Rwanda: Selection and Motivational Impacts of Performance Contracts for Rwandan Primary School Teachers

October 3, 2016

Pay-for-performance programs have become an increasingly popular way to boost teacher incetives and improve student learning. But little is known about the effects of these programs on the overall composition of a country’s teacher corps, especially in low income countries. Does the salary boost create incentives for more skilled and passionate young professionals to become teachers? Or does it have the opposite effect, in that it minimizes intrinsic motivation and instead attracts people interested only in a more attractive salary? 


Researchers:Research area: Education
Country: Rwanda
Evaluation Sample: 300 schools
Timeline: Ongoing
Intervention: Pay-for-performance, incentives
Researchers: Owen Ozier, World Bank; Clare Leaver, University of Oxford; Pieter Serneels, University of East Anglia; Andrew Zeitlin, Georgetown University



In Rwanda, where teacher accountability is low, development experts are working closely with policy makers in the country’s Ministry of Education to better attract and retain skilled and motivated teachers through pay-for-performance schemes. Although incentives are already built into teacher salaries in Rwanda, researchers are exploring an additional bonus program that rewards teachers who score within the top 20 percent of their district with an even greater salary boost. Policy makers are hoping that results will help the government recruit well-qualified teachers and more effectively structure civil service contracts so that the country’s top talent remains in the education sector, particularly in rural areas.  The results will also shed light on the ways that pay-for-performance programs can help improve student learning.


Researchers worked with IPA, the IGC, and the REB to conduct a two-tiered randomized evaluation assessing whether performance-based contracts for teachers  improved students’ learning outcomes.

The study compared the effects of two alternative ways of increasing teacher salaries, each of which had the same total costs to government. The P4P contracts provided a bonus of RWF 100,000 (~15 percent of annual salary) to the top 20 percent of upper-primary teachers within a district. The fixed-wage contract instead provided a top-up of RWF 20,000 to all upper-primary teachers (grades P4, P5, and P6) in the school.

Tier 1: Advertised P4P versus fixed-wage contracts.

Researchers first randomly assigned teacher labor markets (defined as application pools to specific districts within specific teacher qualification types) to P4P or fixed-wage contracts. In a P4P labor market, potential applicants were told that recruits to new primary posts would receive the P4P contract for the 2016 and 2017 school years. Conversely, in a fixed-wage labor market, potential applicants were told that recruits to new primary posts would receive the fixed-wage contract for the 2016 and 2017 school years. The recruitment campaign had over 600 hiring lines (across both upper and lower primary) in six districts, comprising more than 60 percent of government planned hires for the year.

In this tier, researchers were interested in whether performance pay had any impact on who chooses to become a teacher (or enters the public sector). To do so, they looked at the characteristics of applicants and of hired teachers, as well as at the performance of those teachers in their eventual jobs.

Tier 2: Experienced P4P versus fixed-wage contracts.

The aim in the second tier was to randomize the schools to which REB had allocated the new primary posts to contracts. A school was included in the sample if it had at least one new post that was filled and assigned to an upper primary grade (grades 4, 5 and 6). Of the 164 schools in the second tier of the experiment, 85 were assigned to P4P and 79 were assigned to fixed-wage contracts. All upper primary teachers within each school received the new contract. At individual applicant level, this amounted to re-randomization and hence a change to the initial assignment for some new recruits. To ensure that new contracts paid as least as well as those advertised at the first tier, all new recruits were told that they would receive a retention bonus of 80,000 RWF if they remained in post during the 2016 school year. Teachers in P4P schools were also told that the 2016 performance award—determined by multiple teacher-input observations as well as beginning- and end-of-year student assessments—was conditional on remaining in post during the 2016 school year, and would be paid early in 2017.

In this tier, researchers were interested in whether performance pay had any impact on the behavior of individuals of who chose to become a teacher.

Source: IPA Research Summary