Towards more effective education administrations

    By Anna Seeger, IIEP


Institutional analyses can highlight problem areas and aid ministries in overcoming administrative capacity constraints.

In Benin, less than a third of senior and mid-level managers at the ministry of education have the required technical profile. Many are former teachers or lecturers who were assigned or nominated to the Ministry of Education due to health issues.  A 2007 study found that because of this mismatch of profiles and required skills, managers often lack authority among their staff, which in turn creates parallel and informal hierarchical structures. 

In many countries, ministries of education and other authorities tasked to manage education service delivery are confronted with similar capacity constraints. This can impact the whole education sector and impede it from reaching its goals and objectives. 

IIEP supports ministries of education in preparing capacity development plans that provide strategic actions to overcome weaknesses in the education administration. The basis of such work is known as an Institutional analysis. It examines and creates a shared understanding of the capacity constraints education administrations face in the design and implementation of education policies, plans and programmes. This in turn helps to guide ministries of education and partners to develop more realistic and feasible education strategies and plans. 


An Institutional analysis is ideally part of a wider sector planning process such as the preparation of an Education Sector Analysis. It is rooted in a methodological framework for capacity development that gauges how an education administration is reaching its goals by looking at: 

  • The individual level: The profile of education planning staff at central at local levels;
  • The organizational level: The mandate, structure and internal management of organizational units, for example the planning department within the ministry of education;
  • The institutional level: The management of the civil service, and; 
  • The contextual level: The quality of interministerial relationships and between education ministries and external stakeholders, including teachers’ unions, development and humanitarian agencies, and civil society groups. 

Different sources of information provide the responses to questions within and across these four capacity development levels. 


A document review provides insights into the structure, legal and regulatory frameworks of an education system. Semi-structured interviews with individuals and focus groups provide clarity on how education staff perceive problems, how they adapt to their work realities and how planning and management practices may differ from rules and regulations. A survey for education planners and managers also generates insights into the professional background, skills, needs, and perceptions of education staff. Combined, this information illuminates the causes of capacity constraints and paints a more comprehensive picture of existing strengths and weaknesses. 

For example, the analysis could reveal poor coordination and communication between District Education Officers and central staff. This could result from realities including a conflict-ridden relationship between central and local government staff, conflicting mandates, a lack of incentives for qualified staff, half-heartedly executed decentralization reforms that demand more from local governments without matching funds, and so on. The analysis devotes much time to unravel how such dysfunctionalities are connected across the four levels of capacity development. However, it is equally important for education administrations to understand and internalize their very own assets and strengths. 


For example, in Madagascar, a small group of senior and retired education planners at the central level are currently providing countless hours of on-the-job training to young education staff. An Institutional analysis conducted in 2017 showed that in light of limited funding for formal training, this activity is key to ensuring that institutional knowledge and planning competencies are developed and retained in Madagascar.

Capacity development strategies that aim to build on such existing capacities need to understand how individuals behave in institutions, how they make decisions given the incentives they have, and how they can influence and improve the rules that structure their work. In Madagascar, senior and retired education planners enjoy much respect among their colleagues due to their professionalism and firm belief in positive change. This is an important incentive for public servants to perform well and provide support when needed. The Institutional analysis provides valuable insights in this regard.


Towards the end of the analysis phase, education officials and partners in the education sector meet to decide how to fill potential gaps and allow all stakeholders to reflect on, interpret and discuss the hypotheses provided by the Institutional analysis. Where countries are in the process of developing Education Sector Plans, its results can be used to identify and integrate appropriate strategies to overcome capacity constraints.


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