Development practice has long been characterized by dialogues of the deaf. The divide between governance and sector specialists is one example. How this divide could be bridged is the focus of a new review essay by Lant Pritchett, currently the research director of the ambitious and influential Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) program.
How important is it to understand the everyday dynamics of village life in order to bring about systematic reforms in education systems failing to deliver quality education? In one of the first village level ethnographies produced under RISE, Susan Watkins and Adam Ashforth (2019) support the growing consensus: very much so.
Josef Ritzen, the Netherlands’ education minister for eight years before he joined the World Bank, once told me: “The view of a prime minister is that an education minister only brings problems. There’s nothing he or she can do to improve quality that has a political upside. So, most ministers try to do nothing.” Ritzen’s recent successors have learned this lesson the hard way with public outcry over heightened math admission requirements for teacher training colleges that have led to a teacher shortage and larger classes.
Like many countries globally, Ethiopia’s primary schools are facing a learning crisis. Yet, it would be wrong to assume that improving education access and quality has not been a priority in Ethiopia.
Why is learning in primary education so poor, and how can it be improved? This remains a central question for developing countries today. One explanation focuses on the role of politicians—an approach followed by Agustina Paglayan’s research presented at this year’s RISE conference.
Lant Pritchett has a knack for making novel arguments and making them seem so obvious that one wonders how no one has made them before. His recent RISE working paper, The Politics of Learning: Directions for Future Research, is no exception. It’s chock-full of key insights for anyone who seeks to explain why developing country governments pursue their educational policies.
The Comparative and Education Society (CIES) Conference is one of the most prominent events for education researchers. This year’s event was hosted in Mexico City and featured a number of RISE resarchers.