A rigorous review of the political economy of education systems in developing countries. Education rigorous literature review.


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 is structured around the following five key themes and questions:

  • Roles and responsibilities: Who are the key stakeholders with an interest in the sector? What are the interests and incentives faced by different players? Has this varied over time?
  • Rent-seeking and patronage politics: How significant is the extent of rent-seeking and patronage politics in the education sector, and where is it most prevalent? What does research tell us about the impact of such behaviour on education reform and school outcomes?
  • Decision-making and the process of influence: Who are all the participants in the decision-making process regarding education policies of different types? What is the identity of all those who exert indirect pressure on the decision-making process? What are the direct and indirect mechanisms available to different power groups to exercise their power? What are the implications of this power play for educational outcomes?
  • Implementation issues: To what extent are policy reforms implemented and what are the factors that facilitate and impede implementation?
  • Driving forces: What political and economic conditions drive or inhibit education reform, both in its formulation and implementation?


Kingdon, G.G.; Little, A.; Aslam, M.; Rawal, S.; Moe, T.; Patrinos, H.; Beteille, T.; Banerji, R.; Parton, B.; Sharma, S.K. A rigorous review of the political economy of education systems in developing countries. Education rigorous literature review. Department for International Development (DFID), London, UK (2014) iii + 79 pp.

Published 1 January 2014