Making Schools Work: New Evidence on Accountability Reforms
This book is about the threats to education quality that cannot be explained by lack of resources. It focuses on publicly financed school systems and the phenomenon of service delivery failures: cases where programs and policies that increase the inputs to education fail to produce effective delivery of services where it counts—in schools and classrooms. It documents what we know about the extent and costs of service delivery failures in public education in the developing world. And it further develops aspects of the conceptual model posited in the World Development Report 2004: that a root cause of low-quality and inequitable public services—not only in education—is the weak “accountability” of providers to both their supervisors and their clients (World Bank 2003).
The central focus of this book, however, is a new story. It is that developing countries are increasingly adopting innovative strategies to attack these issues. In more and more of the developing world, education results are improving because, among other reasons, education systems are becoming more accountable for results. A highly encouraging part of the new story is growing willingness by developing-country policy makers to subject new reforms to rigorous evaluations of their impacts and cost-effectiveness. Impact evaluation itself strengthens accountability because it exposes whether programs achieve desired results, who benefits, and at what public cost. A willingness to undertake serious impact evaluation is a commitment to more effective public service delivery.
Our goal is to use evidence to distill practical guidance for policy makers grappling with the same challenges and considering the same types of reforms. In many areas, the current evidence base does not support clear answers. But by synthesizing what is supported by current evidence and by framing the issues where further research is needed, we hope to contribute to more effective policy design today and encourage further experimentation and evaluation tomorrow.