When it comes to the delivery of services to the poor, politics matter. This paper applies a political settlements framework to approach the study of primary education quality in Rwanda. In recent years, the government of Rwanda has received recognition for its commitment to expand education for all young people. But the drivers for improving quality have been less straightforward. Through process tracing from national to local levels, this study investigates the interests, institutions and incentives for improving the education quality. Findings suggest there was a stated commitment to educational quality on the part of the government across all levels. At the same time, the country’s decentralized system of governance has deconcentrated implementation responsibilities to local government and schools. Performance-based incentives at the local level focus on aspects of quality that are measurable — i.e., through the construction of classrooms and provision of materials — rather than on improving the capacity of the teaching workforce or tracking learning outcomes. The incentives and ideas that drive the behavior of key actors in the education sector allow us to consider the degree to which state capacity and elite commitment can be sustained.
The project was part of University of Manchester’s Effective States and Inclusive Development program. ESID is committed to deepening the understanding of governance in the developing world in ways that impact on policy and practice in order to improve people’s lives and livelihoods through development. ESID is based within Manchester’s Global Development Institute (GDI), Europe’s largest global poverty and inequality institute. ESID research is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID).