Improving primary school education outcomes in Uganda through local monitoring

2010 - Ongoing

Project status: Current

Funded by: CSAE, IGC

This project studies how to improve learning outcomes by improving guidance and local monitoring of teachers in Uganda.  We study two variations of local monitoring: by communities and by head teachers.  

In the first study we conducted an experiment to test the effectiveness and mechanism through which community monitoring of public services may operate. Working with the Government of Uganda, we randomly assigned schools and their management committees to two variants of a score card. Community based score cards are found to have higher impact than standardised ones on teacher absenteeism and pupil enrolment, presence and learning, by individual or joint testing employing randomisation inference. They also induce higher cooperation, measured directly through a public goods game. Further analysis rules out information as an alternative channel. Mediation analysis indicates 4 to 36 percent of impact stems from collective action, depending on the outcome. 

In the second part we study local monitoring by head teachers. To achieve the twin objectives of incentivizing agent performance and providing information for planning purposes, public sector organisations often rely on reports by local monitors that are costly to verify. Received wisdom has it that attaching financial incentives to these reports will result in collusion, and undermine both objectives. Simple bargaining logic, however, suggests the reverse: pay for locally monitored performance could incentivize desired behaviour and improve information. To investigate this issue, we conducted a randomised controlled trial in Ugandan primary schools that explored how incentives for teachers could be designed when based on local monitoring by head teachers. Our experiment randomly varied whether head teachers’ reports of teacher attendance were tied to teacher bonus payments or not. We find that local monitoring on its own is ineffective at improving teacher attendance. However, combining local monitoring with financial incentives leads to both an increase in teacher attendance (by 8 percentage points) and an improvement in the quality of information. We also observe substantial gains in pupil attainment, driven primarily by a reduction in dropouts. By placing a financial value on these enrolment gains, we demonstrate that pay for locally monitored performance passes both welfare and fiscal sustainability tests. 

Reports and back ground papers: 

Abigail Barr, Pieter Serneels, Andrew Zeirlin, 2014, Participatory Monitoring of Public Servants by Beneficiaries. Insights from Education Services, Background Paper for World Development Report 2015.  

Cilliers Jacobus, Ibrahim Kasirye, Clare Leaver, Pieter Serneels, Andrew Zeitlin, 2013, Improving Teacher Attendance using a Locally Managed Monitoring Scheme: Evidence from Ugandan Primary Schools  

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