Punishing teachers is often counter-productive

One of the key messages of the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report 2017/8, Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments is that punishing teachers can often be counter-productive.

Teachers have the primary responsibility for educating students. But in many countries, they face growing pressures. The complexity and variety of their tasks can put conflicting demands on their time, complicating efforts to hold them accountable.

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Punishing teachers for absenteeism

A common reason for teachers to be punished is absenteeism: when teachers don’t come to school, they may face sanctions. A study of six low and middle income countries suggested teacher absenteeism averaged 19%, exacerbating already high teacher shortages.

However, when we delve deeper into why teachers are not in school, a different story may emerge. Continue reading

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The Partnership Schools for Liberia: A critical analysis

By Steven J. Klees, University of Maryland

liberia.pngTo experiment with the possible privatization of its primary education system, Liberia initiated the Partnership Schools of Liberia (PSL), which turned over the management of 93 public schools to eight private contractors.  This has been a controversial experiment, both in Liberia and worldwide.  A randomized controlled trial (RCT) study was set up comparing the PSL schools with matched public schools, and the report on the first year results of the RCT was recently published.  A variety of blogs, op eds, and tweets have discussed their findings, including one on this site.  I have just completed a paper critiquing the RCT study and the PSL, and I report on my results here.  I thought the RCT study was carefully and competently done, but I have some major disagreements with some of the analyses and the interpretation of findings.

Did test scores in PSL schools increase by 60%?

This is the key and most disseminated finding of the RCT study. But is it valid?  This result is based on a regression analysis of post-test scores on whether students are in the PSL schools and a few control variables.  Notably absent was any control for a student’s pretest score, which is extremely unusual.  In almost all RCTs, the impact of the treatment is measured by the gain in the post-test score over the pre-test score.  It turns out that the pre-test score in the PSL schools was significantly higher than in the government schools.  The RCT study argues that this was due to late pre-testing and that the higher score reflects that the PSL schools were already doing better due to the intervention.  But this is speculation based on very little evidence.  When they do control for pre-test, the effect of the PSL is considerably reduced to about 45%, on average, across math and English. Continue reading

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Accountability to fulfilling the right to education

By Allyson Krupar, Senior Associate, Right to Education Index, RESULTS Educational Fund

GEMR_2017-18-Cover-ENThe 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring Report highlights the role of civil society organizations such as RESULTS Education Fund (REF) as crucial to advance the right to education and hold government to account for their legal obligations. REF’s Right to Education Index (RTEI) is one tool to help fulfill this call by focusing on national accountability, civil society engagement, and equitable distribution of rights fulfillment worldwide. RTEI is an action research project that includes civil society-led data collection in the RTEI Questionnaire and a year of education advocacy using findings for national campaigns. In 2016, 15 civil society organizations collected data and in 2017, five were further supported by RESULTS Educational Fund to conduct national advocacy campaigns on pressing context-specific issues. RTEI 2016 findings and 2017 campaign outcomes can support understanding of how the GEM Report’s ambitious calls for accountability are enacted and enhanced by education advocates and civil society worldwide.


The report highlighted that only 55 percent of countries have a judiciable right to education, where citizens can take the government to court for violating their right to education. However, accountability is not merely citizen-led, nor should it fall on the citizenry to always hold the government to account. The report highlights how the government has a top-down obligation to be accountable to citizens in regards to broad and multifaceted issues, such as transparent and credible education planning and budgeting; national regulations that are equitably applied around registration, accreditation, class sizes, bidding and contracting, and private schooling, among other topics; alternative school motivators beyond testing and school choice programs; and ensuring that data collection helps improve learning. Applying broad definitions of accountability to the right to education, RTEI findings highlight how legislation, learning outcomes, and practices interact. Continue reading

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Does school choice really exist?

