by Constantine Manda, Senior Research Analyst at Twaweza, and EASST Visiting Fellow during Fall, 2012.
All of this begs the question what works in education in East Africa (and elsewhere)?
University of California –San Diego (UCSD) associate Professor and the Center for Effective Global Action faculty affiliate Karthik Muralidharan has written about this recommending that governments refocus the agenda away from inputs necessarily, but toward learning outcomes. There are other pedagogical recommendations in his piece, including most importantly the idea of teaching to the level of the student, rather than ‘completing the textbook’. Lastly, his piece also highlights governance issues around the school management of teachers and school resources.
In an experimental intervention across 21 districts, across 350 primary schools in Tanzania, Prof. Muralidharan along with the University of Virginia’s Isaac Mbiti, in collaboration with Twaweza, are testing two things:-
- Whether sending Capitation Grants directly to school accounts rather than through the relevant ministries and the district councils will have positive impacts on learning outcomes through improved test scores.
- Whether incentivizing teachers by offering to pay them cash for each test their students pass in literacy and numeracy tests at the early grades will have positive impacts on learning outcomes through improved test scores.
Research translation into policy is difficult, and the criticism that context matters when extrapolating results from Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) notwithstanding, the story of Tanzania’s government changing policy course is important because the experiment can help inform how such a policy can and should be implemented in practice.
Moreover, this announcement allows Twaweza, along with other relevant stakeholders to rally around this policy change to push for some of the things rigorous evidence has found, not only in Tanzania, but globally. The idea that government should focus on learning outcomes rather than inputs has been echoed across the political spectrum. It is time that Tanzania, and East Africa in general, to begin to refocus their education agenda along these lines. Governance structures at the school need reconfiguration to make teachers more accountable for the learning outcomes of their students and incentives for performance matter a great deal.
With greater impact evaluation of education interventions in Tanzania, and across other East African countries, there will be increasing evidence of what works in education. If Tanzania, and other East African countries, are to transition out of the low income and onto the middle income rung of development, human capital investments are important, and nowhere is there a greater bang for one’s buck than in early childhood education.