This paper was co-authored with Alec Gershberg and originally posted on March 29, 2023 and can be downloaded from https://riseprogramme.org/publications/politics-accountability-and-learning-insights-rise-programmes-political-economy-case
The RISE (Research on Improving Systems of Education) Programme political economy team focused on “adoption” (PET-A) examines the political conditions required to put learning at the center of an education system. This work stream has produced 12 historical case studies and three synthesis papers which draw on this rich material. This paper is part of the latter effort and offers a comparative analysis across five of the countries with RISE Country Research Teams (Ethiopia, Indonesia, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Vietnam), as well as additional case studies focusing on Chile and Peru. Building on the RISE systems framework (Pritchett, 2015), our political economy analysis incorporates issues of competing interests, power, and political strategy. We focus on the promoters and blockers of learning-oriented education reform and their respective powers and strategies to parse out the political contestations that are endemic to the reform processes that impact system coherence around learning. In this paper, we present a binding constraints framework to explore what a politics for learning might look like and examine areas of intervention that present critical bottlenecks impeding a country’s ability to deliver learning outcomes which, if addressed, pose the potential for large impact relative to other constraints. We draw upon the PET-A country case studies to include analysis of different factions and reform champions within government, including but not limited to the executive office (president/prime minister), Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Education, competing ministries, decentralized government levels, and local leaders. In doing, we elucidate how politics permeate nearly all accountability relationships in education systems and the likelihood that any given program will positively impact learning.