Scores, Camera, Action? Interventions to improve education quality in Indonesia

The fourth Sustainable Development Goal involves ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all. Poor teacher accountability leads to poor education quality for students. This is especially true in schools situated in remote areas. In order to improve education quality and teacher accountability in remote areas in Indonesia, the RISE Indonesia project supported impact evaluation of three interventions that linked community-based monitoring to government allowance for teachers. The randomized control trial incorporated elements of an accountability relationship to improve overall learning outcomes in primary schools. The trial was implemented in 270 remote schools in 5 districts in Indonesia.

Each of the three interventions began with a process whereby community members would gather to discuss learning outcomes and ways to improve education for students. Parents and teachers agreed upon their respective roles, and teacher specific scorecards were developed based on these commitments, including an indicator related to presence at the school. The first intervention (hereafter, SAM) relied only on informal pressure from monthly meetings within the community to achieve the goals captured by these scorecards.

Meanwhile, the second and third interventions introduced monetary incentives. For the second intervention, a camera application with a time stamp to monitor the teacher’s presence was added (SAM+Cam). Teachers took a photo of themselves every morning and afternoon to prove their presence. Based on the teacher’s presence, allowances were paid accordingly. In the final intervention, the overall score from the scorecards determined the allowance for teachers (SAM+Score).

After 18 months of monitoring these interventions, researchers found that the SAM+Cam intervention with the camera was twice as successful as the other two interventions. Parents invested more time in their child’s education in all three interventions; however, this was even more evident in the SAM+Cam intervention.

For treatments with monetary incentives, the study found some increase in effort for teachers who received the allowance. In the SAM+Score treatment – which linked monetary incentive to the score on the overall scorecard – effort decreases among those who did not receive an allowance. Co-principal investigator for this study, Prof. Menno Pradhan, believes that “this might be because a camera is a very objective measuring tool, whereas the score given on the overall scorecard is more subjective.”

The project has expanded the most successful intervention (SAM+Cam) to all remote schools in the 5 districts in Indonesia. With an eye on a future scale up, the expansion also will reduce the role of the facilitator and rely more on school and government structures. Prof. Pradhan explains, “we have the advantage of having schools that have already gone through this experience. So, old communities can teach new school communities who have not gone through this experience. The World Bank is discussing with the Ministry of Education and Culture how to scale up this intervention to the remaining remote schools in Indonesia.

Read more about the different interventions in the recently published RISE Indonesia paper.