Management and Motivation in Ugandan Primary Schools

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Research Question: How can institutions of local accountability in the delivery of primary education be strengthened? Does increased supervision "crowd out" the intrinsic motivation of teachers?

Drawing on the work of Douglass North (1990) and the many cross-country growth analyses that his insights inspired, Paul Collier (2009) argues that, alongside security, government accountability is the public good that makes economic growth and development possible.  He goes on to make two important points. First, government accountability is of greatest importance in small, ethnically fragmented societies, such as those of sub-Saharan Africa, because it is there that resource capture by ethnic elites is most likely. Second, unlike other public goods, government accountability cannot be supplied by government alone. Accountability requires citizens to be both able and willing to bring pressure to bear on government and its agents.

In the delivery of public services such as education, accountability is thought to take two forms:  a long route, through electoral processes, and a short route, from the recipients of such a service to the service providers themselves (World Bank 2004).  In Ugandan primary education, these mechanisms are evidently broken:  teacher absence rates are reported to be 27 percent (Chaudhury et al. 2006).   School Management Commitees, comprising parent, teacher, and government representatives, were established to address just such issues, but seem to meet infrequently and with insufficient authority to address problems in schools.

This project seeks to identify initiatives that work to strengthen existing institutions of local accountability – the SMCs – and to contribute to our understanding of why the track record of such initiatives is mixed (Banerjee and Duflo 2006).  To do so, project researchers have worked together with the Ministry of Education and Sports, the Netherlands Development Corporation, and World Vision to develop and implement two variants of a school monitoring scorecard, and to put in place a routine of community monitoring that makes use of this tool.  The project seeks to understand how such an accountability-enhancing intervention interacts with the motivations of stakeholders in the school by undertaking a series of laboratory experiments in the field.  By combining laboratory measures of preferences with the field experiment, the researchers will investigate the mechanisms by which the strengthening of formal institutions can complement – or perhaps crowd out – informal norms and motivations.

See Workshop:



Frederick Mugisha, Lawrence Bategeka and Madina Guloba (EPRC); Abigail Barr and Andrew Zeitlin (CSAE)