Bridging the Governance-Sectors Divide—Reflections on Lant Pritchett’s New Essay

Development practice has long been characterized by dialogues of the deaf. The divide between governance and sector specialists is one example. How this divide could be bridged is the focus of a new review essay by Lant Pritchett, currently the research director of the ambitious and influential Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE) program.

What Makes a Politician Tackle Education?

Josef Ritzen, the Netherlands’ education minister for eight years before he joined the World Bank, once told me: “The view of a prime minister is that an education minister only brings problems. There’s nothing he or she can do to improve quality that has a political upside. So, most ministers try to do nothing.” Ritzen’s recent successors have learned this lesson the hard way with public outcry over heightened math admission requirements for teacher training colleges that have led to a teacher shortage and larger classes.

Improving School Performance through School Ranking: The Double-Edged Sword of Accountability

Despite the appeal to improve school performance through strengthened accountability, there is concern that such efforts could distort behavior if the stakes are high: schools and teachers could teach to the test, neglect unrewarded activities, or simply cheat. As a result, a number of countries (e.g., Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Pakistan) have turned to low-stakes accountability such as publicizing information, or report cards, about school performance.