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Autonomy, participation, and learning in Argentine schools - findings andtheir implications for decentralization

  • Eskeland, Gunnar S.
  • Filmer, Deon

According to a theoretical model, school autonomy and parental participation in schools, can increase student learning through separate channels. Greater school autonomy increases the rent that can be distributed among stakeholders in the school, while institutions for parental participation (such as school board) empower parents to command a larger share of this surplus - for example, through student learning. Using a rich cross-sectional data set from Argentine schools (sixth and seventh grades), the authors find that autonomy, and participation raise student test scores for a given level of inputs, in a multiplicative way, consistent with the model. Autonomy has a direct effect on learning (but not for very low levels of participation), while participation affects learning only through the mediation of the effect of autonomy. The results are robust to a variety of robustness checks, and for sub-samples of children from poor households, children of uneducated mothers, schools with low mean family wealth, and public schools. It is possible that autonomy, and participation are endogenously determined, and that this biases the results - the data available do not allow this to be ruled out with certainty. Plausible predicators of autonomy, and participation are also plausible predicators of test scores, and they fail tests for the over-identifying restrictions. Heuristically argued, however, the potential for correlation with unobserved variables may be limited: the data set is rich in observed variables, and autonomy and participation show very low correlation with observed variables. Subject to these caveats, the results may be relevant to decentralization in two ways. First, as decentralization moves responsibility from the central, toward the provincial or local government, the results should be directly relevant if the decentralization increases autonomy, and participation in schools. Second, if the results are interpreted as representing a more general effect of moving decision-making toward users, and the local community, the results are relevant even if little happens to autonomy, and participation in schools. More important, perhaps, the authors illustrate empirically the importance of knowing who is empowered when higher levels of government loosen control.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2766.

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Date of creation: 31 Jan 2002
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2766
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  1. Jimenez, Emmanuel & Sawada, Yasuyuki, 1999. "Do Community-Managed Schools Work? An Evaluation of El Salvador's EDUCO Program," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(3), pages 415-41, September.
  2. Peltzman, Sam, 1993. "The Political Economy of the Decline of American Public Education," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 36(1), pages 331-70, April.
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  4. Edward P. Lazear, 1999. "Educational Production," NBER Working Papers 7349, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Joshua Angrist & Eric Bettinger & Erik Bloom & Elizabeth King & Michael Kremer, 2001. "Vouchers for Private Schooling in Colombia: Evidence from a Randomized Natural Experiment," NBER Working Papers 8343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  8. Hanushek, Eric A, 1995. "Interpreting Recent Research on Schooling in Developing Countries," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 10(2), pages 227-46, August.
  9. James, Estelle & King, Elizabeth M. & Suryadi, Ace, 1996. "Finance, management, and costs of public and private schools in Indonesia," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 387-398, October.
  10. Urquiola, Miguel, 2001. "Identifying class size effects in developing countries : evidence from rural schools in Bolivia," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2711, The World Bank.
  11. Caroline Minter Hoxby, 1994. "Does Competition Among Public Schools Benefit Students and Taxpayers?," NBER Working Papers 4979, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Jimenez, Emmanuel & Paqueo, Vicente, 1996. "Do local contributions affect the efficiency of public primary schools?," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 15(4), pages 377-386, October.
  13. Filmer, Deon & Pritchett, Lant, 1998. "Estimating wealth effects without expenditure data - or tears : with an application to educational enrollments in states of India," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1994, The World Bank.
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