Contract teachers (also known as para-teachers) have been increasingly used in large parts of Africa, South Asia and Latin America in the last few decades with the view to addressing rising student numbers by progressively financially constrained governments. The primary objective of this systematic review (SR) is to understand whether contract teachers and para-teachers are a cost-effective intervention to address teacher shortages and improve learning outcomes. Using stringent guidelines and procedures provided by the EPPI-Centre, a set of quantitative and qualitative studies is arrived at for in-depth review to address the key questions posed in this SR. On the whole, it can be concluded that the evidence indicates that contract teachers are generally more effective in improving student outcomes than regular teachers. Having said that, the research does indicate that these findings are often context-specific. This is coupled with the fact that all of the studies that look into the question of relative efficiency of contract teachers state categorically that they appear to be a more cost-effective means of imparting learning. However, it should be noted that there is a dearth of research on this front and most of the work on costs appears to be an appendage to the principal aim of answering the question of relative effectiveness. Similarly, rigorous evidence on whether contract teachers help alleviate teacher shortages is limited despite the fact that theoretically one would expect this not to be questionable as contract teachers policy is mainly instigated to overcome the teacher shortage problem.
There is a protocol for this systematic review
Kingdon, G.; Aslam, M.; Rawal, S.; Das, S. Are contract teachers and para-teachers a cost-effective intervention to address teacher shortage and improve learning outcomes? EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute ofEducation, University of London, London, UK (2013) iv + 119 pp. ISBN 978-1-907345-47-0