RISE in Tanzania

First RISE team to examine ambitious, nationwide re-orientation of education policies and incentives

Arne Hoel/World Bank

RISE in Tanzania aims to answer these questions:

  • What makes nationwide education reforms possible and how can they be sustained? 
  • Does a shift toward learning-based incentives for schools and teachers lead to improved student learning? 
  • What lessons can Tanzania’s experience offer to other countries seeking to make meaningful educational reforms?

Tanzania is the first country on the agenda as RISE launches its international research programme to find ways of improving learning on a large scale throughout the developing world. 

RISE will conduct an extensive research project that examines the effects of nationwide reforms that the Government of Tanzania is undertaking in an effort to improve learning for students in its primary and secondary schools. A multidisciplinary team of researchers with close ties to the region and expertise in education-focused analysis will conduct the project. The aim is to gain insights that lead to better education for students in Tanzania, and in other nations where learning levels need to improve to give the next generation the basic skills they need to lead better lives.  

In 2014, the Government of Tanzania initiated large-scale education policy reforms. The reforms were aimed at addressing the educational crisis in Tanzania, where basic reading and math skills remain low - even as the country has increased investment in schooling, and made striking progress toward achieving universal primary education.  

The RISE Country Research Team aims to understand what made such far-reaching reforms possible, how key components of the reforms can be sustained; whether and how the reforms work to improve skills of students in Tanzania; and what insights can emerge to inform effective ways to improve students’ learning elsewhere. 

In the first phase of the research project, the team will focus on analysing the reach and impacts of this reform package. In the second phase, researchers will design a research agenda around the identification of opportunities for, and bottlenecks to the efficacy of the current reform efforts. During this phase, the team will work alongside the government and donor partners to provide experimental evidence on a second generation of interventions aimed at improving student learning outcomes.

“Tanzania is a valuable country to study because tracing the positives and negatives of such a big push approach to education reforms will be important for understanding the possibilities for improving learning throughout the developing world,” said Lant Pritchett, RISE Research Director. “Tackling the problem of deteriorating performance and learning allows a promising opportunity to explore efforts that can turn around and accelerate the growth in learning.”  

The Tanzania Country Research Team  is composed of 12 researchers who bring expertise in economics, education, psychology, political science and public policy, as well as close ties to the region. They are affiliated with institutions worldwide, with principal bases in Washington, D.C., and Dar es Salaam. 

“Tanzania offers an interesting case study of reform that is relevant to other countries also planning to undertake ambitious reform,” said James Habyarimana, a key team researcher, and a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University

The six-year-long, £4.2 million research project will examine the combined effects of a wide variety of interactive reforms that were intended to engage parents, voters, teachers, head-teachers and administrators at all levels. These systems-level reforms include: 

  • Creating and publicising school rankings.
  • Offering annual incentives for the most-improved schools.
  • Offering incentives to motivate teachers.
  • Providing teacher training to help identify and support low-performing students.
  • Providing principals (head-teachers) with financial and management training.

Arne Holne/World Bank

“Taken individually, the initiatives might not be sufficient to improve learning outcomes on their own, but, taken together, they present a plausible theory of change,” said Deon Filmer, another key team researcher, and lead economist in the Development Research Group of the World Bank, where he is the co-director of the 2018 World Development Report, which, for the first time, will focus on education. “Ultimately, from the Tanzania experience, we hope to gain understanding that can lead to meaningful improvement in learning, which is central to enhancing human welfare and reducing poverty throughout the world.” 

“The Tanzanian government has made education a leading priority, which makes RISE’s undertaking particularly timely,” said Kitila Mkumbo, key research team member  and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water and Irrigation. 

 "Previous education projects in Tanzania have usually addressed a specific entity in the education sector,” he said. ”Due to its multifaceted and systems-based approach to studying education problems, the RISE project is uniquely placed to examine how various initiatives and support systems in education in Tanzania can be galvanised to promote learning outcomes for children – and, at the same time, to sustain high enrolment and completion rates." 

“This exciting, dynamic and diverse research programme will measure the impact of reforms on the quality of education service delivery,” said Dr Rachel Hinton, head of education research DFID. “We look forward to seeing the outcomes of this research, particularly around whether the learning-outcome-based incentives yield improvements in learning.”