Supporting teachers for better student outcomes in Rwanda

The project “Supporting Teacher Achievement in Rwandan Schools” (STARS), led by Georgetown University in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Rwanda and Innovation for Poverty Action,  proposes to scale in public primary schools pay-for-performance contracts to raise teachers’ motivation and effort and improve student outcomes. FID supports the scale-up of this innovation to 10 of 30 Rwandan school districts.

Policy challenge

In Rwanda, reading levels among 2.5 million primary-school enrollees are slightly below average of Sub-Saharan African (Angrist et al., 2021) and 46% of fourth-grade students do not meet third grade expectations in numeracy (Republic of Rwanda, 2012). Gaps in learning are particularly large in low-income school districts with difference in learning levels having an impact far beyond the classroom and accounting for between 20-50% of income differences across countries (Angrist et al., 2021).

Teachers are key to student raising learning outcomes and central to addressing this learning crisis. However, in Rwanda 20% of primary schools teachers resign every year and low salaries exacerbate skill shortages (World Bank and Government of Rwanda, 2019). Thus, government capacity to recruit, motivate, and retain effective teachers is crucial to the goal of raising student learning outcomes.

Evidence-based innovation

A growing body of evidence suggests that when offered at the individual-teacher level and designed to incentivize student learning, teacher performance contracts are an evidence-based innovation that have enhanced student learning outcomes in contexts from India (Muralidharan and Sundararaman 2011; Muralidharan 2012) to Israel (Lavy, 2009) to Tanzania (Mbiti et al., 2019) to Uganda (Gilligan et al., forthcoming).

In Rwanda, the scale-up of this approach relies on rigorous evidence drawn from a randomized controlled trial conducted in partnership with the Rwanda Education Board (Leaver et al., 2021). In this model, the pay-for-performance contracts were based on a combination of three measures of teachers’ classroom inputs: their presence, their preparation and their pedagogy. The results showed that teacher performance contracts delivered annual learning gains equivalent to an additional year of status-quo learning (Crawfurd, 2021), accompanied by improvements in teacher presence and classroom pedagogy.

The STARS scale-up leverages Rwanda’s existing teacher management system, which already includes a performance-based teacher payments model –the “imihigo” – which did not reward teacher’s efforts optimally, and student learning assessment system.

Expected impact and key learnings

The objective of the proposed project is to further test and scale up the STARS model within the Rwandan education system, by:

  1. working with the Rwanda Education Board (REB) and the National Examinations Standard Agency (NESA) to build a centralized database of teacher value added and teaching observations, leveraging existing government teacher and student performance assessments;
  2. testing the implementation of the STARS teacher performance metric through iterative refinement over three years and scale to 10 of 30 Rwandan school districts; and
  3. integrating STARS into the “imihigo” performance based teacher payments system to allow for nationwide sustained implementation drawing on existing teacher salary budgets

The short-term goal of the activities funded by FID is:

  • to establish the regulatory basis for using STARS contracts in teachers’ “imihigo” system
  • scaling data systems needed for implementation of these contracts
  • ensuring government budgetary availability for the required dissemination of the program on a larger scale.

In the mid and long term, STARS aims to improve learning outcomes for primary school children and their future outcomes.This intervention aims for positive impacts on the management of primary schools and teachers in Rwanda. It is expected to increase wages and job attachment for teachers whose value added in the classroom is high, improving labor-market outcomes for early career teachers disproportionately likely to exit the teaching profession (Zeitlin, 2021).

STARS is also supported Development Innovation Ventures (DIV).

Presentation of the team

Georgetown University Initiative on Innovation, Development, and Evaluation (Gui2de) will lead this activity in close collaboration with the Rwanda Education Board (REB) and with the institutional support from the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC). Gui2de has extensive experience in managing complex research collaborations and implementing cost-effective policy interventions at scale in East Africa. Others partners involved are Innovation for Poverty Action (IPA), Fit for Purpose and three universities, respectively the University of East Anglia (UK), the University of Oxford (UK), and Williams College (USA).