacher management can increase accountability at the primary school level by making the teacher selection process transparent and merit-based and by giving school councils authority to hire and fire teachers (and administrators). However, school-based management does not tend to work unless local school councils have the authority to hold teachers and schools accountable for their performance by rewarding or penalizing teachers according to their performance. It is a largely primary school strategy, not easily applicable at higher levels of education where parents are typically less involved (see Box 4).

Introducing standardized examinations

Standardized examinations can help raise and maintain education standards at all levels of the education system, inform resource allocation decisions, and assign accountability for student performance by comparing student performance to national and/or international standards. If a student performs poorly it can be determined whether this is due to the effort and ability of the individual student, or to poor teacher performance if the whole class performs relatively poorly (PROBE 1999; Kellaghan and Greaney 2001).

Contract teachers instead of civil servants

Over the last few years several countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, have experienced rapid rises in enrollment and given budget constraints have started hiring contract teachers who are typically paid less, receive no benefits, and have short-term contracts, rather than regular (i.e. civil servants) teachers. The evidence on the effect of contract teachers on education quality is ambiguous. In some countries (e.g. Niger, Togo, and Guinea) there seems to have been a negative effect of contract teachers on student performance, in other (e.g. Cameroon, Madagascar, and Senegal) students of contract teachers performed better than those of regular teachers (Santibañez 2008). These differences may be the result of contract teachers being hired by the public authorities in the countries where they seemingly affected student performance negatively, and by parents’ associations and local communities in countries where they were associated with better student performance thereby strengthening accountability, and also that contract teachers face incentives to perform well in order to become regular teachers.

5. Household Payments

Informal household payments stem from the lack performance fundamentals: incentives are wrong, information absent, and accountability missing (Box 1). These informal payments – illegal charges for education services or supplies meant to be provided for free or to obtain specific favors – are surprisingly widespread in education although objective evidence is limited.

Institutional performance as outlined in Figure 1 deteriorates when informal payments drive financing and delivery of education services. Indeed, the perpetuation of informal payments suggests a breakdown of public sector operations and undermines good governance, provider performance, and equal access to publicly funded and delivered services.

Weak governance structures characterized by lack of appropriate incentives, oversight, and accountability, contribute to poor performance in service delivery and create opportunity for under-the-table payments for access to services, upgraded services and, in some instances, jobs (see previous section). Service providers can charge informally when users do not know what services they are entitled to; providers have discretion over how resources are allocated; and users are willing to pay to receive better or faster services (CMS 2006; Lewis 2000).

The cost of education to households as reported in household surveys is significant even when children attend free public schools. Costs include some combination of uniforms, parent teacher association (PTAs) fees, transportation, textbooks, and general contributions (Bentaouet Kattan and Burnett 2004). These required fees can make schooling too costly for some households, effectively preventing parents from sending their children to school. Parents may in addition have to pay informal fees for a variety of services: access to school, advancement to the next grade, to pass examinations, access to library resources, or for their children to be taught the stipulated curriculum after school-hours, and so on.

What is the extent of informal payments?

There is considerable anecdotal evidence on informal payments in education but there are relatively few data considering the likely prevalence and magnitude of informal payments in many developing and transition countries. Household surveys and citizen report cards provide some useful insights.

Across five types of fees in public primary education for 79 countries: tuition, textbook, uniforms, PTA and community contributions, and school-based activity fees, one-third of all fees collected were informal (Bentaouet Kattan and Burnett 2004). In CIS countries, Burnett and Cnobloch (2003) estimate that informal payments, on average, finance half of all public education.

In household surveys the average share of users of education services who report making informal payments varies substantially within and across regions (Table 11). The largest differences are in South Asia where 25 percent of service-users in Nepal report that they made informal payments compared to 92 percent in Pakistan. In Latin America reported informal payments are least frequent in Colombia (close to 2 percent), and most common in Haiti (60 percent). Relatively fewer service-users report informal payments in Sub-Saharan Africa, from 2 percent of users in Madagascar to 20 percent in Namibia (Afrobarometer 2006; AmericasBarometer 2006; USAID Vitosha various years; and Thampi 2002). But anecdotal evidence suggests significantly higher under-the-table payments in Sub-Saharan Africa where the abolishment of user fees has led to huge class sizes and some parents have resorted to paying teachers to give their children an advantage. The notable variation in the frequency of informal payments across countries may be due to them varying in nature making cross-country and even cross-country comparisons difficult. However, without better data any conclusion is speculative only.

The household burden of informal payments can be seen in terms of their relative share of average income. This varies substantially across countries: from 4.4 percent of half monthly per capita income in Bulgaria, to 143 percent in Ghana, to an astounding 380 percent in Pakistan (Table 11). In the case of Pakistan, 92 percent of parents reported making informal payments (all types) for education, combining this with the large amounts paid, the scale of the problem is enormous and may help to explain why private primary schools have seen the fastest growth over the last decade, and this applies to girls’ schooling in particular (Lloyd, Mete, and Grant 2007). Even in countries where informal education payments are smaller in absolute terms, they can still constitute a large share of total household expenditure.

Table 11. Incidence and magnitude of informal payments for education selected countries, 2000-2006

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