Does Decentralization Lead to School Improvement? Findings and Lessons from Research in West-Africa


Decentralization is a fashionable reform, adopted by many countries with different characteristics. There are doubts, though, about its objectives and impact. Did inspiration come from a desire to improve quality or from a need to share the financial burden? Does it not increase disparities and the workload for local officials and headteachers? Against this background, the International Institute for Educational Planning, in collaboration with ministries of education, a national institute and the NGO Plan, co-ordinated research on the challenges that local offices and schools encounter. Results are partly disheartening, as they indicate the limits to the implementation of decentralization but they also show that successful innovations are taking place. They help to identify principles of good practice: complementarity between actors; equilibrium between their mandate and resources; reform of school supervision; and the need to counterbalance autonomy by an effective accountability framework. One principle stands central: decentralization does not imply that the State is abandoning control, but rather a change in its role.