An idea that has gained popularity in some circles in recent years is that giving a choice to parents over where their children are educated and introducing competition in an  education ‘market’ will raise standards across the system through healthy competition and the closure of ineffective schools. Given information, parents could voice concerns, undertake improvements or move their children to other schools. Choice and its effects school choicecould improve the functioning of schools and systems, incentivize innovation and result in better student outcomes and parent satisfaction.

In the last three decades, reforms rooted in the school choice logic have been implemented in more than two-thirds of OECD countries, for instance. Across the 72 systems participating in PISA 2015, the parents of around 64% of students reported that they had at least two schools to choose from for their children.

However, a closer look at the evidence suggests that school choice often doesn’t work as it’s meant to, and can in fact increase inequalities and undermine quality education.

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Key takeaways from the 2017/8 GEM Report

The 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring Report, Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments, fulfils its mandate to follow countries’ progress towards achieving the global education goal but also focuses on the theme of accountability in education. Why did we choose to write about accountability this year? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding this year’s Report. 


Despite strong progress in education, there are significant challenges to achieving the global education goal, SDG 4: Children cannot read after several years of school in sub-Saharan Africa; examination pressure is having an impact on gender gaps in China; the excess focus in education on employability is being questioned in Germany; decentralization is posing challenges for underfunded rural schools in Pakistan; low-quality private universities are proliferating in Paraguay; refugee children have severely constrained education chances, especially those fleeing war in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Faced with education challenges, the public wants to know who is responsible and policy-makers look for urgent solutions. Increased accountability often tops the list. When systems fail, people call for someone to be held responsible and for mechanisms to be in place that ensure corrective action.

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Learning from Promising Practices in Refugee Education

By Emma Wagner, Education in Emergencies Policy & Advocacy Adviser, Save the Children

Earlier this year Save the Children, Pearson and UNHCR formed a new groundbreaking partnership to tackle the refugee education crisis. The Promising Practices in Refugee Education initiative sets out to identify, document and promote innovative ways to effectively provide quality education to refugee children and young people.

Why this initiative?

The world is witnessing record-high levels of human displacement. Over 65 million people have been forced from their homes, including 22.5 million who have crossed an international border to flee persecution and reach safety.

In times of crisis, education provides hope and a place of safety, and reduces the risk of child marriage, child labour, and children being recruitment by armed groups. Refugee families prioritise education, as they know it is a passport to a more fruitful future for their children.

However, the barriers to accessing quality education remain challenging and varied. Shockingly, refugee children are five times more likely to be out of school than non-refugee children. Only 61% have access to primary education, and only 23% have access to secondary school.

Encouragingly, there is cause for optimism: numerous projects are reaching refugees in some of the most difficult regions and providing innovative interventions to the education challenge with promising results.

That is why Save the Children, Pearson and UNHCR are collaborating to increase awareness of the important work happening in the sector and to demonstrate the diverse ways in which organisations are providing quality education for refugees. Continue reading

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One week on from the 2017/8 GEM Report launch: a round-up

Not even a short power cut, which plunged the ballroom of Maputo’s Gloria Hotel into temporary darkness, could stifle the anticipation of those gathered to mark the global launch of the 2017/8 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report- Accountability in education: Meeting our commitments.  UNESCO’s Deputy-Director General Mr Getachew Engida was joined by Ministers of Education from across the continent as he officially launched the 2017/8 GEM Report with H.E. Ms Conceita Sortane, Mozambique’s Minister of Education and Human Development, in front of over two hundred civil society representatives, teachers, policy makers, academics and donors.


“Minsters present should consider themselves the guardians of education,” said Mr Engida as he opened the event, calling upon all governments to establish, monitor and enforce regulations to ensure the world meets the aspirations of the global education goal. A keynote address delivered by Ethiopia’s Deputy Prime Minister H. E. Dr Demeke Mekonnen referenced some of the challenges facing the continent: for example, only one in four youth complete secondary school. “I confirm my country’s commitment to addressing these challenges, increasing expenditure on school construction and maintenance, and hiring and training thousands of new teachers, administrators and officials,” he said. Continue reading

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