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3ie-LIDC Seminar: The effects of school-based decision making on educational outcomes in low and middle income contexts.

Thursday, December 3, 2015 - 17:15 to 18:45
LIDC Upper Meeting Room


Although the rhetoric around decentralisation suggests that school-based management has a positive effect on educational outcomes, there is limited evidence from low income countries of this general relationship. Existing reviews on school-based decision-making have tended to focus on proximal outcomes and offer very little information about why school-based decision-making has positive or negative effects in different circumstances. This review aimed to address these gaps by answering the following questions: (1) What is the impact of school-based decision-making on educational outcomes in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs)? (2) What are the barriers to (and enablers of) effective models of school-based decision-making?

In order to answer these questions, we conducted a mixed-methods systematic review. After a comprehensive search process, we identified twenty six impact studies that met the inclusion criteria. We used meta-analysis to report on the impact of school-based decision-making reforms on six educational outcomes: 1) student drop-out; 2) student repetition; 3) teacher attendance; and 4) student learning, as assessed via i) language test scores, ii) math test scores, iii) aggregate test scores (i.e. tests of more than one subject).  We also examined potential sources of heterogeneous impacts across studies using moderator analysis focusing on level of decentralisation, country income group and study methodology. Finally, we conducted narrative synthesis of factors that appear to enable or hinder effective school-based decision-making

Devolving decision-making to the level of the school appears to have a somewhat beneficial effect on drop-out (in some contexts) and on repetition when looking across studies. Effects on test-scores are more robust, being positive in the aggregate and in analysis of middle income countries. Effects on teacher attendance are stronger in contexts of high decentralisation and of low income. School-based decision-making reforms appear to be less effective in communities with generally low levels of education where parents have low status relative to school personnel. These findings suggest that school-based decision-making reforms are less likely to be successful in highly disadvantaged communities. 


Roy Carr-Hill is a part-time Professor of Research in Developing Countries at UCL  Institute of Education. For over thirty years, he has also worked as a consultant in more than 35 developing countries in both education and health, as a generic anarchist social planner, specialising in carrying out complex surveys (for example, comparing Action Aid’s REFLECT programme with the Government’s Functional Adult Literacy Programme in Uganda; and an omnibus survey of 6,500 pastoralist households in Somalia in 2011) and in the evaluation of large-scale and complex programmes (for example, DFID’s IMBEWU programme in Eastern Cape, South Africa; and he was one of the core group in the mid-term evaluation of the Fast Track Initiative for EFA during 2009-2010).

Caine Rolleston is a Senior Lecturer at UCL Institute of Education in London.  He leads the education research programme of the Young Lives project, a four country comparative study.  His research interests include education systems in developing countries, learning metrics, longitudinal studies and school effectiveness. 

Rebecca Schendel is a Lecturer in Education & International Development at the UCL Institute of Education. Her research largely focuses on higher education in low-income contexts, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.