Designing Effective Teacher Incentive Programs

October 3, 2016

Because teachers are often paid according to their education level and years of experience, rather than quality of their performance, they have few incentives to work hard and ensure that students in their classrooms are learning the skills they need to succeed. As a result, there has been an interest in promoting performance-based incentives for teachers to improve quality of instruction. But results about the effectiveness of these initiatives have been mixed. The evaluation will add to the body of evidence on the usefulness of incentives, including the long-term impact.

Research area: Education

Country: Tanzania

Evaluation Sample: 420 schools

Timeline: 2013- 2016

Intervention: Incentives

Researchers: Shwetlena Sabarwal, World Bank; Deon Filmer, World Bank; James Habyarimana, Georgetown University



In Tanzania, there is an interest in these kinds of programs because teacher quality remains low and there has been a marked drop in performance. In 2012, less than one-third of all students taking a primary school exit exam passed, compared to 58 percent the previous year. One problem is that teachers don’t spend a lot of time in the classroom teaching. According to a 2011 survey, one in four teachers is absent from school on any given day, while those in school are away from the classroom more than half the time. Because pay and working conditions are poor, teachers have little motivation to improve. The Ministry of Education has launched a program to change this through performance-based incentives, such as recognition awards and prizes. The evaluation will compare the impact of short- and long-term incentive programs on teacher behavior and student learning. It will also examine the effectiveness of incentives aimed directly at students.



The evaluation is an extension of a previous SIEF-supported evaluation that looks at the effects of teacher incentives across 420 public and private schools.  This evaluation will examine the long-term impacts of teacher incentives, as well as the impacts of withdrawing teacher incentives—that is to say, giving them performance-based incentives for one year but not the next. It will also look at the effectiveness of giving incentivizes to students directly instead of to teachers. The evaluation is part of a Government-led pilot that is supported by the World Bank.