The Political Economy of Education Systems in Developing Countries

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Teachers and schools do not exist in isolation of the larger world around them. Frequently, many of their actions – and the school outcomes that they are accountable for – are influenced by incentives and constraints operating outside the schooling system. Each of these factors influences different aspects of education reform, whether policy design, financing, implementation or evaluation.

Given the importance of these power relations in influencing student outcomes, there is surprisingly little literature to guide us in making related policy decisions. One reason is that examining these issues in the case of education may not be amenable to a particular disciplinary lens and is better served through an inter-disciplinary approach. A key contribution of this review is to pull together the essential literature from various disciplinary and interdisciplinary traditions and to provide a conceptual framework in which to situate the analysis of political economy issues in education research. Another contribution is to carefully review the existing literature and identify research gaps in it.

The review organises the literature along the following 5 key themes.

  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Rent-seeking and patronage politics
  • Decision-making and the process of influence
  • Implementation issues
  • Driving forces

This review is part of a series of DFID education rigorous literature reviews. Other reviews in this series include:


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