Political Economy

How can we understand the political and social forces underpinning education system dynamics and reform—from global to local?

Why Political Economy?

Over the past decades, most governments around the world have massively expanded schooling, creating an unprecedented increase in access to education. At the same time, learning levels have not improved significantly. The political economy approach suggests that there are political dynamics supporting and hampering successful education reform and a sustained improvement of learning.

The RISE Political Economy Teams (PETs) focus on the political, social, institutional, and historical environment in which education systems are embedded. They aim to gain a more holistic understanding of the political drivers and inhibitors of progress in learning outcomes, from the global to local level.

Researchers and institutions

For PET-A, the principal research institution is the University of Pennsylvania, with research lead Alec Gershberg.

For PET-I, the principal research institution is the University of Oxford, with research lead Masooda Bano.

Research agenda

There are two Political Economy Teams within RISE. Each has a distinct focus.

PET-A is concerned with issues of adoption, producing research on the politics of learning, or how political conditions are fostered to put learning at the centre of education systems. A central research question for this team is: Why do some countries adopt and successfully implement policies that improve learning, but most do not? This requires a deeper understanding of the underlying power relations among a broad range of interest groups – and the priorities, incentives, and decisions of politicians, governments, and policymakers. PET-A is collaborating with all seven RISE Country Research Teams to produce country-specific political economy deep-dives. It is also  carrying out focused case studies in five “non-RISE” countries. Ultimately, the PET-A will undertake comparative analysis across the 12 country cases to synthesise findings.

PET-I works on issues of implementation. It primarily focuses on the accountability relationships between parents, communities, and frontline providers of education. The team’s research targets key questions such as: What are the local political dynamics that contribute to similar reforms having varied effects across different regions? Why do local stakeholders (teachers, principals, administrators, students, parents, community leaders) implement or block education reform implementation? PET-I is working with four RISE Country Research Teams—India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Pakistan—for in-depth country studies.