Do Teacher Incentives Improve School Quality?

In recent years, many developing countries have focused on access to education as on of their top priorities. Encouraged by international agreements, such as the Millennium Development Goals, the attempts to increase educational opportunities have been widespread and successful. However, improvement in school access is often not linked to improvement in school quality. In Kenya, approximately 85% of primary school age children are enrolled in school, however, only about one third of these students will complete this stage of their education. Many believe that a major reason for these statistics is due to the poor performance of teachers in many of these schools.

A recent study conducted in Kenya from 1996–2000 examines the effects of teacher’s performance on the outcome of student learning. Of 100 primary schools deemed in need of assistance by the Ministry of Education, 50 of these schools were randomly selected as “treatment” schools for the study, while the other 50 were analyzed as the control group. Teachers in the treatment schools were offered a “bonus” ranging from 21%-43% of their monthly salary, if their students performed well in the annual district exams.

Data was collected on the various efforts employed by the teachers during this time, from attendance to extra exam prep sessions, in order to understand what techniques produced the best test results. Once the students had completed their district exams, the results showed that, “teacher attendance and student dropout and repetition rates did not improve, and no changes were seen in either homework assignment or pedagogy. Instead, teachers were more likely to conduct test-preparation sessions outside of normal class hours,” resulting in the highest scores.

By “teaching to the test,” the teachers in this study were able to achieve their desired short-term goal, that being, the attainment of a bonus. However, their efforts did little to improve sustained performance in schools, and quickly dissipated at the completion of the study. Unfortunately in this case, long-term positive educational outcomes in Kenya were not achieved, and the study ultimately concluded that even the incentive of a bonus is not enough to promote lasting improvements in the quality of a school.

At Asante Africa, we are proud to work with some of the most driven teachers out there. Studies like this one remind us that teachers are a HUGE part of improving the quality of education for hundreds of children, and that we must continue to strive for positive results that are long lasting and truly integrated into the school system.

To get more information on the study, click here: Teacher Initiatives Based on Students’ Test Scores in Kenya

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