New RTI Press Report Offers Step-by-Step Guide to Decentralizing Education Systems in Developing Nations

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Developing nations often consider decentralization as a means to improve the quality of their education systems. But transforming a centralized education system is a complex undertaking that often leads to mixed results.

A new RTI Press research report by authors Hank Healey and Luis Crouch aims to help improve those outcomes by offering a step-by-step guide to decentralizing educational systems in developing nations. Healey is a senior education scientist in the International Development Group, and Crouch is lead education specialist at the Global Partnership for Education.

"Decentralization does not always result in improved education quality, and some of the reasons for that are ineffectual implementation, political-economic friction and poor design," Healey explained. "If governments or donors want to decentralize a country's education system, or parts of it, the system must be well designed before implementation begins."

"Our report details an approach that is premised on sound principles such as economies of scale, speed of transaction and customer satisfaction," Healey added.

The researchers explain why certain functions – like purchasing some (but not all) goods and services – make more sense to be located centrally. They also note that other functions make more sense to be located within individual schools, like budget control and personnel management.

Their report walks the reader through a step-by-step process of allocating functions to various levels of the system, and explains how to get stakeholders to take ownership of the overall design. The report also explains how a country can use their design for planning and implementation purposes.

"Education decentralization has been going on for decades, but very few, if any, of these efforts have been guided by the kind of design we propose," Healey said. "Our hope is that if countries focus on a good design first, the results of their efforts to decentralize their education systems will be a little less mixed, and student performance will have a better chance of improving."

teacher in Nakuru schoolroom


  • New report offers step-by-step guide to decentralizing education systems in developing nations.
  • The report is written by Hank Healey and Louis Crouch.
  • The report explains how to allocate functions and get stakeholders to take ownership.