Researching the politics of development



Oriented towards action: The political economy of primary education in Rwanda

Working paper 64

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Timothy P. Williams
When it comes to the delivery of services to the poor, politics matter. This paper applies a political settlements framework to approach the study of primary education quality in Rwanda. In recent years, the government of Rwanda has received recognition for its commitment to expand education for all young people. But the drivers for improving quality have been less straightforward. Through process tracing from national to local levels, this study investigates the interests, institutions and incentives for improving the education quality. Findings suggest there was a stated commitment to educational quality on the part of the government across all levels. At the same time, the country’s decentralised system of governance has deconcentrated implementation responsibilities to local government and schools. Performance-based incentives at the local level focus on aspects of quality that are measurable — i.e., through the construction of classrooms and provision of materials — rather than on improving the capacity of the teaching workforce or tracking learning outcomes. The incentives and ideas that drive the behaviour of key actors in the education sector allow us to consider the degree to which state capacity and elite commitment can be sustained.