Author: John Gillies
Year: 2010
Agency: USAID
Full Citation: Gillies, J. (2010). The power of persistence: Education system reform and aid effectiveness. Case studies in long-term education reform. Washington, DC: EQUIP2/USAID.
Target Population(s): ,
Overview: The Power of Persistence: Education Reform and Aid Effectiveness reports the findings of a two-year study of reform efforts supported by international donors in five specific national systems in the period between 1990 and 2009.
  • The first section explores the central concepts of aid effectiveness in education, including effectiveness, ownership, sustainability, and scaling up. The paper introduces the reader to basic concepts about systems thinking, and describes the analytical model of education systems development that is used in the study.
  • The second section reviews the introduction of education reforms in five countries over a 20-year period. The five countries—Egypt, El Salvador, Namibia, Nicaragua, and Zambia—are not intended to be broadly representative of all developing countries, but do capture a range of national contexts, including post-conflict recovery, democratic transitions and elections, scale of national bureaucracy, and role of civil society.
  • The third section draws on common patterns across the five countries, explores the process of reform, and discusses implications for national planning and donor engagement in program design, implementation, and evaluation.
Findings: The single most important lesson from these case studies of the political, institutional, and technical dimensions of reform efforts over two decades is that for effective and durable reform, all specific interventions, policy reforms and project activities — decentralization, service delivery, dialogue, information and analysis, teacher training, workshops, textbooks and testing — must be understood and strategized in the context of longer-term goals and trends. Among the necessary components for effective education reform for donors are these four: ownership, project modality, sustainability, scaling up.

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