“Fulfilling one’s responsibilities”: Accountability and service to the people in Rwanda’s education system

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This blog is written by Catherine A Honeyman, Senior Youth Workforce Specialist at World Learning and visiting Lecturer, Duke Center for International Development at Duke University. Catherine is also the author of a case study on accountability and education in Rwanda commissioned for the 2017/8 GEM Report. The blog is part of a series showing that accountability in education is shaped by a country’s history and political, social, and cultural context.

Background: Rwanda’s education system

Rwanda has been part of an impressive global record of achievements in improving access to education—and it has also been part of the worldwide struggle to ensure that children who are in school actually learn. Rwanda’s accountability practices and policies, in all their strengths and weaknesses, are a key piece in understanding this larger puzzle.


Challenges in education quality

rwanda.pngAn enthusiastic supporter of the Millennium Development Goals, Rwanda was an early achiever of universal primary education and gender equity in schooling. Yet significant challenges still remain. Why are 50% of grade 1 students, 26% of grade 2 students, and even 14% of grade 3 students reaching the end of the school year without being able to read even a single word in Kinyarwanda? On the other hand, what made it possible for the percentage of literate grade 1 and grade 2 students to increase by about 10% over the past few years?

In an immediate sense, these are questions about teacher practice and pedagogy, and perhaps about parental engagement and the availability of quality learning and teaching materials. But stepping back, we arrive at broader questions of policy, financing, formal and informal institutions, and accountability. Continue reading

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Raising billions of dollars for education in Dakar

With the curtains of the third Financing Conference of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in Dakar, Senegal now closed, it is important to remember the context in which it was organized.

2During the first half of this decade, aid to education stagnated even as overall funding increased by 24% in the middle of a financial crisis. In 2015, the international community agreed a more ambitious education agenda with additional cost implications. The Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report estimated an annual financing gap of $39 billion between 2015 and 2030 if low and lower middle income countries were to achieve universal pre-primary, primary and secondary education.

(Not) All I see is dollar signs

Aid to education remains a significant source of financing, at least in low income countries. However, aid is valuable not only because of the dollars spent but also because of the support it can provide to education systems, if effectively provided. The GPE still represents a small share, by the latest count just 12%, of total external funding to basic education. But as the leading global fund for education, it has played a constructive role in targeting aid to countries most in need, aligning with country priorities, and engaging a broad group of stakeholders in reviewing the implementation of national education plans. Continue reading

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What is at stake at the GPE Financing Conference?

The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) 3rd replenishment conference (February 1-2) aims to confirm significant increases in commitments from partner countries and donors – old and new – in order to ensure that all children and youth are in school and learning. GPE’s goal is to reach US$2 billion a year by 2020 to deliver better learning and equity outcomes for some 870 million children and adolescents in 89 countries.

The increased pledges are demanded within a particular context of aid to education trends, the changing role of GPE, and the higher stakes with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goal 4. With 387 million children not learning the basics, most of them in countries where GPE operates, it is crucial that partners scale their commitments to education up according to the GPE targets.

Aid to education has been stagnating

2The 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report showed that aid to education in 2015 was 4% below 2010 levels. It further revealed that the education share of total aid fell for six consecutive years, from 10% in 2009 to 6.9% in 2015. Comparatively, the share of aid towards the health and population sectors increased from 11.4% to 15.9% between 2004 and 2013 (only witnessing a decline in the two years after that). Likewise, the aid share received by the transport sector caught up with education during the same time.

Yet, previous estimates by the GEM Report in 2015 had showed that low and lower middle income countries faced an annual education financing gap of US$39 billion over 2015–2030 if it were to achieve universal pre-primary, primary and secondary education. In low income countries, this is equivalent to 42% of the total cost (UNESCO, 2015). Even after factoring in ambitious domestic financing increases, aid to education in low and lower middle income countries would need to increase six times relative to the 2012 levels. This estimate was largely confirmed by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity in 2016. Instead, donors have continued to place lower priority to education and, often have not directed their aid to those countries most in need. Continue reading

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Results based financing in education: is it a challenge to aid effectiveness?

coverOn the occasion of this week’s Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Financing Conference held in Dakar, Senegal, the GEM Report has released a new policy paperon results-based financing (RBF) in education, a financing modality being promoted strongly by some donors.

Donor countries are under increasing pressure to clearly demonstrate to their citizens what aid projects their taxes are funding and whether they provide good value. In many cases donors have been re-writing the aid contract, increasingly tying to the achievement of specific measurable results.

Results-based aid is intended to strengthen accountability. It can also increase awareness among developing country partner governments of the need to pay closer attention to the results ultimately sought. It can help build a culture of monitoring and evaluating results. However, the underlying assumptions of how the approach works may not borne out in practice, which could reduce aid effectiveness. Evidence on the success of results-based aid is still scarce. This calls for more debate on the advantages and disadvantages of the approach and how to adapt it before expanding it.

