The rhetoric around decentralisation suggests school-based management
has a positive effect on educational outcomes, but there is limited
evidence from low-income countries of this general relationship.
Existing reviews on school-based decision-making have tended to focus on
proximal outcomes, with very little information on why it has positive
or negative effects in different circumstances. This review aimed to
address these gaps by answering the following questions: (1) What is the
impact of school-based decision-making on educational outcomes in low-
and middle-income countries (LMICs)? (2) What are the barriers to (and
enablers of) effective models of school-based decision-making?
We conducted a mixed-methods systematic review. All included studies had
to (i) be empirical, (ii) focus on primary and secondary schools within
LMICs, (iii) investigate a change in decision-making authority from a
higher level to the level of the school, (iv) provide data on at least
one educational outcome (proximal or final), and (v) rely on data
collected since 1990. Studies addressing the first review question had
to include an appropriate counterfactual, but studies included in
reference to the second question had various empirical designs. After a
comprehensive search process, we identified 26 impact studies meeting
the inclusion criteria. Our meta-analysis reported the impact of
school-based decision-making reforms on six educational outcomes: (1)
student drop-out; (2) student repetition; (3) teacher attendance; and
(4) student learning as assessed via (i) language test scores, (ii) math
test scores, (iii) aggregate test scores (i.e. tests of more than one
subject). We also examined potential sources of heterogeneous impacts
across studies using moderator analysis focusing on level of
decentralisation, country income group and study methodology. Finally,
we conducted narrative synthesis of factors that appear to enable or
hinder effective school-based decision-making.
Devolving decision-making to school level appears to have a somewhat
beneficial effect on drop-out in some contexts and on repetition when
looking across studies. Effects on test-scores are more robust, being
positive in the aggregate, and in analysis of middle-income countries.
Effects on teacher attendance are stronger in contexts of high
decentralisation and low income. School-based decision-making reforms
appear less effective in communities with generally low levels of
education where parents have low status relative to school personnel.
School-based decision-making reforms are less likely to be successful in
highly disadvantaged communities. The involvement of school management
committees in personnel decisions can play a role in improving teacher
attendance, but this may not always translate into impacts on learning.
Identification of effects on student learning may take longer than
anticipated by evaluation timelines.
Carr-Hill, R.; Rolleston, C.; Pherali, T.; Schendel, R. The effects of school-based decision making on educational outcomes in low- and middle-income contexts: a systematic review. International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), London, UK (2015) 206 pp.