The politics of quality reforms and the challenges for SDGs in education

Elsevier, World Development, Volume 118, 2019, Pages 27-38, ISSN 0305-750X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2019.02.008.
Authors: 
Barbara Bruns, Isabel Harbaugh Macdonald, Ben Ross Schneider

Understanding the politics of education reform is crucial to assess the challenges facing the SDG of quality education. This article surveys the small academic literature on the politics of reform as well as a wide range of empirical research on reform experiences across the world, with an emphasis on recent reforms in Latin America. We focus on teacher policy reforms, which play a central role in raising learning in primary and secondary schools, but pose three special challenges. First, they are contentious, often threatening the institutional interests of well-organized and politically powerful teacher unions. Second, implementation is opaque, as impact depends on classroom-level change that is difficult for reformers to monitor. And, third, benefits are long-term, usually well beyond the political tenure of reform champions. A close review of all major stakeholders – teacher unions, business, NGOs, religious authorities, international development agencies, and others – is a crucial first step to understanding potential sources of opposition and support. Strategic issues in policy design and implementation include: consultation, sequencing, compensation, negotiation, communication, and sustaining reforms.