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Informing national education reforms in Rwanda

Institutions & Governance

Three children walking to school. © Nieuwenkampr –

An intervention to incentivize teachers in Rwanda with performance-linked pay improves teacher recruitment and performance. Lessons learned from the study are informing the Ministry of Education’s reform plans.

While Rwanda has attained near universal enrollment in primary school, the country’s low teacher retention, attendance, and effectiveness remains a problem, with one-fifth of teachers leaving their jobs each year (Zeitlin 2020). Pay-for-performance (P4P) — or paying teachers for their students’ learning gains — is a well-studied way to motivate teachers. Advocates of P4P say that it incentivizes teachers to attend class, adopt effective teaching practices, and stay motivated in the classroom. But critics express concern that P4P may dampen teachers’ inherent motivation or recruit only those who are interested in the money.

With funding from the Economic Development and Institutions (EDI) program, managed in part by CEGA, researchers Clare Leaver (Oxford), Owen Ozier (Williams), Pieter Serneels (East Anglia), and Andrew Zeitlin (Georgetown) evaluate the impact of performance pay on both the composition and the effort of teachers in Rwanda. The randomized evaluation was embedded within the Government of Rwanda’s rollout of the Supporting Teacher Achievement in Rwandan Schools (STARS) program, which pays the top 20% of teachers a bonus above their usual salary based on student learning gains as well as teachers’ presence, preparation, and pedagogy. Both the program and the experimental rollout were designed and implemented jointly with the Government of Rwanda, involving extensive consultations and piloting.

Published in the American Economic Review, results show that performance pay recruited teachers who were more money-motivated, but who went on to teach at least as well as teachers paid without P4P. Newly recruited teachers working under the performance-pay scheme also attended class more often, had more effective classroom teaching practices, and were not more likely to quit during the two years of the experiment than teachers working under fixed-wage contracts.

The study results have been presented to the Senior Management Team at the Ministry of Education, as well as to the Minister of Finance. The Government of Rwanda is actively revising its teacher management policies, including the possible introduction of performance-linked financial incentives for teachers. The research team has been requested to help draft a national Teacher Recruitment Framework, and the Ministry of Education has signed a letter of intent to evaluate a potential path to scale for the STARS program.

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