Decentralized governance

Decentralization is a popular reform but one that is complicated to implement. 

Behind the popularity of the concept lies a wide diversity of actual policies, as reflected in the variety of terms used – deconcentration, devolution, delegation, school-based management, school self-governance, privatization, charter schools, and so on. 

For policy-makers such policies offer ways to:

  • alleviate the financial burden on the state;
  • ensure more efficient management;
  • increase the ownership, participation, and commitment of local decision-makers and parents;  
  • improve education quality.


Challenges at local level

Decentralization means that local levels are on the front line of the provision of education and so will require adequate resources to implement policies decided at the central level. Studies have shown that, in many countries, fairly little is known about the challenges faced by district administrators or school leaders in trying to fulfill their mandate. 

Principles for success

Based on an analysis of the challenges faced by local level actors in the implementation of a decentralization policy, research conducted by IIEP has helped to identify the following key principles for its successful implementation: 

  • view decentralization as first and foremost a management mode, rather than an objective;
  • make the state more effective – its role is shifting towards a focus on regulation, support, monitoring and evaluation;
  • generate complementarity between the different actors involved;
  • find a balance between professional-technical expertise and political legitimacy; local autonomy and central regulation; the mandate of actors and their resources, assets, and competences;
  • the professionalism, autonomy and accountability of each actor.


IIEP's work and approach

IIEP’s approach is centered on analyzing two actors (District Education Offices and schools) and one policy (school grants) through several research projects conducted worldwide. IIEP’s work aims to understand the reality of decentralization and to learn about experience and opinion on this process like the challenges faced in fulfilling new responsibilities and how to design successful strategies.

IIEP also:

  • Develops the capacities of national research centers and ministries of education in conducting research and analyzing research findings;
  • Identifies suggestions to improve the design and implementation of decentralization policies for quality and more equitable education. 

To implement and to conduct these researches, IIEP approach includes:

  • Qualitative research: to learn from the views of key actors of the decentralization policy (interviews and observation);
  • Comparative research: to identify common successes and challenges and to analyze differences in countries that have implemented decentralization policies
  • Strategic partnerships: researches are implemented with local institutional partners (national teams of researchers and representatives of Ministries of Education), as well as with international partners (UNICEF, GPE, Plan international);
  • Policy-oriented research:  to guide policies through the research findings. Regional and national seminars are organized so as to disseminate and discuss the research findings with high-level decision-makers and national stakeholders;
  • Research oriented towards a wider audience: research findings are disseminated through the publication of books, articles and policy briefs.


IIEP is now looking at effective decentralized practices for financial resource allocation and use. Based on its extensive knowledge, IIEP will offer policy advice and technical assistance to design and implement school grant policies in order to influence educational equity and quality.