An increasingly popular approach to financing education

The origins of payment by results in aid may be traced back to the 2005 Paris Declaration on aid effectiveness. Many such approaches have emerged, which vary by the level of result targeted (ranging from institutional processes to learning outcomes) and the type of reward offered (ranging from the release or not of a specific amount to disbursements proportional to the level of the result achieved).

The World Bank has been a particularly strong supporter of the idea that results-based financing helps strengthen education systems and committed at the World Education Forum in 2015 to doubling results-based education lending to US$5 billion between 2015 and 2020. Other donors have also been supportive. For example, the government of the United Kingdom says that this “new form of financing that makes payments contingent on the independent verification of results … is a cross government reform priority”. Its Department for International Development (DFID) called its 2014 payment by results strategy Sharpening Incentives to Perform and promised to make it “a major part of the way DFID works in future”. The new aid reforms announced by DFID’s former Secretary Priti Patel in October 2017 included expanding the department’s use of payment by results. Continue reading

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Tajikistan: Accountability on paper versus in practice

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This blog is written by Kate Lapham, Deputy Director of the Open Society Foundations’ Education Support Program, and the author of a case study on accountability and education in Tajikistan commissioned for the 2017/8 GEM Report. The blog is part of a series showing that accountability in education is shaped by a country’s history and political, social, and cultural context.

Background: Tajikistan’s education system

Tajikistan inherited its education system from the Soviet Union. The result at independence was a highly centralized system of formal schooling with clear lines of accountability from the school to the district education department to the provincial education authorities to the Ministry of Education. The literacy rate in Tajikistan is estimated officially at 99.5%. However, it is difficult to chart the trajectory of learning achievement in the education system because there is little data available.


In Tajikistan there is pride in the accomplishments of the Soviet era. At the same time, challenges in the education sector, especially the lack of funds, are widely known. In terms of formal accountability for these shortfalls, there are detailed regulations and standards that are often impossible to implement because infrastructure has deteriorated, learning materials are not universally available, and education institutions must often make compromises to accommodate students with the resources available.

q1Running alongside, and sometimes in conflict with formal accountability, is informal accountability, which takes the forms of social norms of responsibility and reciprocity to one’s family and community. Informal accountability related to social networks is strongly felt in Tajikistan and has an impact on the way that actors within the education system negotiate between what is formally required, what communities want for their children, and what is possible to keep the school system functioning.

Who is accountable for ensuring schools are heated?

Standards related to health and hygiene are set by the central government. They require schools to be heated during the winter months and presuppose sufficient resources from the public budget. But, in reality, schools do not receive sufficient resources from municipal budgets for maintenance or fuel. Teachers often use small stoves to heat individual classrooms. The fire hazard this presents runs against the formal standards, but the alternative is suspending schooling or a freezing classroom. Schools often ask students’ families to contribute fuel for the stove – a contribution that is also not explicitly regulated. Continue reading

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Success in Dubai: Pushing ahead on SDG 4 data

By Silvia Montoya, Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and Jordan Naidoo, Director, Education 2030 Support and Coordination at UNESCO

sdg4As we unpack our bags following last week’s meeting of the Technical Cooperation Group (TCG) in Dubai, it seems a good time to unpack our thoughts on the success of the event. Over three days, representatives of countries, technical partners, donors and civil society reviewed progress in developing the indicators and estimating the resources needed to help countries implement the global and thematic monitoring frameworks for Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4).

As noted in previous blogs, the TCG has working groups that are focused on three key areas: indicator development (i.e. methodologies), capacity building, and international reporting of data by countries. The Dubai meeting was characterised by marked progress on all three areas that are critical for the measurement and monitoring of the global education goals.

Indicator development

In the first area, the TCG approved new methodologies or refinements for six indicators. As a result, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) will be able to report on 33 SDG 4 indicators in 2018.

These include global Indicator 4.3.1, the participation rate of youth and adults in formal and non-formal education and training in the previous 12 months, by sex. A well-developed methodology was already in place and now the TCG has approved new data sources to cover more countries, such as Labour Force Surveys and national household surveys, although the education programmes covered in these data collections are not always fully aligned. Continue reading

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Corporations in education: Too big to hold accountable?

Large corporations are increasingly involved in the education sector, through investments in technology, private schools and higher education institutions. Pearson is the world’s largest education company, operating in over 70 countries. Its near global monopoly raises questions about who has the authority and capacity to hold it accountable. As the biggest and most powerful meet in Davos, at the World Economic Forum, it seems an opportune time to question the ability of governments to hold large corporations active in education to account.

Until recently, Pearson was known for textbook publishing. In the early 2000s, recognizing the growth industry in digital education, Pearson devised a transition strategy, acquiring several technology-related businesses. In 2015, Pearson reported sales of £4.5 billion and adjusted operating profit of £723 million. Continue reading

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