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Focus Areas

International Education: Policy, Systems, and Governance

Helping education systems use information to set improvement targets, monitor progress, and direct resources to where they are needed to ensure equity

RTI’s approach to ​international ​education policy, systems, and governance aims to help countries provide a high-quality education for all students. We work with education systems to ensure that policy implementation leads to improved learning outcomes and that school environments are responsive to the needs of teachers, students and the communities and families they serve.  

Our goal is to help ministries of education and their stakeholders mobilize to improve ​teaching and learning at scale. We do this by jointly conducting organizational capacity assessments; identifying organizational culture, political economy, and social and institutional norms that influence decision-making; jointly planning capacity development and behavior change strategies to address constraints; and regularly monitoring progress, analyzing results, and adapting implementation as needed. 

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By leveraging our decades of experience supporting education reform around the world, we partner with ministries of education to:

  • Identify policies and system improvements that are key to equitably improving outcomes. 
  • Promote greater coherence and alignment within education systems (e.g., between curriculum, instruction, assessment, and teacher support). 
  • Engage in participatory policy development. 
  • Enlist ministry staff at all levels in assessing critical aspects of education system capacity and performance. 
  • Pinpoint efforts to improve capacity and establish clear indicators of how improved system performance will be demonstrated. 
  • Apply behavior science, political economic analysis, and change management to improve core ​​​​​​functions. 

​​​Education Systems Core Functions 

RTI’s approach to strengthening education institutions focuses on improving the core functions that add value to teaching and are central to achieving the system’s foremost mission: helping students learn. Education systems produce positive learning outcomes when they are coherent for learning. That coherence is evident when expectations for learning are defined and communicated, when accountability for progress toward those expectations is shared, and when resources and support are targeted to the schools, learners, and communities that struggle to make progress.

  1. Expectation Setting: We help education leaders create and articulate tangible learning goals and standards, including defining and communicating expectations for how all education staff – not just teachers – should contribute to learning outcomes.  
  2. Improve Two-Way Accountability: We help education systems not only track the inputs they provide for teaching and learning, but also monitor whether these inputs contribute to learning outcomes. We also work with schools and communities to hold their education systems accountable for providing the resources needed to achieve system goals and learning outcomes. 
  3. Target Support for Low Performers: We help education systems track and analyze progress to provide support where it is needed most. By providing responsive support tailored to the diverse needs of lower-performing schools, education systems can become more equitable and effective.   

Project Highlights

An elementary-age girl attends a reading class in Senegal.

Engaging key stakeholders

In Senegal, the ​​USAID Renforcement de la Lecture Initiale Pour Tous (RELIT) program collaborated with the National Ministry of Education to conduct a joint institutional capacity assessment. Capacity development plans have been developed and are being implemented, with clear indicators for measuring progress. 

Setting expectations

USAID’s ​​​​​​​​​​​​Tusome Pamoja program in Tanzania undertook a joint capacity assessment that found gaps in the understanding of expectations for learning among teachers despite strong support for curriculum delivery. This prompted the government to better define and communicate standards for student level outcomes in reading and math, work that continues under USAID’s Jifunze Uelewe Activity. 

An educational supervisor checks in with a teacher in a classroom in Jordan.

Monitoring progress

The Early Grade Reading and Mathematics Initiative (RAMP) in Jordan established a method for monitoring learning outcomes at the field directorate level that enabled the Ministry of Education to regularly track reading and math outcomes. This also helped the government identify field directorates meeting expectations and those not and then provide additional support to struggling schools.

Children smile and hug while participating in the Tusome reading program.

Targeting additional support

In Kenya and Cambodia, data from school visits by coaches uncovered where teachers needed additional support. Subsequent training sessions and more frequent and targeted coaching visits helped address areas of need. 

A teacher in Cambodia works with students.
Photo by Banung Ou for RTI International

Modeling sustainable systems

In Cambodia, the USAID Inclusive Primary Education Activity and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport are operationalizing a school- and district-based teacher mentoring system at scale. This includes establishing policies, procedures, and system capacities to take to scale and sustain this proven model.