Working Paper


The Politics of Transforming Education in Ecuador: Confrontation and Continuity, 2006-17


Image of Ben Ross Schneider

Ben Ross Schneider

Department of Political Science, MIT

Image of Barbara Bruns

Barbara Bruns

Intellectual Leadership Team

Center for Global Development

Recent governments in Ecuador (2007-17) have achieved impressive improvements in education quantity and quality. Enrollments at all levels increased significantly, and Ecuador’s learning gains on a regional test from 2006-2013 were among the largest in the region. A quadrupling of public spending on basic education (to five percent of GDP) supported the schooling expansion as well as a doubling of teacher salaries. But also important were a new focus on student learning results and key reforms of teacher policy implemented over strong union opposition: higher standards for new recruitment, regular evaluation of teacher performance with promotion based on performance (and dismissal after multiple poor evaluations). Among the political advantages favoring government reformers were: strong public support, sustained presidential engagement, the commodity boom of the 2000s, continuity in the government reform team, and a forceful communications strategy. Ecuador’s experience offers lessons for other countries seeking to improve education by focusing on student learning and the quality of teaching.


Schneider, B.R., Estarellas, P.C., and Bruns, B. 2018. The Politics of Transforming Education in Ecuador: Confrontation and Continuity, 2006-17. 2018. RISE Working Paper Series. 18/021. https://