IPA has partnered with the Rwanda Basic Education Board (REB) of the Ministry of Education to establish an embedded evidence lab. The lab builds on collaboration and partnership to support evidence-driven education policy, improve the use of administrative data for better policies and programs, and promote evidence-informed policy in education to enhance the quality of learning in Rwanda.
Rwanda is one of the top-performing countries in sub-Saharan Africa in access to education. In 2015, net enrollment in primary education was 97 percent. However, improving education quality, reducing high rates of turnover, and attracting teachers to rural areas remain critical challenges for the country’s education sector.
The Rwanda Basic Education Board (REB) implements basic education in Rwanda, from nursery to secondary education, including Teacher Training Colleges. REB oversees the management of basic education teachers and has recently taken the lead in coordinating the recruitment and placement of teachers across the country, formerly done at the district level.
Building on the process of disseminating evidence for the IPA project, “Recruitment, effort, and retention effects of performance contracts for civil servants: Experimental evidence from Rwandan primary schools,” the Ministry of Education and REB wanted to understand how government structures could further benefit from evidence to enhance the quality of learning outcomes relevant to social and economic development in Rwanda.
In 2019, the REB Director-General requested technical assistance from IPA to support the Teacher Management and Staffing Unit of REB through the creation of an embedded lab. Funded by the International Growth Centre (IGC) and the Marshall Foundation, a full-time Research & Policy Associate has been embedded in the REB since July 2019 supporting the integration of evidence into policy under three focus areas:
- Finalizing the strategy for the national scale-up of pay for performance (P4P) contracts;
- Supporting the process of centralizing teacher recruitment and management; and
- Enhancing the national comprehensive assessment.
Finalizing the Strategy for the National Scale-Up of P4P Contracts
Assessing Teacher Turnover
A 2020 IPA study on teacher turnover in Rwanda from 2016– 2019 found teacher turnover to be a large and consequential problem. Using teacher placement records, student enrollment figures, and exam scores in a nationally representative sample, the study finds that 20 percent of teachers leave their jobs each year—with higher rates in schools with low learning levels. Teacher turnover in Rwanda is concentrated among early-career teachers, male teachers, and those teaching Math. Twenty-three percent of the teachers that leave are not replaced the following year. This turnover is followed by declines in learning outcomes.
Pathway to Pay-for-Performance
Informed by evidence from researchers and the REB that P4P contracts can be effective in improving teaching quality and student learning in Rwanda, in 2019 the Government of Rwanda started to implement P4P-enabling national education systems changes, such as the improved national comprehensive assessment and centralized teacher recruitment process. IPA will support REB to pilot P4P teacher contracts at scale via government systems for the 2022 academic year. IPA will also support the development of implementation and monitoring plans.
Further P4P rollout includes accounting for teacher preferences in placement decisions, reducing incentives for within-district transfers, and tracking teacher performance to encourage the retention of teachers who deliver the greatest learning outcomes. IPA will continue to support the strengthening of the national systems needed to implement P4P and engage senior national policymakers.
Supporting the Process of Centralizing Teacher Recruitment and Management
Recent IPA analysis found that rates of teacher turnover in Rwanda are 20 percent in any given year, especially in schools with low learning levels and high pupil-teacher-ratio schools. Researchers also found that following the loss of a teacher, districts were only able to provide schools with a replacement 77 percent of the time. Recruiting and retaining qualified, skilled, and motivated teachers to improve education quality is, therefore, a priority for the Government of Rwanda.
Learning from the 2020 Hiring Cycle
In response to these challenges, the Government of Rwanda decided to centralize the process of teacher recruitment and deployment in January 2019. Under a presidential order, the Ministry of Education and REB are now responsible for the coordination of teacher recruitment and deployment. In support of this new responsibility, IPA is working with the Georgetown University Initiative on Innovation, Development, and Evaluation to analyze the placement and learning outcomes of the 2020 hiring cycle. Findings are being used to inform a new national recruitment framework based on the new teacher statute language and to develop tools to operationalize the recruitment process.
Improving Student Learning through Centralized Recruitment and Management
Improving student learning outcomes in Rwanda requires addressing high levels of teacher turnover through a more centralized process of recruitment and management. To further support this centralization, IPA has developed a set of recommendations for the REB and the Ministry of Education based on the IPA study on teacher turnover and administrative data.
Rapid Assessment of ICT Literacy and Access
REB has had a longstanding interest in utilizing ICT in its classrooms and education system. The COVID-19 pandemic and associated school closures have placed renewed emphasis on the use of ICT in education. Following a request by the Director-General of REB, IPA and external researchers are investigating Rwandan teachers’ access to and understanding of ICT. Using phone surveys and an online survey embedded into REB’s e-learning platform, the study will inform REB’s immediate decision-making in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provide relevant inputs to Rwanda’s new ICT in education policy.
Enhancing the National Comprehensive Assessment
REB has requested that IPA analyze a sample of schools using the newly developed national comprehensive assessment. The aim is to provide recommendations on how to improve the assessment in time for the end of the 2020 academic year and create a platform enabling REB to improve learning outcomes. The IPA analysis seeks to understand the extent to which the national assessment can be used as a valid measurement tool. Researchers will also determine how well assessment data can inform measures of learning gains at the pupil, grade-subject-stream, school, and teacher levels. Additionally, researchers will examine learning levels and learning gains according to geographic location and material and human resources.